The dismissal of Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach on Wednesday should come as no surprise, as both Leach and the Red Raiders’ administration seemed ready to move on as early as last offseason when it took both parties more than 10 months to hammer out a contract extension for the eccentric coach.
The tense and sometimes heated negotiations were often played out in public, with Leach broadcasting his feelings both nationally on ESPN and on local radio in Lubbock in an effort to get a new deal.
Leach also interviewed for the opening at the University of Washington that eventually went to Steve Sarkisian — perhaps a negotiating tactic, perhaps a feeling on his part that change was necessary.
Wednesday’s firing comes after the 48-year-old coach was accused of improperly treating injured wide receiver Adam James, who is the son of ESPN analyst and former SMU Mustang Craig James, while the player was recovering from a concussion.
In addition to the uncomfortable relationship Leach had forged with the Texas Tech administration, it certainly didn’t help his fate that fellow Big 12 head coach Mark Mangino was recently dismissed from Kansas for alleged mistreatment of his own players.
So the question now becomes where does Texas Tech go from here?
In the short term, defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill will still coach the Alamo Bowl game against Michigan State after being named interim coach when Leach was suspended.
In the long term, athletic director Gerald Myers will have to find a suitable replacement for a coach who compiled an 84-43 record and a trip to the postseason in each of his 10 seasons at the school.
Baylor head coach Art Briles is most likely at the top of Myers’ list, as the former University of Houston coach is a Texas Tech alum and was an assistant in Lubbock before his stint with the Cougars. Briles hasn’t exactly put up staggering numbers in Waco — posting back-to-back 4-8 seasons in his first two years, but his name came up in February when the Leach contract negotiations were not progressing. In five seasons at Houston, he took the Cougars to three bowl games — coming up short in all of them — but went 18-8 in his final two seasons. Does the fact that he served as an assistant under Leach actually hurt his candidacy, though?
Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes is another potential candidate with Texas Tech ties. Not only did he also spend time as an assistant in Lubbock under Leach, but he’s the son of former Red Raiders coach Spike Dykes. Again, is it possible that his ties to Leach actually end up hurting his chances given all that has occurred?
Kevin Sumlin’s the guy who may in fact be the best fit for the Red Raiders’ personnel. Sumlin, who replaced Briles at Houston, has been running Leach’s spread offense, which led to the astonishing numbers put up by QB Case Keenum — and also led to a victory over Tech this season.
Besides former SEC mainstays Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer, whose names are sure to come up in conversation, what about a certain successful head coach in the state of Texas currently leading a program back from the dead?
I wrote on Tuesday about the lack of national recognition current SMU head coach June Jones receives when coaching vacancies occur, questioning why any athletic director at a school in a BCS conference wouldn’t want to reach out to Jones and take a chance on a coach whose offense does nothing but work very well.
While the run-and-shoot is not the fabled spread offense, fans in Lubbock are used to scoring points — and Jones’ system does just that. Under Leach, Texas Tech led the FBS in passing yardage six times. I’m willing to bet that a Red Raiders team led by Jones would not miss a beat.
Then again, Texas Tech may want to refrain from anything that has to do with SMU until this Leach-James controversy comes to a conclusion.
While there are no winners in this unfortunate situation, let’s hope for the sake of the players, remaining coaches, fans and alumni that Red Raiders football will return to being known for crazy passing numbers and not crazy off the field issues.
Dave Miller is the Web Manager of the National Football Post. You can follow him on Twitter at Miller_Dave.