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January 25, 2011

College Football Report - Mike Leach's Head Coaching Job Search Continues:

The head coaching hiring mess has come and gone on the 2010 season. In all, twenty-one schools made coaching changes. For the second year in a row, though, former Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach wasn’t a part of those moves.

Leach, who led Texas Tech to 84 wins in 10 seasons as the Red Raiders head coach, has been out of a job since events at Tech that led to his firing and two separate lawsuits filed by Leach against Texas Tech and ESPN back in 2009.

To review the incident: Leach was thrown in front of a speeding train, more so than under the bus, by Tech wideout Adam James, after James was placed in a dark equipment shed near the practice field. Leach states that he told a trainer to place James, who previously sustained a concussion, in a dark place because of concussion symptoms and sensitivity to light. James then wound up in the equipment shed.

The incident grew from there, as James’ ESPN analyst dad, Craig James, became involved after being distraught with the treatment of his son. Leach, however, claims the incident stemmed from playing time, as James was a little used wideout for the Red Raiders.

Leach also claimed that Craig James had called him in the past, arguing for more playing time for his son. The media ran with the giant cloud that covered the small Texas town of Lubbock, especially ESPN, who claimed the James incident was a way of getting back at the family.

There was also speculation that Leach was fired so that the University didn’t have to pay him the $800,000 he would be owed in January of 2010.

Whatever the case is, the man who embodied a pirate like attitude and littered past offices with pirate paraphernalia, is now being treated just like a pirate to the college football world.

Leach led the Red Raiders to more wins than anyone in school history, placed a small, unknown Texas town on the map and became one of the top offensive minds in the game.

In 2008, Leach brought Tech to an 11-2 season, including an upset of No. 1 Texas on national TV. He walked away with a winning season in all 10 years as Tech’s coach, and his team graduation rate of 79 percent in 2009 was tops among Big Twelve schools.

Still, it wasn’t enough to dock his talents with another team.

Passed over by the likes of Pittsburgh, Miami (FL), Indiana and Minnesota for lesser know candidates, Leach could barely get an interview at most places. Not even Maryland, the school that had given him the most consideration and looked like a lock to hire him, passed, instead opting for UConn’s Randy Edsall.

Not even Donald Trump, a friend of Leach’s, could seem to get him some consideration. Trump sent University of Miami president Donna Shalala a personalized message, pleading to hire Leach. The message was written over a newspaper clipping covering the firing of Randy Shannon (left):

“Dear Donna, you made a big mistake when you did not take my advice and hire Mike Leach of Texas Tech. Look what’s happened to them since he left?? Hire Coach Leach and you will be #1. Best wishes. Donald.”

“P.S. And you can now get him for the right price. Best wishes. Donald.”

Shalala didn’t bite on Donald’s hook, however.

The Texas Tech incident drew headlines and national exposure like something more than it really was, though. Was it really enough to sink the man’s ship yet another season?

Both UNC’s Butch Davis and USC’s Lane Kiffin have been surrounded by NCAA allegations.

Davis lost nearly half of his defensive starters and top offensive playmakers this season in player benefit and agent allegations.

Kiffin was involved in six separate NCAA violations, including many in recruiting, in his lowly stint as Tennessee’s head coach that lasted just barely over a year.

Still, it wasn’t enough for the two to find themselves packing. Kiffin left on his own terms.

The problem with Leach, who now resides in a town fit for a pirate in Key West, is that the Tech incident was blown so far out of proportion that most schools simply want to avoid the baggage and questions that would follow a hiring.

One has to wonder how long it'll be before he’s back? How long before a school gets over the past drama? There is a reason his name is brought up for nearly every hire. Outside of the James family and stingy Texas Tech money hounds, the rest of the country knows Leach is plenty capable of leading a turnaround at another University.

For now, Leach will continue to live a pirate's life. Soaking up the casual life as a radio host of a XM Sirius radio show, while taking dips in his pool or riding his lone source of transportation - his bike - around tiny Key West.

All until the next time he’s able to set his sails towards college football treasures, yet again.

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All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.