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February 8, 2009

Is Leach worth it for Tech?

coach leach_3 A fascinating dispute between Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach and Texas Tech University highlights the tension in the relationship between the business of big-time college football and academia.

According to this Examiner.com article (a more-detailed Don Williams/Avalanche Journal article is here and a Double-T Nation blog post is here), Leach and Tech have agreed on the financial terms of an extended contract, but are hung up over several issues relating to termination and buyout of the contract, including Tech's demand that Leach agree to pay the school $1.5 million if he interviews for another head coaching job without Tech's permission.

Thus, despite Leach being Tech's most successful football coach, Tech isn't all that secure about Leach. And despite Leach's success at Tech, Leach isn't all that thrilled about being at Tech, which is evidenced by his continually seeking other head coaching jobs. Tech apparently thinks that Leach's wanderlust makes Tech look bad, so Tech is seeking to restrain Leach's efforts to obtain another job by making it expensive for him to do so. However, by making such a demand, Tech reinforces to Leach that he really would prefer to be somewhere else.

So, Tech is caught in a conundrum. On one hand, Leach has generated profitable attention for Tech; thus, it makes sense to pay big money to keep him. However, on the other hand, Leach turns around and disparages Tech in the coach marketplace by continually trying to leave. Why pay big money to someone who is diminishing the value of your product?

Nevertheless, Tech is probably over-thinking this issue. Leach is a good coach, but not the best diplomat. Pay him a salary commensurate with Tech's financial capability and Tech's position in the Big 12, and then require a hefty buyout to compensate Tech if another program hires Leach. Don't worry much about Leach's wanderlust -- a large buyout will deter most programs from pursuing Leach. Trying to restrict Leach's wanderlust by imposing a penalty is counterproductive in that it forces Tech to endure a coach who really does not want to be there while reducing the chance that Tech will realize a windfall from another program hiring Leach and paying Tech the buyout.

Having said all that, is Leach really worth it for Tech? Could Tech's program do about as well with another (and likely, far less expensive) coach who is truly content with his position at Tech?

It sure would be refreshing to see Tech decide to find out.

Posted by Tom at February 8, 2009 12:01 AM |


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