Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's going on in Lubbock?

According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, Texas Tech is considering firing coach Mike Leach.

To say that this is stunning would be an understatement. Leach and the school have been working on a contract extension for some time, which is logical given that he just led Texas Tech to an 11-2 season and has averaged just over nine wins per season over the last four years.

Some debate has come up, though, regarding a couple of clauses Texas Tech wants included in the extension, the most notable of which would allow Leach to be fired -- and force him to pay the school $1.5 million -- if he interviews for another job without the athletic director's permission. The school presented Leach with a contract proposal that included the controversial clause and set a deadline for him to sign it. That deadline was 5 p.m. Tuesday, and since Leach has refused to sign, the Board of Regents is now set to meet Friday and make a decision on his future.

The strange thing is that Leach has already turned down a number of job opportunities, including Washington this offseason, so he's obviously not that eager to leave Lubbock. And the financial details -- about $2.5 million per year -- have already been agreed upon, so there's no issue there.

The problem lies in Texas Tech's concern for its own pride. The school's stance on this issue is similar to that of Boston College, which fired Jeff Jagodzinski for breaking a "gentleman's agreement" when he interviewed for the New York Jets' head coaching vacancy. What Texas Tech is saying is that it's so desperate to hang onto Leach that if his long-term commitment can't be guaranteed, he'll be fired.

Um ... what?

I just don't see how that makes any sense at all. I'll ask the same question now that I asked after Jagodzinski's firing: As an athletic director, if you're concerned that you're going to lose an outstanding coach at some point in the foreseeable future, why in the world would you want to voluntarily accelerate that departure?

I understand that the school doesn't want to be left out in the cold if and when Leach moves up in the college football world, but when he's done nothing to indicate that he has an interest in leaving -- and has already agreed to the terms of a contract extension -- why does the school feel that it's necessary to insert this clause and risk losing him now?

And let's keep in mind that while Texas Tech has a decent history, it's not exactly Oklahoma. There won't be a candidate anywhere near Leach's quality knocking on the door, and the school simply doesn't have the resources to compete annually in the Big 12 South without an excellent coaching staff. For comparison, the Red Raiders hadn't won more than nine games in a quarter-century prior to Leach's arrival.

The most likely scenario is that Leach sticks around for the remaining two years on his contract, but assuming that there's no significant change to the extension offer in that time, he's probably gone at that point (if not before). There's a reason Leach was one of the most sought-after coaches in the country this offseason, and there'll be a line at his doorstep if Texas Tech is foolish enough to fire him or let him walk.

On a side note, Leach has to be one of the strangest characters in college sports. He's obsessed with pirates, he occasionally works as a weatherman and he knows how to treat a lady:

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