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A Failure of Leadership

This link includes scans of emails between Kent Hance and former Board of Regents Chairman Jim Sowell which were exchanged during Mike Leach's contract negotiations last year.

These emails are sort of a Rosarch's test into your perception of what is taking place between the Tech Administration and Coach Leach and his lawyers.


On the one hand, one could simply consider these emails a reflection of the natural ebb and flow of an old fashioned high stakes negotiation. 

On the other hand (the hand I tend to believe), these emails reveal more than your run of the mill contract negotiation.  Sowell clearly seems to show a genuine personal disdain for Mike Leach.  Sowell belittles Leach's accomplishments in a fashion that seems to go beyond 'Party A says X, so we should say Y.' There seems to be real venom in the comments.  The comments in these email exchanges demonstrate that the Administration (particularly Sowell) have made the classic blunder of taking the negotiations personally rather than fulfilling its duty to negotiate an equitable deal befitting the University, Leach, alumni, students and the fans.  The bitterness was on display for the world to see during last year's contract dispute and has sadly spilled over into this current sordid affair.

Secondly, it seems Sowell treats Meyers as if he is some aggrieved grandmother based on how the Leach camp  dealt with Myers during the negotiations.  While it might be regrettable that Myers feels aggrieved in the negotiation process, the very fact that Myers allows himself to become aggrieved speaks volumes about his own suitability for the role. 

As athletic director, Myers' job would have been no more than to communicate the wishes of the regents and the chancellor.  However, putting Myers at the forefront of those negotiations was the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight.  Leach was a trained lawyer employing a skilled group of professional attorneys representing his interests. Myers was out of his league from the start.  In any case, had the Board recognized that Myers was outgunned,  which would seem obvious if you've ever had the misfortune of asking Myer's directions to the men’s  room, it should have appointed a more experienced negotiator.  Myers' wounded ego was irrelevant to the matter, and a competent Board would and should have recognized as much.  

Thirdly (and reading somewhat between the lines), Sowell's insistence that Tech instead seek out Art Briles as someone who would be a better 'fit' for the program ignores Briles' comparatively thin resume and weak pedigree relative to Leach.  Sowell, whom we can only presume represents the Board's sentiment, seems intent on hiring an individual who is less likely to offend his sensibilities - the sensibilities of an out-of-touch 60-something  plutocrat living in the suburbs of Dallas.  

Fourthly, is it just me or how can Hance allow Sowell to communicate with him in the fashion that he is doing?  The hectoring tone of the emails are revealing with respect to who seems to wear the pants in that relationship.

Fifth, for those of you might have winced from time to time about how Leach represented the University in public, how would you compare Leach's occasional remarks to the showering of public ridicule which Texas Tech has endured by the hands of the very same individuals who are allegedly the school's trustees and are supposed to look after the University's best interests?  The Leach debacle has made (once again) a mockery of our fine University, and we only need to look at the very top of the food chain to understand where the gross incompetence lies. 

Having conceded to extend Leach's contract, It is only fair that I describe what a strong Board of Regents should have done in the greater interest of the school.

1)  Fired Gerald Myers.  At the age of 73, Myers had (and has) few years left with the school in any case.  As the the Bobby Knight (and son) fiasco and the Leach contract renegotiation embarrassment have made clear, Myers was not up to the task of managing the two largest portfolios in his job mandate (the basketball and football programs).  In deciding to agree to Leach's terms against the wishes of Myers and others in the anti-Leach camp, it was clear that the two men would not be able to work together.  Instead, the Board should have conducted a national search to retain an AD who, in addition to possessing modern management skills, could also help raise funds and  lead Tech's athletic department into the future.  For the avoidance of doubt, fans were not flocking to the Jones as a result of Meyers' managerial prowess.  Myers was and continues to be in well over his head. 

2)  Once the decision to suspend Leach had been made, rightly or wrongly, the University should have adhered to an impartial disciplinary process acceptable to both parties.   Gerald Myers and the Board of Regents needed to look no further than Indiana University's handling of the Bobby Knight case.  In spite of the obvious video evidence clearly showing Knight physically assaulting one of his players, Knight was still afforded ample due process.  The process gave Knight and Indiana University sufficient opportunity to build their evidence and present their case according to a set of rules deemed acceptable to both parties.  In Knight's case, the evidence against him was overwhelming. Yet Knight was still given an opportunity to continue coaching albeit under a probationary term.   Leach deserved to be shown at least the same respect afforded to Knight.  In exercising its ability to withhold due process, Myers, Bailey and a small minority of overseers served as judge, jury and executioner to this incident.  If the case against Leach was so watertight to begin with, why not allow due process to reveal the fact in the case?  The Board showed no moral courage and instead hid behind dubious contractual language to unilaterally suspend and fire Leach.  This was a power play all the way. 

Our situation is puzzling.  While we coddle Meyers' geriatric decline, other schools' athletic departments with far smaller budgets and boasting younger more creative management talent become more successful (Boise State, TCU, Utah).  While we endure the tampering of our university at the hands of a Board of Regents who seem to treat the University as if it was their own private gentlemen's club, other schools (such as the University of Houston) quietly build their institutions leveraging the modern leadership skills of their alumni and professionals. 

The litany of failures and incompetence by the Administration and the Board of Regents with respect to the Leach firing debacle suggests to me that Myers, Hance, and a weak board of regents should all be compelled to resign their positions. 

As alumni and students, we (and sadly Coach Leach) deserved far better. 

It is a sad day to be a Red Raider.