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The Brief: Mike Leach Fired At Texas Tech And What It Means

Wait, what just happened? Yeah, Texas Tech fired Mike Leach, the most successful coach in their history coming off an eight win season and one season removed from the best season in their history. They have as many bowl wins in Mike Leach’s decade as they have in the entire history of the program, and have never had a losing season under Leach. And, yeah: he’s fired, effective immediately according to the university.

On what planet does this make sense? It makes sense in a world where Leach, an oddball among oddballs, finally reaches the limit of tolerance both on his part and on the part of his bosses in the TTU administration. Leach’s contract negotiations were, to put it politely, contentious. His flirtations with other jobs were brazen. The university’s patience with his high-profile antics was running low even before a season where he suspended players from Twitter, referred to their “fat little girlfriends” after a loss to Texas A&M, and secluded/imprisoned/whatever happened with Adam James. The university will hint at “other things” that Leach did or didn’t do to provoke his firing, but ultimately it came down to Leach pulling a suicide by injunction earlier today and forcing Texas Tech to fire him.

Suicide by injunction? In effect, yes. Leach filed suit against his employers, which isn’t exactly like sending a Christmas card unless you’re fond of dipping yours in anthrax.The hearing that was supposed to happen Wednesday never occurred, something due likely to Tech bypassing the legal process by firing him, and thus nullifying the hearing.

So, why does Texas Tech say he was fired? For cause, something Smart Football’s Chris Brown says the university likely has in legal terms.

“I anticipate them to focus on this clause: "Coach shall assure the fair and responsible treatment of student-athletes in relation to their health, welfare and discipline." Did he not give Adam James fair treatment? That’s unclear. Adam James claimed to suffer from a concussion, and, contrary to Craig James’s assertions, there is nothing detrimental to a player’s health about being isolated in a dark equipment shed or media room. Yet it does sound something akin to punishing an injured player, and I expect the University to take the position that Leach was trying to deter injured players from coming forward or not participating. That might have some weight.”

Whether he treated James fairly or not, the incident was the tipping point for a relationship long headed for trouble. Steve Spurrier said that no coach should spend longer than ten years at any single job. The story of Leach adds evidence in favor of his theory.

How’s this being received by Tech fans? Not well.

When Leach firing was announced in Lubbock courtroom, someone yelled, “Well you’re going to have a bunch of empty seats in that stadium!”

They will, even if they get their likely leading candidate and former Leach assistant Art Briles to replace Leach. Briles is currently coaching at Baylor, but he’s coaching at Baylor, so yeah: he’s available.

Will he get paid the $800K he’s owed if he were the coach? Likely, since by contract he’s technically employed for ten business days past the date of termination.

Who are the likely replacements? Not Ruffin McNeil, the close friend of Leach and interim head coach for the bowl game. Art Briles of Baylor and June Jones of SMU are both likely candidates on the face of things as they’re both spread coaches already working in the state of Texas. Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, a former Leach assistant, is also possible, though he came out and supported Leach publicly during the James scandal.

And what for Leach? Television, if anyone has a sense of humor and some daring in the sports programming department. Future coaching spots are inevitable, though no obvious openings beckon thanks to hiring season being all but over.

Shouldn’t adults have been able to work this out? Yes, but that’s if there were any adults involved in this.