February 24, 2009

Whispers: Going one-on-one with Mike Leach

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has enough on his hands trying to battle Texas and Oklahoma for Big 12 South supremacy. But he may have faced his biggest challenge yet as Red Raiders coach when he took on Texas Tech's administration in a recent squabble over a contract extension.

The sides went back and forth for weeks, with negotiations coming to a head last week in a final showdown that featured Tech giving Leach what it called a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum.

Leach walked away because of what he called highly restrictive clauses. That fueled rumblings that Tech may fire Leach, even though he had two years left on his contract. But Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance held a one-on-one with Leach last Thursday, and the parties worked out their differences.

The financial terms remained the same five years, $12.7 million but the clauses were removed. Leach now has a $2 million guarantee if he is fired without cause, and he has no buyout if he chooses to leave Lubbock. In addition, if Leach wants to interview for another job, he only must notify Tech in writing.

Rivals.com talked to Leach in the aftermath of the negotiations.

Q: Is there a sense of relief?

A: I am pleased because it eliminates the distractions. Now we can just focus on football, which I think is best for everybody. We got those clauses all worked out, so I thought that was really good. The biggest thing I like is that it allows everyone to move on. It is good for our team, good for our fans and I think it sort of unifies everybody and gets us ready for the spring.

Q: Do you regret the process, which at times was very public?

A: I wish it would have gotten done quick and easy. But through the leadership of Chancellor Hance, we were able to get this thing put together. I thought it turned out pretty good. We were able to eliminate some outside influences, then pare it down to what was important. Once that happened is when we got things done.

Q: Did you ever really think you would be fired?

A: No, I didn't think it would happen. I didn't think so because I hadn't done anything wrong other than having the highest graduation rate and the best team that Tech has ever had. I didn't see any grounds, and I don't think anyone else did, either.

Q: Do you think there will be any fallout among the fans?

A: No, not at all. The fan support has been tremendous throughout. I'm just excited about the effort and support from our fans. And I am excited about the direction of Texas Tech. We all want to make Tech the best place we can.

Q: Describe your relationship with athletic director Gerald Myers.

A: I think we have a working relationship. We never had any problems or blowups or anything like that. We have worked together for nine years. Look, I want to finish my career there: I am excited about Lubbock and Tech and that I'll be here for years to come.

Q: Was recruiting impacted by the negotiations?

A: I got some questions for some recruits about the situation, but it wasn't a huge issue. I think it may have impacted a couple of kids.

Q: Do you have a pirate analogy for this contract negotiation?

A: Everyone wanted a keelhaul analogy at one time, but I don't know (laughs). I think there were some people who wanted some of us to walk the plank if we couldn't get this thing done.

K-State again looking for coordinator
Kansas State was rocked when offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig bolted to become offensive coordinator at California after being in Manhattan just a short time following his hiring from Utah. Wildcats coach Bill Snyder was going to let Ludwig run his Utah offense. Now, Snyder likely will turn to Dana Dimel and Del Miller as co-coordinators. Each has run K-State's offense in the past under Snyder. The staff shuffling also has Snyder looking for a young coach who is a standout recruiter.

Mizzou seeking a defensive leader
With Matt Eberflus off to coach linebackers with the Cleveland Browns, all signs point toward Missouri promoting linebacker coach Dave Steckel to fill the role. And don't be shocked if assistant athletic director of football operations Barry Odom is hired to coach the secondary.

USF needs 2 coordinators
USF is in the market for an offensive and defensive coordinator with Greg Gregory (South Alabama) and Wally Burnham (Iowa State) both gone. Gregory was demoted before leaving. All signs point to coach Jim Leavitt promoting pass game coordinator/receivers coach Mike Canales to run the offense. Look for Leavitt to hire someone from the outside to run the defense, as there doesn't appear to be anyone on the staff with enough experience for the job.

Memphis to promote from within?
Memphis coach Tommy West seems likely to look in-house to fill his defensive coordinator post. Likely candidates include defensive line coach Brent Pry, linebackers coach Kenny Ingram and cornerbacks coach Lytrel Pollard. If none fits the bill, West will look outside the program.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.


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