Much has been said and debated about the Texas Tech administration in the wake of the Mike Leach firing. Specifically, Kent Hance, Gerald Myers and the Board of Regents members.
Fans of Texas Tech, and many fans from our rivals and other colleges, have vilified all involved in the Leach firing as the workings of nothing but a bunch of West Texas dolts and good old boys who didn't like the new kid on the block. They fired our program's most successful football coach. The man most credit with putting Texas Tech on that imaginary football map. The Pirate. The Mad Scientist. The inventor of the Air Raid. So surely they must be stupid. The fact that nobody from Texas Tech has delivered a reason for Leach's dismissal deemed acceptable to the masses means they are irresponsible and incompetent. Right?
Maybe. But maybe not.
More after the jump
Nobody in their right mind can argue that Mike Leach was anything other than really, really good at running this offense. I attended Leach's first game as the Tech coach and to say I was less than impressed would be an understatement. I thought after watching Tech stumble all over the field against a bad New Mexico team that this pass happy thing would be no better than watching us run every play. The exception being that the games would last close to four hours. But over the years Leach worked his players, recruited and fine tuned the off season program until Tech came thisclose to reaching the conference championship game last year.
But clearly, the administration was not enjoying the ride. We can all probably agree that being a major college football head coach involves a lot more than just showing up for work and diagramming plays and recruiting players. It involves public appearances, it involves being out front with the boosters who are responsible for about 80% of the coach's salary, it involves being an ambassador for the university. And it requires a lot of time to do these things. Things Leach was not going to do.
The administration accepted this as a price to pay for having someone who was completely unique to the workplace, much less college football. He won, people were excited and the attendance slowly grew. Tech averaged 42,000 fans in Spike Dykes' last season. We reached our peak in 2008 when we averaged 50,000+. An 8,000 per game increase over a nine season span. Earth shattering? No, but progress.
With winning comes ego. And Leach's, like all coaches, is probably fairly substantial. I'm sure he felt if he could have this kind of success at Texas Tech, then surely he could do even better at a school with a little more tradition. The rumors of Leach having a desire to spread his wings started almost four years ago when Miami had an opening after the 2006 season. Then he is rumored to have flirted with the UCLA opening in late 2007 and the University of Washington job in 2008. No doubt this wasn't a career enhancing move at Tech on his part.
Then came the contract. Ohhh, the angst that caused. And it did a great job of dividing the fan base over who was right. Some felt Leach should be given everything he asked for (which he eventually received), while others felt it was time to let the Pirate sail off to calmer seas and find someone else.
Then comes the 2009 season. The Season of Discontent...Mocking Stephen McGee after the draft, Snowbound study hall, players smashing helmets, Twitter, fat chicks and Texas A&M, and finally The Shed.
While no coaching tenure that lasts as long as Mike Leach's did will be without some measure of controversy, it does come at a cost. And when your prized employee consistently thumbs his nose at the leadership of the organization, it can be expected to bleed down to the team. I think that happened this year. The players took Leach's cue. Since he's okay with disrespecting authority, they turned the tables a bit and fed the Captain what he was feeding the Administration. In essence, I think he lost this team this year.
Where does all this lead? It leads to last Wednesday at about 11 a.m. when Leach's attorney was handed a letter terminating Leach with cause.
The Texas Tech administration is an administration that is staffed by people who have been connected with the school for more than 40 years (Gerald Myers) and people who have been with Texas Tech less than five years (Guy Bailey, two years and Kent Hance since 2006). And everything in between. And so is every university in this country. Every college is managed by people much older and seasoned than most of us, and by people who have been affiliated with their college for, in some cases, a lifetime. So to say Tech is managed by Good Old Boys is true. But to say any other major university is not is patently false and absurd.
The Texas Tech Board of Regents, Athletic Director, Chancellor and President did not rise to their positions of authority by having a career pocked with bad decisions and monumental blunders. It is in their best interests to have an athletic department that is not only successful, but profitable. In Texas, that starts with football. Studies show that a popular football team increases admissions and I think Tech as a whole has profited from our teams success. George Mason University had a big jump in applications the fall following their NCAA tournament showing a few years back (no link). So it makes good business sense to have a good football team.
All this brings us to the Leach saga. And saga is probably an understatement. Why was Leach fired? Was Leach fired because of Adam James? Nope. I'll never believe that. Was he fired because of the money he was owed? Nope, I'll never believe that either. They would not have given him a new contract if they intended to fire him. If that was the case, we wouldn't be going through this interview process. They would have named a replacement by now. (I also don't by conspiracy theories. At all.) Was he fired because the administration just didn't like him? I have a tough time with this one, too. Contrary to popular belief, I just don't think the administration would not cut off its nose to spite its face.
I think the reason Leach was fired has not been revealed yet. I think there is something we have not been privy to yet that led to his dismissal. Why hasn't it come out then? Why has Tech used the Adam James incident as their excuse? Again, I don't know. But I really think the administration, as hated as they are, knows something we don't. Bill Dean, a Tech mass comm professor, Executive VP, and past EVP of the Ex Students Association, and a guy who loves Texas Tech more than anyone I've ever met, is reported to have said that he hoped the lawsuit Leach is filing actually makes it to court so that then we could all hear the truth about what is going on. But he doubts it will. I trust him on this. It won't make it to court and we'll never really know the truth.
But the Texas Tech administration, as flawed and disliked as some of them may be, does not make decisions like this on a whim, because of a shed, or out of spite.