Another chapter was added Monday to the bizarro world of Texas Tech football when university officials suspended Mike Leach indefinitely after completing an initial investigation into the coach's alleged mistreatment of receiver Adam James.
James is the son of Craig James, the ESPN analyst who was scheduled to work Saturday's Alamo Bowl telecast involving the Red Raiders and Michigan State. ESPN announced late Monday that James would no longer work the game.
The receiver and his parents complained to Tech officials about how their son was mistreated after he suffered a concussion during a Dec. 16 practice.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Leach ordered James to stand in a dark shed at the team's practice facility on Dec. 17 because he thought the player was faking the injury. Leach had a sentry at the door, and when James sat down, the coach ordered all items be removed from the shed so the player could not sit.
On Dec. 19, Leach forced James to stand in a dark room for three hours.
The newspaper reported that Leach did not dispute the facts, but did not believe he had done anything wrong. The coach told officials that James was a slacker and that his father was always calling and acting like a Little League dad.
Ted Liggett, who is Leach's attorney, said he will try and get his client reinstated before Saturday's game.
Leach, who became Red Raider coach in 2000, has had a strained relationship with university officials dating to 2002, when a hold was put on a mail service for the program after it ran up $5000 in charges. Internal memos obtained by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal detailed an exchange between Leach and Lynda Gilbert, the school's vice president of fiscal affairs.
Leach asked Gilbert how to respond "when and if the media finds out that we do not have outgoing mail service."
Gilbert responded: "My recommendation is that you be truthful and admit that the football program has not managed their funds well."
The next day, athletic director Gerald Myers told the newspaper that Leach's program had exceeded it budget by $400,000 for the fiscal year. "Spend, spend, spend. You can't operate that way. You've got to have a business policy," Myers said.
Myers said he regularly had budgetary clashes with football coaches, which included frequent Big 12 resource comparisons.
"I want to discontinue that issue," he said. "I heard that over and over and over: 'This is what they do at OU. This is what they do at Nebraska. This is what they do at A&M.' Well this is what we have at Texas Tech. We're going to do the best we can with what we have. I'm tired of hearing about what they do there. Maybe they should get a job there if they think that's so great."
Leach, while on vacation, then hired a law firm "to monitor these events as they unfold." Leach's attorney said the coach would hold a news conference about the situation when he returned. It never happened, as the sides eventually sat down and worked out a resolution that ended with Myers expressing regret over his earlier comments.
The peace accord last less than two months when another controversy erupted over a sponsorship deal Leach negotiated with a Lubbock construction equipment company. The company, ASCO, agreed to provide $130,000 annually for Leach's camps and clinics. When Myers and other Tech officials learned of the agreement, they sought control of the money to help relieve budget overruns by the football program.
The deal eventually fell apart when Bill Wright, chairman for ASCO, decided to pull the funding because he had asked that the money be used only for Leach's camps and clinics, which were not affiliated with Tech.
"I want to emphasize this has been the most unsatisfactory process I have encountered in all of my 50 years of business experience," Wright wrote in his letter.
All seemed calm in December 2002 when Leach and Myers began talking contract extension. But by April 2003, the sides were haggling over "fair market value." In December 2003, Leach signed an addendum while work continued on a new deal, which was completed in April 2004.
In April 2005, Leach got got another year added onto his deal, extending it through 2009. In August 2006, Leach was given a deal through 2010, marking the third time in 29 months that Tech and Leach had renegotiated their agreement.
Negotiations began in 2008 to extend Leach's contract, but talks grew increasingly strained. Myers, who clearly does not get along with Leach, suspended talks at one point, citing his department's need for fiscal responsibility.
When it appeared Leach would not return to coach the team in 2009, Chancellor Kent Hance stepped in and met with the coach for three hours on Feb. 18, with the men agreeing on an extension of Leach's deal through 2013.
Leach's relationship with several of his players deteriorated throughout this season. He suspended offensive lineman Brandon Carter, who was stripped of his captaincy after an outburst that included critical comments about the coach staff. Linebacker Marlon Williams was also suspended after he wrote on his Twitter page, "Wondering why I'm still in this meeting room when the head coach can't even be on time to his on (sic) meeting."
Last spring, Leach ordered receiver Edward Britton to study on the football field despite 30-degree weather and snow flurries, punishment for missing a study session.
Although Leach has an 84-43 record at Lubbock, critics say he simply knows how to work the system, with a substantial part of his success coming against non-Big 12 opponents, which have been mostly sacrificial lambs.
If Leach were to be fired, Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes would be a likely replacement. Dykes is the son of Tech coaching legend Spike Dykes and has served as an assistant at the school.