Texas Tech fired coach Mike Leach on Wednesday, two days after he was suspended by the school as it investigated his treatment of a player with a concussion.
The school handed a termination letter to Leach’s attorney, Ted Liggett, minutes before the two sides were to appear in court for a hearing on the coach’s suspension.
Liggett said Texas Tech general counsel Pat Campbell approached him outside the courtroom and told him that win, lose or draw in the hearing, Leach was out.
Liggett told the judge there was no need for the hearing on Leach’s request that he be reinstated to coach the Alamo Bowl. Texas Tech plays Michigan State on Saturday in San Antonio.
As for Leach’s reaction, Liggett said, “Well, he’s not thrilled.”
Liggett said he planned to file a lawsuit on Leach’s behalf against the school “soon.”
“We can guarantee that the fight has just begun,” he said.
Liggett said Leach’s side has evidence that shows the decision to suspend the coach was without merit.
“So they pulled the trigger,” Liggett said. “They don’t want that coming out.”
In February, Leach and the school agreed to a five-year, $12.7 million contract. According to terms of the deal, Leach was due a $800,000 bonus on Dec. 31 if he were still the head coach at Texas Tech.
Leach was suspended by the university on Monday as the school investigated his treatment of receiver Adam James. The sophomore alleged the coach twice confined him to small, dark spaces while the team practiced.
James is the son of former NFL player and ESPN analyst Craig James.
“We appreciate that the university conducted a fair and thorough investigation,” said a statement from the James family. “From the family’s point of view this has always been about the safety and well being of our son and of all the players on the team.”
Texas Tech officials seemingly laid out their case against Leach in a letter to the coach that was included in court papers filed in response to his motion for a restraining order against the school.
The letter set out guidelines for dealing with student-athletes that the school wanted Leach to agree to. He refused to sign the letter.
Among the guidelines were:
» “Decisions regarding whether an injury warrants suspension from practice and/or play will be determined by a physician without pressure from you or your staff.”
» “There will be no retaliation against any student who as suffered an injury.”
Liggett said Leach wanted to keep his job.
“Coach Leach has never, ever hidden his desire to coach the Texas Tech Red Raiders,” Liggett said. “His accomplishments, his actions, his graduation rate all prove that.”
Leach likely will speak publicly soon, though Liggett said he did not know when and declined to say where Leach was Wednesday.
“It’s pretty hard to keep him quiet,” he said.
Liggett read the termination letter aloud in the packed courtroom. When he reached the part that made it clear Leach was fired, many in the gallery gasped audibly.
Several fans called out that they wouldn’t be renewing their season tickets.
Outside the court, after the firing had been announced, a motorist yelled out his vehicle window, “Fire Myers,” referring to athletic director Gerald Myers.
Leach and Myers did not always see eye-to-eye, as was the case in last year’s contentious contract negotiations. Myers was not happy that Leach met with University of Washington officials about their job opening without informing the university.
Myers did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Bill Dean, executive vice president of the 28,000-member Texas Tech Alumni Association, said he has been bombarded by e-mail and phone calls from alumni who are angry about Leach’s firing.
“I think people are wanting an explanation for this,” Dean said. “I’m sure the university will give them one. That’s my hope. That that will happen very soon.”
Tech is the second Big 12 school to launch an internal investigation into a coach’s treatment of his players.
On Nov. 16, Kansas investigated Mark Mangino, who got a big raise after he was national coach of the year and went 12-1 in 2007. Some players said he was insensitive, though others defended him.
Mangino resigned Dec. 3 after reaching a settlement with the school that was later disclosed as a $3 million buyout.
In an affidavit included in Tuesday’s court filing, Leach said he “would never intentionally harm or endanger a player” and that he has been “forced into this situation without being afforded any process.” He also said “absolutely” no evidence had been given to him that showed he had violated any university rules or standards.
Several former and current Texas Tech players and coaches defended Leach and harshly criticized Adam James’ work ethic in e-mails obtained by CBSSports.com.
Among those were former Texas Tech wide receiver Eric Morris, who wrote that James was “never known as a hard worker” and “seemed to have a negative attitude toward the football program the majority of the time.”
Morris told The Associated Press on Wednesday the letters were written as school administrators began looking into the incident, before Leach was suspended. Morris said they wanted to show their support for Leach and show James’ possible motives.
Leach’s dismissal comes a year after he was Big 12 coach of the year and led Tech to the best season in the history of the program. The Red Raiders went 11-2 last season.
A quirky, nonconformist with a pass-happy offense, Leach arrived in West Texas in 2000. Since then, he has become the winningest coach in school history and Texas Tech has had eight quarterbacks lead the nation in passing.
He parlayed his penchant for pirate lore into his coaching, telling his players they need to “swing their swords” to perform at their best. He stopped acknowledging players’ injuries to the media in 2003.
Not unlike Bob Knight when he came to coach the Red Raiders basketball team for 6 1/2 years, Leach has raised the profile of the city and the school. He appeared on “60 Minutes” and was profiled in the New York Times Magazine.
Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber in San Antonio, Texas, and AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New York contributed to this report.