Time has run out for Mike Leach.
On Tuesday, Leach turned down an extension that amounted to five years and $12.7 million because he felt the offer handcuffed him financially and offered very little security.
Texas Tech Athletic Director Gerald Myers and Leach had apparently made progress earlier in the week, but at the last minute provisions were added to the offer. Those proved to be deal breakers for Leach. As well they should have been.
The new offer included a buyout clause of $300,000 per year remaining on his contract should he choose to leave and coach elsewhere. The real sticking points however were that the new offer only guaranteed 12 percent of the contract while his current deal was guaranteed at 40 percent.
As if that wasn't insulting enough, Tech wanted Leach to sign away sole possession of his naming and personal property rights which would include all revenue from his book, as well as any TV and radio deals.
Are you serious?
It's understandable that Tech would want to include provisions that would give them some security, but what they are asking for is simply comical.
Mike Leach has been a loyal employee. His name has been mentioned for at least a half dozen jobs during the last few off-seasons and has only officially met with one school.
That meeting was with Washington, but the coach seemed less than serious when he showed up in shorts for his formal interview. It is clear now that he only took the interview to use as a bargaining chip in this current negotiation. It clearly has backfired.
The bad blood between Myers and Leach has been building for months and the way these provisions were added at the eleventh hour make the school look bad. It seems petty.
It isn't as if Leach were unsuccessful. He guided the Red Raiders to an 11-1 season, a share of the Big 12 South title with Oklahoma and Texas, and a Cotton Bowl berth. He has taken a program that had one of the worst graduation rates in the NCAA and turned it into one of the best with a 79 percent rate.
In the 75 years before Leach arrived at Tech, Red Raiders coaches posted a .549 winning percentage and were 5-17-1 in bowl games. In nine years under Leach, the Red Raiders have a .661 winning percentage and are 5-4 in bowls.
The truth is undeniable. Leach has been the best thing that ever happened to Texas Tech football.
But now, a few days removed from that Tuesday signing deadline the situation has reached a boiling point. Could Myers and Texas Tech really be considering firing Mike Leach?
“I don’t know if that’s rumor or not, but think about how ridiculous it is,” said Leach, who won three different national coach of the year awards for his efforts this past season.
“You’ve got two years left on your contract, you’re offered a sub-par deal based on the outside provisions, and then it’s like, ‘Take this deal.’ And then you say, ‘Nah, I’m going to go ahead and stick with my current deal.’ And they say, ‘All right, well, fine, I’ll fire you.’.”
Leach is slated to earn $2.65 million this year and $2.35 million in 2010. That includes an $800,000 bonus if he coaches through the 2009 season and a $200,000 bonus if he coaches through the 2010 campaign.
If Leach is fired this year Tech will have to pay him $1.6 million, and if the school fires him next year it would owe him $850,000. If Leach decides to walk away from his current contract, it would cost him $500,000.
Clearly Leach couldn't accept the contract that was offered him, but he admitted that he is befuddled by the direction the negotiations have gone.
“What are they going to do after they [get] you to [sign] the sub-par deal?” Leach asked. “Then the next year they’ll come at you and say, ‘All right, we want to give you an extension again, and we’re going to knock off another quarter of the thing, so take this one or we’ll fire you' and they’ll just kind of extort me down to damn near nothing.”
Texas Tech’s Board of Regents is scheduled to meet Friday afternoon in a special teleconference and one of the topics will be Leach’s future with Tech.
The best solution for both parties would be to let Leach finish out his current deal.
Leach has said he wouldn't object to that. The University has been mostly quiet on the subject, but they have to be aware that at this late date hiring a new coach would be impractical.
Whether the Board of Regents reaches that same conclusion is still to be determined. In the meantime, Leach will have to bide his time while he awaits Friday's outcome.
“We’re just going to watch more film and figure out a better way to play football,” Leach said. “We all agreed to the two years I have left, and just because I turned down [the three-year extension], how in the hell can they just fire me?”