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Parsing Kent Hance's Fairy Tale

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In Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance’s interview with the Lubbock Avalanche Journal over the the weekend, Hance sets out to explain the decision to fire Mike Leach.

Hance lays out an 11 day time line beginning Saturday, December 19 which led to the December 30th dismissal of Mike Leach, who had been head coach for 10 years.

On Saturday, December 19, Hance receives word from current Chairman of the Board of Regents that Craig James was upset about the alleged mistreatment of his son, Adam James, who had been diagnosed with a minor concussion.

Over the next two days, on Sunday and Monday, December 20-21, Texas Tech’s in-house attorney collects statements from Craig James, Adam James, the physician, the trainers and Coach Leach.  (Personally, I find it curious that the attorney even bothered to collect a statement from Craig James who at no time was anywhere within the vicinity of the alleged incident).

On Tuesday, December 22, the in-house attorney, who Hance now describes as the investigator (and whose identity and qualifications are unknown), reports back with preliminary findings.

The Board of Regents conducts a conference call to discuss the allegations.

Based on these two-days' worth of statements collected by the attorney, some members of the Board of Regents, according to Hance, recommend Leach’s termination.

Hance communicates the outcome of the Board of Regents discussion to Mike Leach. Hance further explains that the (still unproven) allegations against Leach will result in some sort of reprimand. Hance describes Leach’s reaction as visceral.  

On Saturday, December 26, Leach meets with Myers and Bailey. Myers and Bailey ask Leach to sign a drafted letter, which Leach refuses to do. 

Let’s see if we can determine why Leach would not sign a letter (which has been misconstrued to be a letter of apology to Craig James and Adam James). 

The Letter’s opening premise:

As you know, we have been conducting an inquiry into allegations by a student athlete that your treatment of him, subsequent to his being diagnosed with a mild concussion, may have been injurious to his health and served no medical and/or educational purposes. Texas Tech takes these allegations very seriously. In addition to being unacceptable, if proven, these allegations constitute a breach of your employment contract.

Comments:  Bailey and Myers confirm that the allegations against Leach are not yet proven.

So that we can carry out an inquiry that takes into account the safety of our student athletes and in addition, that is fair to the students, yourself, and the university, we have determined that you must abide by the following guidelines from this day forward:"

Comments:  Let’s pause for a moment.  Per Myers and Bailey, the allegations against Leach are not yet proven.  They state their intention is to conduct an inquiry.  They state that Leach must abide by a set of four guidelines going forward (discussed below),  and that following those guidelines is necessary to conduct the inquiry.  We’ll review the guidelines individually, but the inherent assumptions of this statement are flawed.

The statement suggests that Leach was not previously abiding by the following guidelines, which in itself is a tacit admission of wrongdoing by Leach. Furthermore, none of the guidelines set forth would preclude the administration from conducting an inquiry in any case.

These guidelines include (the first guideline was crossed out, so we’ll ignore it):

2. Any player claiming an injury will be examined by a physician and cleared in writing prior to practicing or playing. Decisions regarding whether an injury warrants suspension from practice and/or play will be determined by a physician without pressure from you or your staff."

Comments: The first part of this guideline does not appear to be a deviation from normal practice. 

It is probably safe to presume that players are already examined and cleared by a physician.  It is also probably safe to presume that a player’s treatment and release is documented.  The clause  ‘without pressure from you or your staff,’ however, suggests that Leach and his staff have some sort of history of pressuring physicians and trainers which has not been alleged, is not documented, and is not otherwise proven.    

3. You must recognize that the players you are working with are student athletes and that you have an obligation to treat them with respect and further to conduct yourself in a manner consistent with your position as an instructor of students.

4. You must at all times assure the fair and responsible treatment of student athletes in relation to their health, welfare, and discipline, and if you are not doing so, you must immediately cease any actions not in compliance with this provision of your contract."

Comments:  There is nothing to suggest that Leach does not already comply with these guidelines.  Listing these guidelines here suggests that Leach has not previously complied with them. 

5. There will be no retaliation against any student who has suffered an injury.

Comments:  This guideline is probably the most inflammatory.  The suggestion that Leach has previously retaliated against injured players is outrageous and unsubstantiated.   No individual of sound mind and judgment would ever sign a document with such a self-incriminating assertion.

Ok, now back to Hance’s statement.

Hance also states that he wanted a firm guarantee from Leach that mistreatment of a player with a ‘brain concussion’ (is there any other kind?) would not occur again. 

Again?

Firstly, Hance’s statements are not reflected in the above letter, but if true, would presume that Leach had previously mistreated a player with a concussion, which has yet to be proven.  Hance’s request for a guarantee from Leach is the equivalent of asking you to guarantee that you stop abusing your spouse. Again.  Even if you’ve never done so. It is an absurd request.

On Monday, December 28th Hance and Myers suspend Leach, just two days after presenting a letter which stated that the University was about to commence an inquiry into allegations that had not yet been proven. 

Hance notes that Leach was not communicating with the Administration. 

Apparently, those two whole agonizing days since presenting the letter felt like an eternity to Hance et al. They could not bear waiting any longer.

Not five more days until the $800,000 contract bonus kicked in. 

Not six more days until the Alamo Bowl was concluded. 

As a measure of last resort, having exhausted all other options, it appears that Hance, Myers and Co had come to the gut wrenching conclusion that they had no other choice but to suspend Leach. 

I can only begin to imagine the hours of sleep that the Tech administration must have lost over their decision.

On Tuesday, December 29th in an effort to overturn the suspension, Leach’s attorney files  a request for a temporary restraining order.  

Hance, however, characterizes Leach’s actions as ‘suing’ the university. If fact, Hance emphasizes "(Leach’s) response was a lawsuit. His response was to sue Texas Tech."

Now I realize it has probably been a long time since Hance (who received his law degree from the University of Texas) has seen the inside of a courtroom.  I will just go out a limb, however, and say that there is a better than even chance that Hance surely knows the difference between a request for temporary restraining order and a law suit. 

For those of you who are not lawyers (I am not a lawyer),  the rationale for a temporary restraining order is to restore the status quo ante; that is, to make whole again someone whose rights have been violated. Leach was asking that a judge lift the suspension to allow him to continue coaching until a proper investigation/hearing could take place -  an investigation that presumably requires more than taking a day-and-a-half worth of statements.

Lastly, Hance criticizes Leach for not ‘working with his boss’ to solve the problem. 

Yes, the final touch to the fairy tale.  Coach Leach - that irascible renegade - failing once again to conform to the entirely reasonable demands of the noble truth-seeking Administration. 

On Wednesday, December 30th a full three-days since presenting Leach the letter which had only referred to allegations, Leach's attorney was handed a termination notice.

The End.

Conclusion:   In summary, if we analyze Hance’s statement, Hance justifies Leach’s suspension and firing because Leach was uncooperative and because of Leach's alleged mistreatement of an injured player.

Leach would not sign a self incriminating letter. Nor was any proper investigation conducted.

If only Leach had cooperated. 

Surely things would be different.

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Days between presenting the letter and Leach’s suspension:  2

Days between presenting the letter and Leach’s termination: 3

Days for Due Process:  0