Friday, February 20, 2009

Logic Finally Prevails

Imagine Vince Lombardi being fired by the Packers in the mid-1960's. Or Ken Whisenhunt being dumped by the Cardinals this off-season. Or Coach K being dismissed by Duke in the late 1980's before Duke went on the rule the next decade.

That's almost what happened at Texas Tech this week

Coach Mike Leach needs seven more victories on the football field to become the school's all-time leader. The coach he's chasing, Spike Dykes, took 13 seasons to get his victories. Leach is in year nine. In other words, Leach wins a lot more than Dykes did (Leach wins 66% of his games while Dykes only won 54% of his).

Leach also plays much tougher games. Dykes coached Tech starting in 1986 when the Southwest Conference was dying off. All of the great Texas athletes were running out of state and all Dykes had to do every season was beat a down Texas Longhorns team and Texas A&M. Those teams would get blown away by the Longhorn
s and Sooners powerhouses that Leach faces every year.

So Leach is the best thing Texas Tech has going for it right now. He brings good ath
letes to a school that doesn't naturally recruit them. If you've ever been to Tech, you'd see why. Located in the west Texas hell-hole of Lubbock, the only honor Tech ever battles for is the nation's ugliest campus. It's miles away from the major population bases of Texas, doesn't have a great academic record, and it's not irregular to see dust storms and tumbleweeds around the campus. Sounds fun, huh?

Yet major recruits like Graham Harrel and Michael Crabtree choose to go there. Because of Mike Leach and his wild-ass offense. He's the reason Texas Tech is leading the way for the second tier of Big 12 teams behind the Longhorns and Sooners.

Plus, Leach is
just fun. In a world of control freaks who say little to the media besides generic coach speak ("well, this is going to be a tough game, they're well-coached and athletic, blah blah blah"), Leach is good for a wacky sound bite or two. He's a man who thought his destiny was as a lawyer before he became a coach. He's obsessed with pirates, talks about his favorite Supreme Court justice, and proudly displays a copy of Geronimo's death certificate. If he were at an SEC school, he'd be hailed as a mad genius.

So naturally Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Meyers said this week that he might fire Leach.

Say wha?

I assume firing the most popular coach in school history (that includes Bob Knight) would be career suicide. But there was Meyers saying that he'd meet with top school officials to decide Leach's fate. And he was going to fire Leach because he was worried that Leach might leave.

Ah. Okay, that makes sense.

Apparently Leach has been speaking with numerous school over the past couple of years and Tech officials are worried that he might just up and leave one day. I understand that problem. Coaches rarely stick to contracts they sign anymore. You can lock a coach up for 15 years, but if a bigger fish comes calling, he's gone. That part sucks for athletic directors and the only thing they can do is make sure they don't give too much guaranteed money to a coach up front.

But Tech officials went off the deep end with Leach. They offered him an extension, but the contract was so full of caveats and ellipsis, that Leach would be crazy to sign it. Officials basically wanted Leach to suffer if he ever left them. It looked like the work of some crazed spouse.

Cooler h
eads did prevail and Leach got his contract extension, but only after Tech fans got involved and let Meyers know that if he fired Leach, he might want to go into hiding. All of that because officials were afraid Leach might leave eventually.

No one wants a successful coach to go, but I'm pretty sure the 'tying him up and putting him in the basement' approach doesn't really work. But at least it's in the past now. And every one can get ready to see Leach with his guns up on the Tech sideline next year. At least until another major job opens up.

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