Wednesday, December 30, 2009
One question for Mike Leach: Why?
By Jeff Caplan
In the football portion of the Texas Tech official Web site, fans can submit questions for Mike Leach to answer on his television and radio programs.
The only question that seems appropriate in the wake of the university Wednesday firing its quirky head coach whose growing arrogance, or perhaps simply egotism, seemed to be surpassing his offensive ingenuity, is: Why?
Why risk humiliation to himself and his family? Why risk the total destruction of a career? Leach, a law school graduate, is officially out at Texas Tech, the final result of a complaint alleging that Leach had mistreated little-used receiver Adam James, the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James, after he had sustained a concussion.
Much like former Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who built up the Jayhawks program and took it to a BCS bowl only to resign after the season amid accusations that he verbally abused players, Leach's many successes at Tech will be a footnote to his controversial firing.
Why these coaches, with their multi-million-dollar contracts and legions of adoring fans, engage in self-destructive behavior, alleged or not, is inexplicable.
When Leach arrived and landed his aerial circus in Lubbock, land of 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust for generations, no one knew if it would work. Starting with a skinny gunslinger from New Braunfels, Kliff Kingsbury helped Leach get the Red Raiders off the ground in a big way.
A decade later, Leach's spread offense has transformed the face of Texas Tech football, and in a large degree, college football itself.
Leach's offensive prowess, seemingly always one step ahead of opposing defenses, and his peculiar personality, punctuated by rambling speeches, reveling in his outspokenness, odd quotes and a love for pirates, a storyline in particular that became a national media phenomenon, endeared him to the Texas Tech fan base.
He was one year into a $12.7 million deal that came about through its own strange twists and infighting with the administration.
Still, Leach was the king of Lubbock. So close to playing for the Big 12 title and even a national championship last season, the Red Raiders took a step back this year, but had a chance to end things on a positive note at the Alamo Bowl on Saturday against Michigan State.
Instead, the fallout from the dizzying past few days will begin in the Alamodome. Where the program and Leach go from here is anybody's guess.