By now everyone has had time to formulate their opinion on the Mike Leach-Adam James saga that has slowly revealed itself to America. When the story broke with a Joe Schad tweet a day ago the twitter universe was taken by storm, followed by all the blogs, the websites and finally the major news networks as well. Comments ranged from questioning the Big XII as a whole to folks quickly playing off of Mike Leach's infatuation for the Pirate lifestyle.
Now it has been a day and the it appears that lines have been drawn. Going back to the heart of the story in Lubbock one can read the comments on stories regarding the Leach-James situation and get a sense that the locals are none to pleased with the suspension. Then came the lawyering up by Leach to fight not only his suspension but the release today that Texas Tech plans to fire him, using the James incident as their basis for termination.
Ugly situation right? Well it gets uglier as former players have come out in a Lubbock Avalanche-Journal article backing Leach and his techniques and sniping at Adam James and Craig James. Today on ESPN's Outside The Lines Leach's attorney Ted Liggett went so far as to term Craig James as a "helicopter dad." For those of you not familiar with the term here's the wiki-definition:
Helicopter parent is a colloquial, early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions.
Read more for ITB's assessment of the Leach-James-Myers saga...
Looking at all the chips on the table, or at least the chips that we have access to there are certain issues that I take with the occurrence and more importantly the Athletic Director Gerald Myers course of actions. Personally, I'm not a Mike Leach fan. I think his Pirate Act is stale, I think he stays at Texas Tech because he would never cut it at a major university where he had to answer to powerful boosters that didn't just feel lucky to have him and most importantly I hate his offense.
With that said I think that we might be watching a few guys getting jobbed. First of course is Mike Leach. I'm not one to paint the self proclaimed pirate as the victim but it does seem like no matter how unorthodox the facts are lining up in his favor. Secondly, while folks may disagree on this, I think the James-clan is getting absolutely used by Myers to further his one man crusade against Leach.
We'll start with Leach and look into the concussion treatment. Originally it was reported that Leach was angry at James for not practicing through a concussion. Personally, that was the first statement that set off a red flag for me. Leach is a smart guy, he's got that nice little law degree and has proven himself to be quite media savvy throughout his TTU tenure.
There just seemed to be no way that Leach would make this sort of mistake, not in this climate where we hear ESPN's Outside the Lines discuss concussions, see stars like Tim Tebow, Brian Westbrook and Jahvid Best hindered by concussions and hear about the brain damaged caused to players.
Surely Leach cannot be that dumb.
As I heard the Leach side and the former players reference the infamous "shed" a picture began to be painted for me. A kid sent into a cool dark room just off the practice field with the training staff aware and on watch. The biggest portion of the James complaint was that Leach wouldn't let Adam sit down. Here is where the path diverges for a lot of people. Message boards all over the nation, people phoning in sports talk radio and sending irate emails are outraged at the fact that the kid couldn't sit down.
Newsflash folks, no one gets to sit down at a college football practice. Not the guy with the sprained ankle who is riding the bike or doing core workouts. Not the guy with the dislocated shoulder who is doing one armed exercises and rehab stretches. Not even the guy with the concussion. Here's an anecdote, a personal anecdote.
In a practice drill, spring of 2006 I was knocked out by Cooter Arnold. I lost some feeling in my extremities temporarily and ultimately had to be carted off the field on a spine board for MRIs and X-Rays. Scary right? Well after they surmised that I had a sprained neck and a concussion I didn't get to sit around at practice. For the first two days they kept me inside, with a trainer doing some neck rehab exercises and avoiding the airhorn, whistles and yelling that come with a division one football practice.
As I became less sensitive to light I was transitioned to outside where I alternated between watching my position specific drills and walking around the field with another injured player. My walking graduated to jogging and riding the bike for brief periods of time and then the last phase of the rehab for the concussion was practicing with a green, limited contact, jersey.
Nowhere in there was I allowed to sit down, wear sun glasses or just hang out at practice. I'm sure that this treatment is similar at just about every school out there and is relatively standard.
With that said I can honestly say that I think Leach sending the kid into the "shed" was unorthodox and was somewhat humiliating. Probably was an ill conceived mind game that Leach was using to test how bad James wanted to be a part of the program. Not the best plan but I think there is a disconnect between how truly brutal it was in reality versus the actuality of the event.
Leach wasn't right but he is nowhere near as wrong as the original story seems to suggest.
As for the James-clan. Perhaps Craig is a helicopter dad. Perhaps he isn't. What we do know is he responded to what he felt was a legitimate concern from his son. James only asked for an apology from Leach and apparently had no desire to push this story further than Leach showing that he wasn't attempting to embarrass Adam.
What the James' were caught up in is, at least in part, the doings of Gerald Myers. Myers has a history of being at odds with the Texas Tech head coach and now, on the heels of the Mangino incident at Kansas, he smelled blood in the water. The original statements appeared to be as damning as anything that Mangino did; not because of the scale of vulgarity but rather because of the heightened concussion awareness and the seemingly insensitive nature that they painted about Leach.
What Myers didn't anticipate was the backlash, first from Texas Tech's loyal fanbase and more importantly from their network of former and current players speaking through former teammates. This created a firestorm where instead of disposing of a villainous tyrant a la Mark Mangino the James' were embroiled in a mudslinging fest that would reach its peak in the Avalanche-Journal.
All in all Leach used poor judgement when he tried to, presumably, test Adam James mettle and commitment to Tech and his concussion symptoms. Adam James appears to have overreacted to the perceived "inhumanity" of being relegated to the "shed." Craig James seems to have played the part of the concerned father looking to ensure the safety of his son. All three of the parties involved appear to have been playing their part in Myers' push to remove Mike Leach from his position at Texas Tech.
Why would Myers want to fire the guy that is the winningest coach in school history and has vaulted Texas Tech, even just for moments, into the nation spotlight? Why fire a guy who helped craft one of college football's most exciting offenses and that has beaten Texas and Oklahoma in recent years? Why work so damn hard to fire a guy that, outside of this incident, the entire fanbase has been so ardently drawn to?
I don't have an answer there but what I can say, as an unbiased outsider, as a guy that is far from a Mike Leach fan or supporter, if Gerald Myers is allowed to terminate Mike Leach, skip out on the $800,000 longevity bonus and essentially return Texas Tech to the bowels of insignificance then he deserves to be thrown out with the bath water. True Leach is quirky, but the fact is the guy gets the job done better than anyone else ever has at Texas Tech.
And if Gerald Myers is so concerned with kids' safety or self esteem then why did he hire Bobby Knight, a guy that was ran out of Indiana for the way he treated Hoosier athletes and students?
I'm not a Leach fan but Guns Up!!