Mike Leach may like to think of himself as a pirate, but during this entire fiasco I could only think of him as Douglas MacArthur.
To recap: Less than a week ago, Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach came under fire for mistreating one of his players – a wide receiver named Adam James (son of ESPN analyst Craig James). According to the accusations, Leach twice placed Adam James in a darkened shed after learning that the receiver had suffered a minor concussion. Leach was immediately suspended for his actions and, after filing a restraining order against Texas Tech University (so that he could coach in the Alamo Bowl), he was fired the next day.
Lubbock erupted. Insightful commentary (like this great piece by Jon Arnold) was rare. Leach is something of a deity down here and, to be honest, I don’t totally get it. Granted, I’m spoiled because I grew up as an Ohio State Buckeye fan, but to the outsider he’s a colorful, unique character who was good for an upset every now and then (and an inexcusable loss much more frequently). I personally didn’t care for him because I like defense, he only scheduled non-conference cupcakes to pad his numbers, and because he had Lubbock media absolutely cornered (and was a dick about it). But down here Leach was someone who brought prominence to the Red Raider football program. When the administration fired Leach, Hance and friends made a number of enemies.
Tons of keyboard commandos announced that they would be tearing up their bowl tickets (ummmm…you know you already paid for those, right?), not buying season tickets, and never donating to Texas Tech again (including one anonymous individual who gave “thousands” every year). ESPN radio programming was cancelled to allow more time for disgruntled fans to air their grievances on local talk shows. The angst was palpable, and it only grew when Leach gave a 34-minute interview to Rece Davis, during which Leach blasted both Craig and Adam James and the Tech administration.
Leach’s comments read like a list of talking points guaranteed to fire up a fan base in America. Craig James was a helicopter parent who hovered around, disrupting practices and trying to get his son more playing time. Adam James was privileged, acted entitled, and was lazy. Way to go, Leach – you should also talk about how he’s married to a welfare queen and has abortions for fun! Of course, those posting online used this as an homophobic argument for the wussification of the United States. Adam James is a coward!!11!!1!!one!! A real man would shake it off and punch the concussion out of his own head!!1!11!! Hell, James probably puts on Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, makes out with a line of dudes in his finest lace thong and then hands them all participation trophies!!!!
But I digest. Back to my comparison.
Airwaves and internet tubes are still flooded with arguments in support of Leach (with a number of amateur doctors explaining the nuance of a concussion) and few can believe he was fired for having (Adam) James placed in a shed.
That’s not why Leach was fired. Leach was fired because he was arrogant and stubborn and disobeyed his bosses. Period. General Douglas MacArthur was a hero on the rise (for a fascinating book about the man, check out William Manchester’s American Caesar) and enjoyed tremendous public support, especially after the daring Incheon Landing during the Korean War. Then, MacArthur decided to ignore Vizzini’s advice of the classic blunder…to the EXTREME (50s-style)! Sure, anyone can be involved in a land war with Asia, but MacArthur channeled his inner Max Power by basically invading China and almost starting a war. Against President Truman’s direct orders. Whoops. He’s lucky Truman didn’t nuke him.
That’s basically what happened here. Leach could have signed the apology letter to James (most likely a form letter to cover their collective legal asses), he could have explained his situation better, or he could have asked the administration for help (or forgiveness). Leach decided to go it alone, figuring that his tremendous popularity (and his own brilliance) would make him indispensable. As evidenced by MacArthur fading away, Leach was mistaken.
So stop complaining about James, stop pretending that Leach is a genius for being a pioneer in the field of concussion treatments, and just focus on the fact that Leach pissed off his bosses one too many times. It was completely preventable at a number of places, but Leach was too stubborn to take any of those offered exits. It was his fault that he’s gone.
Take solace in the fact that Leach wasn’t that great. Seriously, he wasn’t. Texas Tech was 8-4 this year, with a good win over Nebraska (who was struggling at the time) and a decent win over a drowning Oklahoma team. Last year’s victory over Texas was, without a doubt, the best game of the year (and made college football in October and November fun instead of this year’s plodding march toward predictable), but Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma by 44 points (and it wasn’t as close as the score made it seem) and choked in the Cotton Bowl against Ole Miss. More importantly, Leach went after the Miami and Washington jobs when they were on the table, and was a leading candidate for the Auburn position – he wasn’t going to be around forever, and as has been shown over and over again, Texas Tech has gone as far as it can with him.
You want to go further in the Big 12 and even nationally? Stop screwing around with half-ass replacements like former assistants or promoting in-house. Tommy Tuberville is the answer. He has expressed an interest, so bring him in. And hire him. He should have played for the championship in 2003 (13-0), has Texas ties (he was an assistant at UT), has coached almost 20 players into the NFL, and was a terror in the SEC. Throw a ton of money at Tuberville and watch the program soar. As for Leach, his spirit and support in Lubbock may never die…but it will definitely fade away.