Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Source: Leach-Tech resolution preferred
By Mark Schlabach ESPN.com
Former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach and the school are headed to mediation Friday in Lubbock, Texas, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com on Tuesday.
On Jan. 21, State District Judge William Sowder ordered Leach, Texas Tech and their attorneys to complete mediation by Feb. 5. Lubbock attorney Frank E. "Dirk" Murchison III, a graduate of the Texas Tech School of Law, will try to mediate a resolution between the sides, according to the sources.
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Sowder issued a gag order in the trial, precluding both parties from commenting about the mediation.
A source familiar with the situation told ESPN.com that attorneys did not expect a resolution to be reached during this weekend's mediation because "it's too early in the process." The source described the mediation as a "feeling out" of sorts. The source said neither side wants the case to go to trial and said the dispute might be resolved in mediation at a later date.
Texas Tech fired Leach on Dec. 30, two days after it suspended him amid allegations that he mistreated a player who was recovering from a concussion. Red Raiders receiver Adam James told school officials that Leach ordered him to stand for hours while confined in a dark area during practice.
James is the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James.
Leach has denied the allegations and filed a lawsuit against the school in January, claiming Tech "wrongfully terminated [him] without cause" and that the school claimed "it does not owe him any additional salary or compensation, including bonuses." Had Leach been the Red Raiders' coach on Dec. 31, the school would have owed him an $800,000 longevity bonus.
Leach signed a five-year, $12.7 million contract with the Red Raiders in February 2009. Under terms of the contract, the school would have owed him $400,000 for every season left on the contract if it fired him without cause. Leach, known for his team's high-octane passing games, won 84 games in 10 seasons at Tech.
Leach's lawsuit includes charges of libel and slander, breach of contract and violation of Texas' Whistleblower Act, among other allegations.
The school filed motions last month asking Sowder to dismiss Leach's lawsuit, claiming it was immune from such legal action under grounds of sovereign immunity, which means a state agency or entity cannot be sued without permission from the Texas legislature or without a waiver based on a defendant's conduct. Sowder told both sides he would rule on that motion at a later date.
Last week, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that James threatened to sue Texas Tech if the school didn't investigate Leach's treatment of his son. University attorney Ronny Wall wrote in a memo to the Texas attorney general that James' alleged threat came during a Dec. 20 exchange.
Wall wrote that Craig James "indicated that litigation could ensue" if Tech didn't investigate Leach's behavior. The newspaper obtained the memo through state open records laws.
"The threat did not appear to be an idle threat as the parent expressed genuine concern for the health and well-being of his injured child, as well as other student-athletes," Wall wrote in the memo.
Mark Schlabach covers college football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.