Big 12: Gerald Myers
- Somewhat shocking news out of Texas Tech: Cornerback Will Ford, a likely starter, left the team suddenly. Tommy Tuberville was short on the reasons for his exit, but it sounds like burnout. I have to wonder, if he gets a couple months away from the game but stays enrolled at Texas Tech, would he try to earn his way back on the team? Seems like it could happen, but that's a complete guess.
- Bryan Harsin chose Texas over LSU, who made a late run at his services after the Longhorns made an offer, writes Alan Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman. The Longhorns begin spring practice today.
- Oklahoma fans can't go around ripping Nick Saban's skirting of recruiting rules. The Sooners' latest violations are worse, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
- Andy Staples at SI.com has a bit of Big 12 flavor on his All Two-Star (or fewer) team. OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden headlines the list, along with Missouri TE Michael Egnew and Texas A&M DB Terrence Frederick.
- Colleague Mel Kiper says Aaron Williams at Texas and Aldon Smith of Missouri are two players who could make a big jump at the combine this week.
- KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long is facing forclosure on his home near San Diego, reports Brent Schrotenboer of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
- Missouri's Smith writes about his draft preparation in a diary for the Kansas City Star.
- Texas Tech has hiked up its season ticket prices, reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Here's video of AD Gerald Myers discussing the tickets, and playing Baylor at Cowboys Stadium.
- Oklahoma State has officially set its spring game for April 16.
The teams played in front of 71,964 fans -- mostly from Texas Tech -- to close the 2009 season in a game won 20-13 by the Red Raiders.
Last year, they met in the Cotton Bowl in front of, frankly, an embarrassing crowd that officially went down as a generous 48,213. However, anyone who watched on TV or in person could tell you that a half-full Cotton Bowl wasn't a good look for the stadium. After a renovation, the stadium now seats 92,100.
At least the teams played a great game, won on a late defensive stand by Texas Tech, 45-38.
The decision to play there was part of a two-year deal, but a move back to Cowboys Stadium is the right one.
"Playing this game in Cowboys Stadium is great for our players, our university and our fans," Baylor coach Art Briles said in a release. "There isn't a better football stadium in America."
He's right, and it helps that it's located right in the middle of a rich recruiting base that Baylor and Tech both need to mine. The novelty of Cowboys Stadium hasn't quite worn off, and the venue alone might be enough to convince people to come out.
"We just had a great experience there,” Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers told reporters on Wednesday. "Our fans, the players, the coaches, they all enjoyed it — particularly our fans. I didn’t get a single complaint about playing that game at Cowboys Stadium.
"In fact, it was all positive. We made more money over there than we did at the Cotton Bowl."
Playing the game last year on the same day as Texas A&M and Arkansas' game in Cowboys Stadium certainly didn't help exposure, or perhaps attendance.
That was only one small part of a sports extravaganza in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex that weekend. TCU and SMU both had home games, but the Texas Rangers were also playing an ALCS game later that night.
(If you didn't read it by the way, Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News went to every one of the games except TCU's and wrote about it. One of my favorite stories of the year.)
If Baylor and Tech can avoid getting swallowed up by a similar weekend this year, you'll probably see that attendance number balloon a bit.
The school rewarded its first-year coach with a one-year extension and a raise on Tuesday.
He's now contracted through 2015 and he'll be paid $2 million next year with yearly raises building to a $2.4 million salary in 2015.
From the Lubbock Avalanche Journal:
[Texas Tech athletic director Gerald] Myers said Tuberville’s agent was not involved in negotiations on the new deal.
“We just negotiated with Tommy,” he said. “We totally talked to Tommy about this and it probably took us about a week to get it done. We’ve been talking about it internally for a while. We didn’t talk to Tommy about it until maybe a week or so ago.”
Myers said the buy-out in Tuberville’s contract is unchanged from last season. It is his base pay of $300,000 a year times the number of years remaining on the deal. According to the the mutual buy-out, Tuberville must pay that amount should he decide to leave Tech before the contract expires and Tech must give him $300,000 times years remaining should it opt to fire Tuberville without cause.
Texas Tech finished the year 8-5, which is certainly respectable, but Mike Leach's teams had better records in four of his final years in Lubbock. The transition wasn't perfect -- the offense was inconsistent and the defense was consistently bad -- but no one expected it to be. And if a "down year" results in eight wins, the Red Raiders will certainly take that. Breaking in a new quarterback this year could mean another season hovering around eight wins, but Texas Tech is clearly pleased with the direction the program is moving.
Tuberville is building a program, and defensive recruits like nationally ranked cornerback Marcus Roberson, who made a soft commit to Texas Tech on Tuesday, can help give the Red Raiders a defense it never had under Leach.
Plenty of teams across the Big 12 have great offenses. The best teams have great defenses. It's difficult to overestimate the importance of Tuberville's looming defensive coordinator hire, but he says he plans to take his time.
More than anything, the extension signifies a level of comfort for Tuberville at Texas Tech. He was a big catch for the Red Raiders, and if he bolted back to an SEC job, it's highly unlikely Tech would be able to reel in a coach with anywhere near his résumé.
Hence, they've made keeping him a priority, and it sounds like he's not making it to difficult. Tuberville maintains the talks between himself and Miami were never very serious this offseason, but that was the only job opening that Tuberville's name ever seriously came up for.
That, combined with this newest extension, is great news for the future of Texas Tech's program.
"Have fun at Pooh-Con. I guess I'll just have to go with my second choice: The Eagles."
- Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers is stepping down in May, the school announced. He answered a few questions from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal's Courtney Linehan.
- Kevin Haskins of the Topeka Capital-Journal says to bet on low-tier bowls at best for the Big 12 teams in Kansas.
- Oklahoma is trying to turn an 8-5 team into a national contender, writes Andy Staples of SI.com.
- Missouri cornerback Munir Prince was taken to the hospital after being blindsided and knocked unconscious at the end of Missouri's scrimmage, reports Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star.
- Over two-dozen student kickers showed up for Oklahoma's open tryout on Thursday, reports Jake Trotter of The Oklahoman.
- The quarterback decision at Nebraska is mostly OC Shawn Watson's to make, and he's pretty calm about it, writes Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star.
- Robert Griffin threw three touchdowns in Baylor's final scrimmage.
- Mike Leach plans to coach again, but hasn't turned down any offers, writes Ray Buck of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- The status of Texas' right guard, Tray Allen, is in doubt, reports Alan Trubow of the Austin American-Statesman.
- Tully Corcoran of the Topeka Capital-Journal will probably make you laugh with this column about Kansas' unpredictability heading into 2010.
- The offense has to improve if Colorado's win total is going to do the same, writes the Boulder Daily Camera's Ryan Thorburn.
- Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune profiles Missouri's single-season sack record holder, Aldon Smith.
- Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News says the Big 12's expiration date is at the end of its current TV contract.
- Texas Tech's new outdoor artificial practice field is nearing completion, reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The offense will practice on the grass practice field next to the new turf, and the defense and team drills will take place on the turf. Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock has artificial turf.
- Former Texas QB Colt McCoy is helping support the construction of a children's hospital in Temple, Texas.
- A showdown between 12-0 Nebraska and Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game is a sentimentalist's dream, writes Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World.
- Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune ranks the Big 12's coordinators by total win-loss record and then ranks its top 12 position coaches.
- Texas Tech AD Gerald Myers calls 2009-10 one of the Red Raiders' most successful athletic years in the first part of his Q&A with Courtney Linehan of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- And says Texas Tech went from having the worst facilities in the Big 12 in 1996 when he took the job to competing for the best today in the second half of his Q&A.
- Nebraska may play at Soldier Field in Chicago in the near future, and two Husker 2010 signees may not qualify academically for the 2010 season.
- Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn is already taking part in duties as a new member of the Pac-10, reports Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera.
- The Oklahoman's Tariq Lee takes a look at some of the ratings for the Sooners and Cowboys on the video game "NCAA Football 11," which was released today.
Leach is pictured in the center of the 2010 copy of the Lubbock Yellow Pages that starting being distributed this month, surrounded by a bunch of Boy Scouts.
Making the irony for Leach even more delicious, Leach's attorney Ted Liggett is pictured on the back cover. Liggett is described in the ad from a firm of "aggressive personal injury lawyers" and pictured below a picture of a bellowing image of King Kong.
Something tells me that at least in the homes of Tech chancellor Kent Hance and Tech athletic director Gerald Myers, the phone book is going coverless this year.
But I’m still a little surprised Tuberville took the job.
It surprised me, however, when Tuberville expressed his continued commitment to a wide-open passing attack.
When Tuberville has been most successful, his teams had a defense-first, offense-second mentality. It’s not surprising considering his own background as a defensive coach when he was coming up the circuit.
Tech’s current roster is heavily stacked to playing a wide-open passing offense. But it's surprising Tuberville so quickly and easily endorsed it.
Naysayers will remember that Tuberville tried to embrace some of the new offensive philosophies in his final season at Auburn. The results were disastrous, mainly because of philosophical differences among his coaching staff.
That should change after his arrival at Tech as he appears ready to keep many of Leach’s assistants on board. Tuberville hopes, in his own words, to keep Tech’s offense “exciting” and “versatile.”
“We’re going to air out. We’re going to keep the air raid,” Tuberville said. “I think it’s something that Tech has hit upon that gives them that identity to recruit and we all want to have.”
That idea was what Gerald Myers had in mind when he hired Leach after the 1999 season. Leach built his reputation as an offensive coordinator before getting his break at Tech.
Myers and the school’s other power brokers thought they needed a flashy offense when Leach replaced the venerable Spike Dykes after 14 years as coach.
As such, they scoured the nation for the nation’s top offensive minds. The other finalist when they settled on Leach was Rich Rodriguez, then the offensive coordinator at Clemson.
It’s hard to argue with their choice today. Leach has brought the school unexpected national attention -– from stories on "60 Minutes" and a cameo appearance on “Friday Night Lights” to a fawning cover story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about his quirky personality and offensive wizardry.
And his teams have played a little football too, considering they made bowl trips in each of his 10 seasons coaching the Red Raiders.
Tuberville is more of a traditionalist, although he said he likely will lean heavily on a defense with a three-man front and four linebackers.
“I believe in consistency,” Tuberville said. “If you look at the top teams in the country, they are all based on consistency. Not changing one week or one year. You change subtly.
“We’ll have a base offense. We’ll have a base defense, and we'll build from that each week. When we play on Saturday, we won't be complicated. We'll be simple in the fact in terms of what our players think. It will look a little bit more complicated in the naked eye.”
Tuberville represents the biggest football coaching fish attracted to Tech. He’s only four seasons removed from a 13-0 record and national coach of the year honors at Auburn.
But he’ll be facing challenges in the Big 12 South, which is universally considered one of the toughest divisions in college football. He’ll be tested to keep pace with big dogs Texas and Oklahoma, both at the apex of team strength since Mack Brown and Bob Stoops took over.
Oklahoma State has pumped millions into facilities and appears to be ready to become a serious challenger in the south. Baylor is still looking for its first bowl trip in 15 seasons, but has better facilities and the right coach to lead them into Big 12 South relevancy. Tuberville’s old school, Texas A&M, has the tradition and facilities and appears to need only the right coach to bring them back into contention.
It won’t be easy for Tuberville, but he appears to be uniquely qualified for the challenge of maintaining Tech’s recent success and maybe even building on it.
It won't make his job any easier. Tuberville still will have to follow the most legendary figure in the history of the school's football program.
But Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers and the others who arranged for Tuberville to return with the Red Raiders have made a significant splash as they try to replace Mike Leach.
There is a need to change the culture of the Tech program after Leach's dismissal last week. Tuberville may be the person to do it.
With Tuberville, who cut his teeth as a defensive coordinator, look for the Red Raiders to put more emphasis on the running game and on defense. His hiring will represent a 180-degree shift from the offense-first strategy favored by Leach, who came to the school after serving as an offensive coordinator at Kentucky and Oklahoma.
Tuberville's last stint as a defensive coordinator came at nearby Texas A&M, where he helped call the defenses on an Aggie team that went 10-0-1 in 1994. That gives him at least a cursory knowledge of Tech's recruiting area, along with potentially opening the Red Raiders into the Southeastern Conference area as well.
He's a proven commodity after earning national Coach of the Year honors after leading Auburn to a 13-0 record in 2004. And his media-friendly ways will be a big advantage as he replaces Leach.
James Willis, the associate head coach and outside linebackers coach at Alabama, has been mentioned to be his choice for defensive coordinator.
If Willis is brought on, his first immediate challenge will be to earn the trust of Tech players who were united under defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, the other finalist for the job. McNeill was the best recruiter on the staff and involved in getting together Tech's current recruiting class that is the best in the school's Big 12 history. It appears that McNeill won't be retained if Willis is coming. That will be a ticklish problem for Tuberville to circumvent with his new team.
But the biggest question with Tuberville will be how he can narrow the traditional gap that has existed between the Red Raiders and the dominant programs in the Big 12 South Division at Texas and Oklahoma.
Leach made the biggest inroads as the Red Raiders have split with the two programs in the last two seasons. Tech employed the victory over the Longhorns in 2008 to earn a three-way tie for the South Division title -- a first in Tech's Big 12 history.
But he never took the Red Raiders any higher than the Cotton Bowl in the Big 12's bowl arrangement. A trip to the Bowl Championship Series clearly is the next step and will be Tuberville's goal.
Tuberville, 55, might be the ideal person to challenge the Longhorns and Sooners, considering his track record at Auburn. While there, he beat Alabama seven of 10 times, including a streak of six straight seasons and has consistent success against the Southeastern Conference's top schools. He claimed nine of 15 games at Auburn against top 10 teams from 2004. He'll consistently face the same challenges against the Big 12's elite schools.
He's been successful before.
But Tech will provide some unique challenges that will make this the toughest job that Tuberville has ever faced.
But his recent suggestion that former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach should end up with the NFL's Oakland Raiders makes a certain amount of sense.
The linking of Leach and legendary NFL iconclastic owner Al Davis could be a grouping of kindred souls. Both have a fascination for pirates, don't they?
And Leach's offensive talents would be ideal for the Raiders after Oakland's 21-13 loss to Baltimore to finish a 5-11 season. It dropped the once-proud franchise to their 11th loss for the seventh-straight season, a negative NFL record.
If Davis decides to fire Tom Cable, Leach would be an interesting choice. His talents working with young quarterbacks might help rebuild the career of former No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell, who has been a massive bust to this point.
Davis is a big-time meddler in the affairs of his franchise. But it won't be any more than what Leach endured working with Gerald Myers.
Think about it. What would be better than Leach working with a team with a pirate on the side of its helmet?
And the NFL might not be as much of a reach for Leach as you might expect. I'm hearing from a couple of sources that he could end up working with Leslie Frazier at Buffalo as an offensive coordinator if the Vikings defensive coordinator gets that job with the Bills.
Leach likely doesn't need to work immediately. He'll be in court, I would imagine, as his contract is settled against Texas Tech.
But it won't be that long before we see him coaching again.
If he did end up in the NFL, he would become the most quotable NFL assistant since the days Buddy Ryan was strolling the sidelines.
How the game was won: The game turned when interim Texas Tech offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley decided to bench Taylor Potts after he sustained a finger injury on his non-throwing hand with about 8 minutes left. Steven Sheffield came off the bench to direct two consecutive scoring drives, wrapping up the victory with two gutsy fourth-down conversions on the game-clinching drive.
It’s notable: McNeill becomes the second interim coach in the last seven seasons to beat Michigan State in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The first was Nebraska’s Bo Pelini in 2003.
Turning point: After Tech had claimed the lead on Sheffield’s 11-yard TD pass to Detron Lewis, the Tech defense provided the clinching play two plays later. Franklin Mitchem provided the interception of Kirk Cousins that iced the victory.
Player of the game: Sheffield came off the bench to direct Tech’s game-winning drive, completing 6 of 6 passes for 80 yards, capped by his scoring pass to Lewis for the go-ahead touchdown. Sheffield finished by hitting 9 of 11 passes for 88 yards as he directed two late scoring drives. His late charge gave his team the victory, even as Potts threw for 384 yards and two TDs to earn Most Valuable Player honors.
Unsung hero: Leading Texas Tech wide receiver Alex Torres struggled with only two catches and had a critical drop late in the game. But on the next play, Torres made a critical 6-yard gain on fourth-and-5 that kept the drive alive, setting up the touchdown to ice the victory.
Stat of the game: Tech rolled up 580 yards of total offense, including 472 passing yards. The Red Raiders averaged 461.8 yards of total offense and 380.7 passing yards with Leach.
Record performance: Lewis produced a career-best 10 receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns to help power Tech’s victory.
What it means: McNeill might have become this season’s version of West Virginia’s Bill Stewart by claiming an impressive victory as an interim coach. But how he did it was the most striking part of his team’s performance, confidently converting two pivotal fourth-down plays with the swash-buckling nature his boss similarly brought to coaching. Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers still might want to go for a coach with more experience, but McNeill showed some moxie along the sidelines that appears to make him suited for a head-coaching shot somewhere.
His affirmation this morning for Baylor leaves little doubt he's interested in finishing his job with the Bears.
He didn't mention Tech by name in the release, owing that he still has a lot of friends in the administration and the athletic department from his three seasons working there with Mike Leach from 2000-02. He didn't want to take a shot at them when the program is scrambling and he didn't.
I can't read Briles' mind, but I've got to believe the test of becoming the first coach to take Baylor to a bowl game in 15 years has to be the ultimate challenge in coaching.
Tech has made 10 straight bowl trips and is likely positioned to keep that streak alive no matter who is coaching -- at least initially.
But Briles sees what he has at Baylor. His stadium is a tad smaller at Baylor than at Texas Tech, but everything else at his disposal is equal to or superior at his current school than he would have had in Lubbock. The new training center the Bears opened before the 2009 season is comparable to any in the conference and better than what he would find at Tech.
And he still has quarterback Robert Griffin III for two more years, which likely would be a deal-clincher if Briles looks at the choice between the two schools objectively.
Briles' decision causes a reshuffling of the leading candidates to replace Leach.
Interim coach Ruffin McNeill can make a convincing statement with an impressive performance tomorrow night in the Valero Alamo Bowl. He would be the popular choice for most players in the program and likely the best choice to keep the Red Raiders' recruiting class together.
Former Auburn and Mississippi coach Tommy Tuberville is interested in the job and comes with an impressive résumé. But it would be interesting to see if Tech athletic director Gerald Myers would turn in his way.
Other candidates with head coaching experience like Larry Fedora of Southern Mississippi and Kevin Sumlin of Houston and others like Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes and Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen might be interested in the job.
But Briles' announcement takes one of the top candidates out of the running -- at least for the present time.
Nebraska continued its trend of playing well in big games under Bo Pelini.
Here are some stories from across the conference about those subjects and others in some lunch links to get us ready for another busy day involving Big 12 teams in bowl games.
- Nebraska’s blowout victory over Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl could be an omen for the Cornhuskers catapulting back among national title contenders, the Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel writes.
- The Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple opines that the offseason suddenly got a lot more pleasant for Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson after last night’s Holiday Bowl victory.
- Mike Leach's attorney, Ted Liggett, disputes many of the contentions made in Texas Tech’s statement after firing his client on Wednesday, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Adam Zuvanich reports.
- The Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock writes that Leach’s extreme arrogance helped keep him from making a rational decision in dealing with Tech officials.
- Missouri could be headed for a finish in the Top 25 if it can beat Navy today in the Texas Bowl, the Kansas City Star’s Mike DeArmond reports.
- Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers tells the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams how he plans to replace Leach.
- The Houston Chronicle’s Joseph Duarte pegs Baylor’s Art Briles as the leading candidate to replace Leach.
- Leach needs to address the charges against him, Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News writes.
- A healthy Alexander Robinson should boost Iowa State’s chances of claiming an upset over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, the Ames Tribune’s Bobby La Gesse reports.
- The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel analyzes Landry Jones’ rocky first season as Oklahoma’s quarterback.
Here it is.
After reviewing all the information available, Texas Tech University has decided that the best course of action for the university and its football program is to terminate its relationship with head football coach Mike Leach for cause.
Texas Tech was prepared to participate in the legal proceeding today on Coach Leach's motion for a temporary restraining order. His attorney, however, chose to not participate when he was informed that the termination of Coach Leach was inevitable.
The coach's termination was precipitated by his treatment of a player after the player was diagnosed with a concussion. The player was put at risk for additional injury. After the university was apprised of the treatment, Coach Leach was contacted by the administration of the university in an attempt to resolve the problem. In a defiant act of insubordination, Coach Leach continually refused to cooperate in a meaningful way to help resolve the complaint. He also refused to obey a suspension order and instead sued Texas Tech University.
Further, his contemporaneous statements make it clear that the coach's actions against the player were meant to demean, humiliate and punish the player rather than to serve the team's best interest. This action, along with his continuous acts of insubordination, resulted in irreconcilable differences that make it impossible for Coach Leach to remain at Texas Tech.
"It is our number one priority to protect the welfare of our students and the reputation of the Texas Tech University. Parents have entrusted us with their children and we take this responsibility very seriously. We very much appreciate the leadership shown by the university's athletic director, Gerald Myers, and president, Guy Bailey, in dealing with this unfortunate situation. The board supports their decision," said Larry Anders, chairman and Jerry Turner, vice chairman of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents.
In the near future, Texas Tech will undertake a search for a new coach.
In the meantime, the focus of the athletic department is on the preparation for the Valero Alamo Bowl.
His attorney had predicted to several reporters earlier this week that his client would be let go by Texas Tech officials -- probably sooner rather than later.
That firing speaks to a larger controversy than what happened over Adam James' concussion and “The Shed.”
Leach and Tech athletic director Gerald Myers always had a contentious relationship from the very beginning of his tenure there. It’s understandable when you consider the turf wars that sometimes develop in athletic departments when a headstrong former basketball coach is the athletic director and makes decisions over a similarly headstrong football coach.
It all started in 2002, when rumors about Leach’s off-field activities led to an investigation by the athletic department.
Leach was cleared, but the schism between him and his boss started at that time. At one point, Myers stopped Leach’s outgoing mail in a dispute about postage stamps.
It simmered early in Leach’s time when the Red Raiders played the toughest nonconference schedule in the Big 12 as a way to make money for the athletic department. During the 2002 season, for example, Tech played Ohio State, Mississippi and NC State in addition to the Big 12 South gauntlet.
That chapped Leach and he let Myers know about his concerns. The two always seemed to be better off if they were an arms-length away from the other.
Tech officials weren’t happy when news surfaced of Leach shopping himself for a number of major coaching openings over the past several years.
And it continued when he went through an extremely contentious negotiation with school officials before he was given a three-year extension on what was a five-year, $12.7 million contract. To get the deal done, Leach went over Myers’ head and personally negotiated with Tech chancellor Kent Hance.
Under terms of the contract, Leach was due an $800,000 bonus if he was still the Red Raiders’ coach on Thursday.
Now, it appears he won’t receive that bonus, although I’m sure the contract is headed for litigation between Leach and the school.
Even with the firing, Leach will be considered one of Tech’s top football coaches ever, leaving the school with a program he helped boost into contention in the extremely difficult Big 12 South Division. It’s not a stretch to say that he was one of the seminal figures in Big 12 history, helping transform the way offense was played from the ground-based philosophies of the old Southwest and Big Eight conferences into today’s high-powered aerial attacks that have become the national rage recently.
Leach built a program out of castoffs like Wes Welker, Michael Crabtree, Graham Harrell and Brandon Williams and turned them into a team that could consistently compete with teams like Texas and Oklahoma. The Red Raiders were ranked No. 2 in the nation for a three-week period during last year's 11-2 season, which was a national breakthrough for the school.
Leach was Texas Tech football. He was as much a part of Lubbock as dust storms, Buddy Holly’s statue and the blueberry muffins at the legendary Fifty-Yard Line Restaurant.
And no matter who follows Leach, he will face a mammoth chore of replacing a legend who directed the Red Raiders to 10 consecutive bowl appearances and more bowl victories in his tenure than the rest of the school’s 85-season football history combined.
The football program upstaged Myers’ basketball program and his hand-picked coach of choice, Bob Knight. Even with the legendary career leader in victories along the sidelines, the Red Raiders’ basketball team had trouble filling the United Spirit Arena or selling the personal-seat licenses that were intended to help build the facility.
But that wasn’t the case for the football program, which became a national phenomenon under their quirky coach. Tech’s success led to him being a cover story in the New York Times magazine and the subject of a fawning piece on CBS-TV’s "60 Minutes" late last season.
Leach gained notoriety for his fascination with pirates, mobsters and Indian chiefs. His stint as a weatherman on a Lubbock television station -- memorable because of his explanation of the local occurrence of “raining mud” -- became a YouTube staple with hundreds of thousands of hits.
He could coach a little, too. During what was expected to be a rebuilding job this season, Leach juggled three starting quarterbacks en route to an 8-4 mark and a berth in Saturday night’s Valero Alamo Bowl.
He’ll be gone from the sidelines in that game. The Red Raiders likely have the perfect solution to settle the upheaval with unassuming defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill. He’s familiar with the players because of his recruiting and will give them the best opportunity to keep their program together against Michigan State on Saturday night.
But after that, it will be a different story.
Myers needs to mobilize quickly to salvage what had been the best recruiting season for Tech in recent years. Whether those recruits will be willing to stay firm on their commitments to the far-flung West Texas locale that is still one of the toughest recruiting destinations in the Big 12 will be interesting to see.
Leach carved an identity that made Tech one of the top 25 or 30 programs in the country over the past 10 years.
Now, we’ll see if his replacement can keep it there.
Hey Texas and Oklahoma fans: Do you have the post-Red River Rivalry blahs?
Here are a few links that will get you informed and excited heading into another week.
- Despite struggling Texas A&M coming to town, Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers tells Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that he expects to easily break the school’s single-game-attendance record this week.
- The Denver Post’s John Henderson analyzes the pitfalls of Sam Bradford’s decision to return to school while playing with an inexperienced offensive line.
- Baylor coach Art Briles is struggling with his worst batch of injuries in his 30-season coaching career this year, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald’s John Werner.
- The Tulsa World’s John Klein opines that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are both at a crossroads.
- How about Texas against the Southeastern Conference champion in the BCS National Championship Game? The New York Times’ Pete Thamel is expecting that scenario if the rest of the season falls into form.
- The Lawrence Journal-World’s Dugan Arnett writes about the new contributors on Kansas’ defense.
- Tyler Hansen’s scrambling abilities are causing some changes for his Colorado offensive teammates, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports.
- The Lincoln Journal-Star’s Steve Sipple wonders if Bo Pelini is working game officials too much from the Nebraska sideline.
- The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel advises Bob Stoops to maintain his strong nonconference scheduling philosophy.
- Iowa State defenders tell the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson that extensive film work was the key for the strong production against Baylor.