Mike Leach's treatment of Adam James, in the midst of a sport-wide awakening to the perils of concussions, was unforgivable. But as Spencer Hall suggests, Leach was probably a goner before Craig James even picked up the phone.
This was a firing in search of a provocation. Hall writes:
Leach's contract negotiations were, to put it politely, contentious. His flirtations with other jobs were brazen. The university's patience with his high-profile antics was running low even before a season where he suspended players from Twitter, referred to their "fat little girlfriends" after a loss to Texas A&M, and secluded/imprisoned/whatever happened with Adam James. The university will hint at "other things" that Leach did or didn't do to provoke his firing, but ultimately it came down to Leach pulling a suicide by injunction earlier today and forcing Texas Tech to fire him.
When Leach firing was announced in Lubbock courtroom, someone yelled, "Well you're going to have a bunch of empty seats in that stadium!"
That's probably true. Leach was the best coach in school history; he built the program out of whimsy and a tinkerer's instinct, and in another year or so, he will go and make another program very successful. The bummer of it is that Leach was supposed to be the sunny antithesis of all those glowering fascists on all those sidelines. In 2005, Michael Lewis wrote an excellent story about Leach that is worth a read today. Lewis memorably said that Leach's offense was as much a mood as it was a collection of plays: "It is designed to maximize the possibility of something good happening rather than to minimize the possibility of something bad happening." That's obviously still true, but it's hard to reconcile the cheeriness of that description with the evident sadism of Leach's dispatching an injured player to a chairless shed — excuse me, "garage." Instead, another passage stands out today:
"Football's the most violent sport," Leach says. "And because of that, the most intense and emotional." Truth is, he loves the violence. ("Aw, yeah, the violence is awesome. That's the best part.") Back in the early 1980's, when he was a student at B.Y.U., he spotted a poster for a seminar, "Violence in American Sports." It was given by a visiting professor who bemoaned the influence of football on the American mind. To dramatize the point, the professor played a video of especially shocking blows delivered in college and pro football. "It had all the great hits in football you remembered and wanted to see again," Leach recalls. "Word got around campus that this guy had this great tape, and the place was jammed. Everybody was cheering the hits. I went twice."
The Brief: Mike Leach Fired At Texas Tech And What It Means [SBNation]
Mike Leach fired "for cause" [Smart Football]
Coach Leach Goes Deep, Very Deep [The New York Times]