Mike Leach has a law degree, so maybe it’s natural that he take his case into the court of public opinion, which is what he spent much of yesterday doing. (The Wiz has his appearance on ESPN here.)
His record at Texas Tech speaks for itself.
The Red Raiders are coming off arguably their best season in school history. Leach guided Tech to an 11-2 record, a share of the Big 12 South title with Oklahoma and Texas, and a Cotton Bowl berth. Leach was also featured on a segment on 60 Minutes and has overseen a program that has a 79 percent graduation rate.
In the 75 years before Leach arrived at Tech, Red Raiders coaches posted a .549 winning percentage and were 5-17-1 in bowl games. In nine years under Leach, the Red Raiders have a .661 winning percentage and are 5-4 in bowls.
Tech could also have a school-record six players in April’s NFL Draft: wide receiver Michael Crabtree, quarterback Graham Harrell, defensive end Brandon Williams, offensive guard Louis Vasquez, safety Darcel McBath and offensive tackle Rylan Reed.
Bruce Feldman also points out that Leach likely played a significant part in landing the lucrative deal the school recently signed with Under Armour.
As for the sticking points in the new proposal from TTU that Leach hasn’t accepted (which, strangely enough, aren’t about the money), the coach makes some sense about why there’s a problem.
… The financial terms of the proposed contract aren’t in dispute; both sides have agreed to the five-year, $12.7 million deal. Leach was set to sign the extension before Tech added four provisions that have led to this current breaking point:
1. If Leach is fired, he would receive 12 percent of his remaining salary.
2. Leach would owe a $1.5 million buyout (it is currently $500,000) if he leaves Tech for another job.
3. Leach would be terminated immediately if he interviews for another job without Myers’ permission.
4. Any monies from Leach’s personal property rights would go to Tech. In other words, Leach would have no control over outside income opportunities such as books, speaking engagements and endorsements.
No matter what Tech says publicly, two of those provisions — the 12 percent buyout and the loss of personal property rights — are aimed at forcing Leach’s hand.
“They (provisions) contradict themselves,” Leach said. “Two are designed to drive you away, and two are designed to keep you forever.”
On the other hand, Tony Barnhart makes a valid rebuttal that Leach and his agents have not grasped the changing reality of buyout provisions in coaches’ contracts.
… Like Dodd, Barnhart didn’t side strongly with one or the other. He pointed out, however, that one of the reasons for the breakdown — Tech’s insistence on equal-money buyouts for both sides — is fast becoming a trend in major-college football as universities demand protection for the big-money investments they make in their programs.
Barnhart was a longtime national college football writer for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution who left the paper last year. In a story he did last February, he reported that Georgia and its coach, Mark Richt, have equal buyouts of $2 million per year for every year remaining on Richt’s contract. In the same story, he reported that Auburn and its former coach, Tommy Tuberville, had equal buyouts of $6 million per side had they parted ways after 2007, and Clemson and its former coach, Tommy Bowden, agreed last winter to equal buyouts of $4 million per side. That was after Bowden considered a job opening at Arkansas.
Leach’s agents, in their latest offer dated Feb. 10, asked that Tech keep Leach’s buyout at $500,000 if he leaves and that Tech guarantee 40 percent of the balance of his contract if Leach is fired. Tech wants each side’s buyout at $300,000 per year for each year left on Leach’s contract.
“Mike Leach seems to be operating under the old set of rules that favor the coach,’’ Barnhart said. “In the new way, the buyouts are going to be more equal. That’s a new reality a lot of coaches are having to face right now.’’
It’s a bizarre situation, no doubt. Almost every neutral observer of this spat agrees on two things – that it’s pretty obvious that there’s room for compromise on both sides and that it’s equally obvious that neither side is willing to back down.