December 30, 2009
The initial reports suggesting Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's sudden suspension came as a result of his locking a concussed player in "an electrical closet" were so shockingly bizarre that they almost couldn't be true of any coach but Leach, an infamous wildcard whose many quirks in the past have included some pretty creative punishments. The "closet" meme was so pervasive so quickly that Leach's attorney had to take to the local air waves Tuesday night, where he led a Lubbock sports reporter on an impromptu tour of the locales where Leach admits to isolating wide receiver Adam James during a couple practices earlier this month in an effort to put it to bed:
Assuming these are the actual rooms in question, three observations:
1. Mike Leach's attorney is very willing to appear on television in camouflage.
2. Obviously, neither the shed (or "garage," as Liggett insists on calling it) nor the media room looks like a torture chamber or a closet of any variety. Both seem to be comfortable, temperature-controlled rooms well-suited for short-term human existence.
3. That said, whether or not sequestering an injured player in either of those locations technically violates any health or safety standards, it is deeply, deeply weird. The only plausible motivation in either case is to humiliate him to some extent by isolating him from the group, akin to a "time out" in kindergarten. (Especially if James was arbitrarily required to stay on his feet to no particular end, which the Leach camp hasn't denied. On the contrary: they've argued that a doctor signed off on it.) It's clearly a form of retribution against a legitimately injured player who had reportedly been ordered by a team physician to avoid practice and physical activity for up to a week, minimum -- not a cruel punishment, but certainly an unusual one in a case that doesn't seem to call for any punishment at all, especially in light of the barrage of new information about the long-term consequences of concussions.
Leach goes to court this morning in an effort to keep his job, at least long enough to coach the team in Saturday's Alamo Bowl and collect the $800,000 "completion bonus" required by his contract if he's still the head coach at the start of the new year; if he loses, he's almost certain to be fired immediately to allow the university to avoid that payout. Either way, I hope someone at least attempts to get a clear answer about what the coach was hoping to accomplish here.