Six months after narrowly missing out on the Maryland head coaching job, controversial former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is back in the news. This week, Leach, who was fired at Texas Tech following alleged player misconduct during the 2009 season, released a tell-all book titled Swing Your Sword.
Leach’s firing stemmed from his punishment of Adam James, the son of former NFL running back and ESPN broadcaster Craig James. Leach writes that while the Red Raiders coaching staff had originally gone out on a limb by offering James a scholarship, they quickly grew fed up with his lack of effort.
James, who wasn’t participating in the Alamo Bowl practices because he had suffered a concussion, claimed that Leach ordered him to stand in a dark electrical closet as punishment (Craig James said his son was there for hours while Adam James said it was five minutes). In the book, Leach vehemently disputed this claim, arguing that James wandered into the closet by himself.
Following a short investigation, after which Leach writes that Texas Tech attorney Charlotte Bingham did not recommend that the university should fire Leach, the coach was let go. Leach was fired on December 30, 2009, the day before he was set to receive an $800,000 bonus. According to Leach:
“I told [Texas Tech President Guy Bailey and Athletic Director Gerald Myers] I was happy to cooperate with the investigation. They handed me a letter dated December 23, signed by Bailey, acknowledging "the allegations by the James family had not been substantiated" despite, or perhaps as a result of, Ms. Bingham's investigation. They then told me I needed to sign a letter admitting wrongdoing on my part in the "mistreatment" of a student athlete. I told them I was innocent and I would not sign that letter.
“We went back and forth for over an hour. They kept trying to get me to sign the letter and admit that I did something wrong, when they knew that I didn't.
“Bailey and Myers assured me that they wanted me to be their coach, that this was not about getting rid of me, that they were not trying to fire me, that this incident was only a little thing, and that if I would just sign this letter it would all go away. This obviously turned out not to be the case.”
Leach includes some pretty damning allegations in his book, particularly regarding how the media portrayed his firing. He writes that Craig James used his ESPN contacts to alter the reporting of the story, and even hired a communications firm to try to convince Texas Tech to “recant” statements they had made regarding James’ injury. Leach writes:
“You had all these analysts, who were colleagues of Craig James, weighing in on ESPN. They had no knowledge of the facts. Obviously, they weren't even concerned about the facts. They just took everything that Craig James, through Spaeth Communications, was feeding them, and kept repeating it over and over, during every pre-game show, every halftime show, every post-game show, and during ‘SportsCenter.’ This went on for days.
“There were a number of exchanges between my agents and ESPN. But ESPN was more interested in presenting the fantastical story by Spaeth Communications. They weren't just showing one side of the story, they were perpetuating falsehoods.”
It’s easy to see why Leach is doing all he can to clear his name, as there were rumors that Maryland passed him over for Randy Edsall because parents had concerns about how he treated players.
Robbie Levin, a Northwestern student, is an intern at The Baltimore Sun. Our fine interns will contribute guest posts to Baltimore Sports Blitz this summer. Contact Levin at firstname.lastname@example.org.