By Michael Felder
This week the Mike Leach book excerpt hit Sports Illustrated's site and as expected the Craig and Adam James bashing was renewed with the same vigor that we saw from the original 2009 incident.
Craig James was a meddling little league dad. James got Mike Leach fired. Adam James was a spoiled brat. Texas Tech railroaded Leach.
Yeah, all of the taglines that we have heard time and again about Leach being the victim and it being absolutely unfair that Leach wasn't allowed to continue his successful run in Lubbock. Coming with the Mike Leach shouldn't have been fired talk is the always cool "someone needs to hire this guy" talk. Barbecue connoisseur and college football mind extraordinaire, Andy Staples, did a nice piece on Leach and his time in the Keys, living the life, which finishes with saying:
In this age of near-constant scandal, a coach who wins, who draws fans and donations, who graduates his players, who doesn't commit major NCAA violations and who doesn't tolerate drug use, stealing or violence against women can't find a job.
For now, the Coach in Exile waits in paradise. In six months, more schools will fire their underachieving coaches and begin looking for a guy exactly like Mike Leach. Maybe this time some athletic director will wise up and hire Leach.
Why hasn't someone wised up to make Mike Leach their coach?
Because of the lawsuit or the fear that ESPN is going to discriminate against a good football team if Mike Leach, who is suing the Worldwide Leader, is the coach?
I may be off base but I don't think that is what is stopping Leach from getting hired. The issue has got to run deeper. Focusing on this past offseason where Leach was passed over for the Maryland and Miami jobs is also ignoring the fact that the Pirate, aside from the 2008 Washington chatter, has never really been in the running for an upgrade job.
Read more because pointing the finger at the lawsuit or the James incident is missing the point...
I've been tagged as a "Leach hater" by friend of the program Mark Ennis of Big East Coast Bias as a joke for quite some time now and before this gets dismissed as me "hating" I'll say this; he's right. I don't like Leach. I wouldn't want him coaching my Heels and I am not a fan of his. However, it has nothing to do with me tiring of his Pirate act and everything to do with my disdain for the Air Raid attack he employs. If you've listened to the podcast or read the site you know I'm a pro style guy through and through.
That said I feel the same way about Leach that I do about Rich Rodriguez, Dan Mullen and Dana Holgorsen: I'm not a fan of the way they teach football or the schemes they employ. Doesn't mean I don't think they should get job. Doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend them as hires for schools. Doesn't mean I've got a personal dislike for the guys. Just means if I've got to pick a type of football to enjoy I'm not picking their brand.
Now that we've put that baby to bed we can turn to Leach. He's a great football mind, as Staples mentions he graduates players, is a disciplinarian, has a clean NCAA track record, draws fans into his world of wonder and most importantly he wins ball games.
If those were the only things that went into his bag he'd be a great hire for a school looking to reinvigorate their fan base, win a bunch of games real quick, put some pressure on conference opponents and pull some cash into the coffers.
But they're not the only things.
Chancellors, presidents, athletic directors and department staffers have to work with Leach. In talking to some folks from Texas Tech that was not the easiest thing in the world. Most notably his issues with Gerald Myers the former Red Raiders helped put the push in motion to use the Adam James issue as a catalyst to move in another direction. Craig James was a willing participant and as we saw in 2009 the school, excluding present and former players and coaches, were behind the decision that Leach's time was up. Sure blame James for it all if you like but the fact is TTU needed an out and Craig and Co. gave them what they needed to push the Pirate out.
Over at some folks call the guy an "elephant" amazing to look at but you don't want to own one. I totally agree, Leach is an iconic figure for so many fans and media folks because he's so interesting to observe and his teams play an exciting, fast break style of football. He is like the drunk girl at the bar that dances on the bar, falls asleep in the booth then wakes up and takes her shirt off. She's great theater but you don't want to take her to Thanksgiving and you definitely aren't signing up for the pukefest that will ensue around 2:35 that morning when you get her back to the house.
Fact is there have been around 65 "better" jobs that opened since 2000, Leach's first season in Lubbock when he went 7-6. Among those openings? Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Miami. Most notable openings include jobs that Leach had personal ties to; BYU his alma mater has opened twice without seriously considering Leach and Kentucky the place where he helped make Tim Couch. We've also seen Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M open up; schools that had experience with Leach's brilliance on offense both from his time at OU and him carving them up during his tenure in Lubbock.
He didn't get any of those jobs.
Mike Leach not getting hired isn't a new phenomenon, we just have a nice bow to put on it now with a villain to point the blame at, a guy most folks already detest in Craig James. If the guy can't get the Maryland job, with the backing of Under Armour's Kevin Plank or the Miami gig with endorsement of The Donald, two schools desperate for some excitement and wins, then why is everyone so sure another big time gig is going to take the chance on a guy that "upper management" at his last job simply put, couldn't stand?
I hope the guy gets a chance to work in a big time role again. I think he could do wonders for a school looking to score some wins but not able to pull in the elite recruits of some of their conference foes. His scheme works and by most accounts he is liked by the guys who suit up for him. That doesn't mean he can play it the way he is, some changes, call them concessions even but they will have to be made on his part.
After all the Craig James incident might have been the straw the broke the camels back and even the immediate cause for dismissal but ultimately Craig James didn't get Mike Leach fired. Mike Leach got Mike Leach fired. Mike Leach got Mike Leach passed over for the Miami gig. Mike Leach got Mike Leach passed over for the Maryland job.
Get more great college football analysis over at In The Bleachers.