Texas Tech vs. Mike Leach: Who Needs Who?

Stephen JohnsonContributor IAugust 29, 2009

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)

After their recent and most successful season, Texas Tech University found itself in quite a conundrum.

Wanting to keep their head coach, but fighting to keep themselves from overextending a lucrative contract to a coach that hasn’t produced an outright Big XII South title, Big XII title or even a BCS bowl appearance.

Yet, Tech still wanted Mike Leach at an astronomical price, and Leach stated publicly he wanted to continue his program in Lubbock.

Outcries came from both sides though suggest differently; whether it was Chancellor Kent Hance’s stance that if Leach did not sign by a specific date he would be fired or by Leach’s departure during bowl preparations for an interview with the University of Washington.

What we had here is a contradiction: a university who wanted an answer or consequences would be had, and a coach who said one thing and did another. This begs the question: who needs who?

Leach has widely been viewed as the most successful coach in Tech’s history, although he will need to win seven more games to overtake Spike Dykes' career win record at Tech.

Leach has a career win percentage of .660, has taken Tech to nine straight bowl games with a record of 5-4 in those games and he has brought unprecedented media coverage to Lubbock on Saturdays in the fall.

"60 Minutes" has profiled Leach, he’s a regular on ESPN radio shows, and his press conference quotes regularly make national headlines.

Yet Tech administrators grew tired of the off-season circus surrounding him. Year after year, he has been rumored for head coaching positions at schools like Syracuse, UCLA, Washington, Stanford and Auburn.

Contract negotiations were put on hold before the 2008 season so Leach could focus on his ‘best team yet’ and take the Red Raiders to the promised land of a BCS bowl or potentially more.

This proved to be costly for both sides hoping to come to a quick resolution on length and money in contract talks. Leach had a great year finishing 11-1, with the lone hiccup to Oklahoma in Norman, and preparations began for an after-New Year's bowl game.

During this time, however, Leach made a side trip for Washington to interview for the head coaching position. Although Leach later struck his name away from the list, Tech brass were plenty disgruntled after not being able to come to an agreement beforehand.

As it progressed, Tech gave Leach an ultimatum, which he did not back down from, but eventually an agreement was reached when the Athletic Director Gerald Myers was taken out of the negotiations.

It became very real to the alumni and folks around Lubbock that they may be shaking hands with a new head coach during Spring practices. This would have been costly for both parties involved, the goose and the gander.

Look, whoever you want to give the moniker too, Leach being the goose and Tech being the gander or vice versa, both had nothing to gain from this squabble.

It has become painfully obvious that Tech is Leach’s only shot at handling a bigger program would be in Lubbock, because rumored around the college football nation is Leach is…well, he’s just plain weird.

He will talk about anything on an endless ramble and he’ll answer any question put before him, including his thoughts on dating advice. The only thing he won’t talk about are injuries to his players… I mean, what injuries?

In Lubbock he his heralded for his uncanny knack at witty one liners and his progressively determination to aggravate the Aggies of Texas A&M.

In Lubbock he does not get hassled from his AD, he does not have to attend booster events and gets to decide who will be on his staff. All of this without any national hardware in the trophy case.

Tech, meanwhile, has seen a steady increase in game day coverage since Leach brought his innovative spread offense to ‘The Jones.’ They’ve seen in increase in talent on the recruiting front and also are featured regularly on national shows.

As the Big XII has gathered more talent, Leach has found a way to compete with recent National Champions Oklahoma and Texas. Tech has found a way to raise the money needed for renovations and expansion to their football stadium, which I assure you  is a byproduct of the wins Leach has put on the table.

Another Leach influence that is vastly overlooked, are the graduation rates for his players. In 2008, Leach and Tech graduated 79 percent of his football players, first in the Big XII and ninth nationally, without NCAA violations or infractions on his record. Tech has run a solid, clean, winning program with Leach at the helm.

The perfect marriage, no matter how dysfunctional it may seem to the others outside the Hub City, resides in Lubbock.

For nine years now, the marriage of a conservative and small town that revolves around its college and football program to a head coach who shows up to a press conference looking like he woke up five minutes beforehand, who will criticize any official publicly, and who give dating tips to students at Tech has been both successful and at times damn near impossible.

Either way you look at it, the goose has been good to the gander.


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