Mike Leach vs. Texas Tech University: Why It Should Matter To Everyone

Henry BallSenior Analyst IJanuary 13, 2010

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Head coach Mike Leach celebrates as he leaves the field after the Texas Tech Red Raiders defeated the Texas Longhorns with a final score of 34-33 on November 1, 2008 at Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Lubbock, TX.—Attorney's for Mike Leach filed a third amendment yesterday to the initial petition in the case of Mike Leach vs. Texas Tech University being heard in the 99th District Court in Lubbock County Texas.

This amendment puts forth a very different picture than the one that has been portrayed in the media and by the university since the story first broke

Joe Shad of ESPN first reported Leach would be suspended after a player and his family filed a complaint about the player's treatment after an injury.

The player, Adam James, according to Shad's 'source' who was close to the family—later revealed as James' father Craig James—said James sustained a concussion on Dec. 16, was examined on Dec. 17 and told not to practice because of the concussion and an elevated heart rate.

The source said Leach called a trainer and directed him to move James 'to the darkest place he could find-an equipment shed-clean out the equipment and make sure that he could not sit or lean.'  He was allegedly confined for three hours.

The source also told The Associated Press that James said Leach told him if he came out; he would be kicked off the team.

According to the source, Leach again told the trainer, two days later, to "put [James] in an electrical closet, with a guard posted outside."

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that the university gave Leach until Monday to write an apology and suspended him when he did not.

The University then fired Leach, according to public statements by Chancellor Kent Hance, after (and because) he filed an injunction seeking due process of law according to the terms of his contract and Texas State Law.

In my opinion, this case is important on several levels but what is it really about?

Is this a case about the proper treatment of a player?

If so then it is important to discover how this player (or others) was truthfully treated.

Was he tortured and abused like a prisoner at Abu Ghraib as we were led to believe or was he dealt with like a player with concussion AND an attitude as the Coach insists?

We were incensed when we heard that James was 'punished' and 'put at further risk' 'because' he had a concussion.

When we were told that he was 'locked' in a 'shed' and then an 'electrical closet' by an out of control egomaniacal coach and made to stand in the frigid dark for hours on end we accepted that his suspension and then firing was likely justified.

We now have evidence according to affidavits included in the petitionwhich were actually produced by the University's attorneythat Leach did not select the area where James was to be secluded from the sunlight (a practice used for other concussed patients, due to light sensitivity) nor did said place have the ability to be locked. 

It has been further revealed that a second locationa media room used by opposing teams for press conferencesdid indeed have an electrical closet adjacent but James was specifically instructed NOT to go into that room.

According to the petition and the trainer's statements James broke a number of team rules including having a camera/cell phonewhich he conveniently took with him into the room he was instructed not to enterat practice.

What is more, the training staff reports that he spent much of the time sitting and sleeping, unlike the horrid ‘standing’ we were told of.

Or, is this a case about ‘little league dad’s’

From the beginning Craig James—the 'source' for Joe Shad—has denied interfering in the coaching of or operation of Texas Tech's football team in any way.

As a result, ESPN, no doubt having faith in the source, led with stories of the horrid abuse of a young man and his courageous Father—coincidentally an ESPN employee assigned to cover his son’s own team—only came forward out of concern for his son’s health.

Yet, if the petition is substantiated, according to the University’s own Attorney and Chancellor Hance; not only did Mr. Craig interfere but he went around the Athletic Department by going directly to the Board of Regents when he was unable to convince the coaching staff that his son deserved more playing time.

James' position coach, Lincoln Rileywho characterized James as ‘unusually lazy’ and having a ‘sense of entitlement’ that had a negative impact on the entire teambrought James into Leaches’ office to discuss multiple abusive messages left on his phone by the elder James.

Apparently James the Younger stormed out of the coach’s office and ‘slammed the door so hard’ that he split the door frame, which caused $1,100 in damage.

Or is this a case about employee insubordination?

"The termination of Coach Leach was the result of his treatment of a player with a brain concussion and insubordination. We have reviewed the third amendment petition filed by Coach Leach’s legal counsel and it contains numerous falsehoods and gross inaccuracies. Our position will be set forth through the litigation process." Said Dicky Grigg, Legal Counsel for Texas Tech University


Indeed, the University has continually alluded to ‘other things’ that we don’t know about.


This elusive smoking gun needs to be unloaded if it truly has bullets but the alleged insubordination appears to be the fact that Leach sought a court ordered injunction to relive what he believed to be a breach of contract. 


According to Hance "'Mike is responsible for his firing because if you sue the boss you are going to get fired."


These and other conflicting statements by Hance and various representatives of the administration are the basis for Leach now seeking punitive damages in part under the retaliation and 'whistleblower’ Act, which appears to have been violated.


Or is this a case of an employer wanting to get out of paying a contract obligation?


The old adage “follow the money” does not apply in this case according to Hance. 


He says that the $800,000 bonus due to Mike Leachif he was still the head coach for just one more daywas never even considered.


Yet, in emails between Hance and others involved in negotiating Leaches’ $12.5M Contract they clearly outline the intent to fire Leach PRIOR to the deadline for him to earn that $800,000 bonus and they clearly discuss the intent not to fulfill the following years of the contract.


In one email, Regent Jim Sowell, said "when we fire Leach we will have a better opportunity to get a another coach than he will to get another job."


The other charge of insubordination is that Leach refused to sign an apology letter prepared by the University.


That letter basically acknowledged wrong doing on the Coaches' part and left him open to termination with cause and essentially ensured it.


Also, Leach claims he was not given the 10 day notice to cure, as outlined in the contract nor was he afforded a proper investigation to substantiate the charges.


Considering that only three days elapsed from suspension to firing, one has to wonder. 


But why is all this important to all College Football Fans, and Americans for that matter?


According to Texas Tech University this case is not really about the proper treatment of players, it is not really about little league dads, it is not really about insubordination or contract obligation.


Texas Tech says it’s really about their right to do as they (the Board of Regents and the Administration) please whether they signed a contract or not.


Texas Tech says it’s really about their right to do as they please regardless of the wishes of the majority of the fans or the public.


Texas Tech wants the case thrown out due to Sovereign Immunity, claiming that as a State institution they can’t be sued and relief can not be sought in court.


If you can’t sue the King then how can you enter into a contract with the King?


If Mike Leach is not afforded his day in court then his reputation and livelihood are irreparably harmed; and he has no recourse?


Can that be allowed in College Football? 


Can that be allowed America?


The 60,000 member strong Team Leach is organizing a stand in for Thursday, January 14, 2010 to express their displeasure with the firing, and more specifically the handling of, Coach Mike Leach.


It will be interesting to see the King’s (99th District Court) response to the King (Texas Tech); are they free to negotiate in bad faith? 


Are they free to withhold compensation without due process? 


Indeed do they even need to consider the terms of the contract they negotiated?


I guess Mel Brooks (History of The World, Part I) was right, “It’s good to be the King!”