Mike Leach currently leads one of the Pac-12’s most promising teams at Washington State. Before that he was an offensive wizard at Texas Tech where his “Air Raid” offense was so effective, the Kliff Kingsbury-led Arizona Cardinals will use it this season in the NFL.
Leach and Texas Tech had a bad falling out over a decade ago, and Leach is still upset about it. So why is Leach still salty about getting fired by Texas Tech, 10 years later?
Mike Leach’s career highlights
Mike Leach’s coaching career began at Texas Tech in 2000. After 10 seasons where he went 84-43, he left in controversial fashion (more on that below). After a few seasons off, he took over at Washington State in 2012. He’s still coaching the Cougars, and he’s gone 49-40 during his time there. He has a 7-7 bowl record over his 18 seasons, meaning he’s only missed four in his entire career.
At Texas Tech, Leach was known for his high-powered “Air Raid” offense. He used it when Kingsbury played quarterback for Leach before taking over as Texas Tech head coach in 2013.
Leach was the 2008 Big 12 Coach of the Year and won the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2018.
At Washington State, Leach is only 2-3 in bowl games but has turned that program around. They were 3-9 in his first season. In 2018 he led them to an Alamo Bowl victory and an 11-2 record. They’re trending upwards.
Leach’s status as an offensive mastermind is secure. So what could have possibly made Texas Tech want to part ways with him when they did in 2009?
Why Mike Leach was fired at Texas Tech
Controversy arose in 2009 when Texas Tech suspended Mike Leach late in the season due to the alleged mistreatment of a player: running back Adam James.
Leach allegedly asked James to stand in the team’s equipment room because he was sitting out of practice due to a concussion. Leach denied everything. According to Leach, he had not asked the player to stand in the trainer’s room:
“But since when have I ever commanded a trainer or doctor to do anything? Nor do I have the ability to. They don’t answer to the head coach. They answer to the assistant AD.”
When Leach refused to apologize, the team fired him for his act of insubordination. With player safety becoming a more important issue over the last few decades, the school decided the scrutiny brought on by a coach mistreating a player wasn’t worth it. Leach sat out the 2010 and 2011 seasons before he got another opportunity at Washington State.
After Andrew Luck’s retirement, a Twitter user posed a question about whether it was the most bizarre sports story in years. Sports Illustrated college football writer Stewart Mandel tweeted:
“That, or the time Texas Tech fired its coach for allegedly locking a player in a shed only for it to turn out the player’s ESPN commentator father hired a PR firm to stage an orchestrated smear campaign against the coach for not giving his son enough playing time.”
Leach responded with the tweet posted above, claiming Texas Tech still has refused to pay him the money he’s owed. Leach had previously filed a lawsuit alleging that Adam James’s father, Craig James, had paid a Texas-based PR firm called Spaeth Communications to discredit Leach.
Leach would lose his final appeal on the lawsuit in 2015 but has held a grudge against both the James family and the university to this day.