Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Hearing Wednesday in Leach suit against school
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Mike Leach and Texas Tech will have their say in court after weeks of trading accusations following the coach's suspension and firing last month.
Leach, fired Dec. 30 amid allegations he mistreated a player with a concussion, will not be in court Wednesday when his attorneys argue to speed up gathering depositions and documents in a lawsuit against Texas Tech. The suit includes allegations of libel and slander, breach of contract and violation of Texas' Whistleblower Act.
The university wants the judge to dismiss the suit on claims of sovereign immunity, which means a state agency or entity cannot be sued without permission from the Texas Legislature.
Leach's attorneys have been requesting the court deny that defense based on the whistleblower claim.
The university claimed Leach -- who is in Florida with his family -- failed to initiate an appeal or grievance procedures after his suspension before he sued, rendering his whistleblower claim moot, according to a recent court filing.
Paul Dobrowski, one of Leach's two attorneys, declined to comment on the hearing.
Dicky Grigg and Daniel C. Perkins, the attorneys representing the school, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
A comment on the case was posted on Grigg's firm's Web site.
"I am not going to get into a 'he said-she said' contest which just adds to the confusion and the rumor mills," the posting states. "We will bring out the true facts in court."
An attorney who handles whistleblower cases, Martin A. Shellist of Houston, said if the university has an appeal process and Leach did not use it, "it could be fatal" in pursuing that claim.
With allegations hanging over his head, Leach has been left out of discussions for openings at USC, Tennessee, East Carolina and University of South Florida, said one of Leach's attorneys, Paul Dobrowski. Leach's agent attempted to set up interviews at the schools, he said.
"They won't touch him," Dobrowski said the agent told him.
The situation that led to Leach's firing began Dec. 19 when the father of sophomore receiver Adam James complained to university officials that his son was mistreated after he suffered a concussion.
Leach has denied he mistreated James and said he believes he was fired for financial reasons. The player said his coach twice ordered him to stand for hours while confined in a dark place during practice.
The school began an investigation -- interviewing James, Leach, a team physician and a trainer -- and suspended Leach Dec. 28. The next day Leach's attorney filed for a temporary restraining order to allow Leach to coach in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2, and a judge set a hearing for Dec. 30.
In court papers Tech claimed that Leach was given a letter dated Dec. 23 setting out guidelines for dealing with student-athletes who are injured. Leach refused to sign it. Subsequently, Leach's side in court documents claim Leach was told he didn't have to sign it.
Before the two sides made it into the courtroom to argue the restraining order the university fired Leach with cause, meaning the university believes it does not owe Leach any of the remaining money left on a five-year, $12.7 million contract.
Leach's attorneys and the school then each released statements from the team's physician and trainer about how James -- son of ESPN analyst and former NFL player Craig James -- was treated after his concussion.
The statements released by Leach's attorney from Dr. Michael Phy said "no additional risks or harm were imposed on Adam James by what he was asked to do." The school released an affidavit Jan. 1 from Phy who in a Dec. 22 interview told university officials that James "may not have been harmed" but he "considered this practice inappropriate."
The trainer, Steve Pincock, in a Dec. 31 letter released by Leach's attorneys wrote that Leach wanted James out of the sunshine and that the player was not locked in either place. Pincock's Jan. 1 affidavit stated he did not agree with that "form of treatment for anyone" and that Leach "wanted James to be uncomfortable."