Firing Leach would be program suicide (cont.)
The crux of the issue here isn't money, but rather the lack of it. Texas Tech has spent mightily in recent years to build its football program. According to data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, between the 2003-04 school year and 2006-07, the school spent at least $15 million a year on football, which put it on par with most elite programs. Texas, for example, spent about $15 million a year during the same period.
These negotiations suggest Myers and the administration may have overreached. With the economy continuing to tank, Texas Tech officials certainly have revised their estimates of how much their boosters might be willing to donate in the next few years. That could explain why Myers, in turning down Leach's counteroffer last week, released this statement: "This 'so-called' proposal is simply an offer for us to guarantee that coach Leach could never be fired. It would cost us a maximum of $4.4 MILLION [Myers' emphasis] if we wanted to change coaches in the first year. It would cost Texas Tech millions in subsequent years of his five-year contract."
So maybe Texas Tech realized it can't afford to play with the big boys, who can hire and fire coaches on a whim because of their overflowing coffers. Still, this reaction prompts another question; If Myers is so worried about firing Leach without cause after the '09 season, why is he offering him a $12.7 million contract?
Maybe Myers and the administration think Leach is more trouble than he's worth. Maybe they don't like talking about pirates. Maybe they would prefer to operate their football program in obscurity.
Because that's where Texas Tech is headed if Leach gets canned. Dykes did an admirable job considering how hard it must be to lure recruits to Lubbock, but he never managed to sell out the season ticket allotment. Leach did. In August '08, Texas Tech sold season ticket No. 41,732, signaling the first season-ticket sellout in school history. Fans snapped up those tickets in spite of the '03 addition of a donation requirement for most seats. So under Dykes, fans who didn't have to donate anything didn't buy tickets. Under Leach, fans who had to donate at least $100 on top of the ticket price bought them in droves. Do Myers and company think their next hire will draw the same kind of attention? It's possible, but not likely.
But maybe that's what they want. Maybe Texas Tech's administration is happy to run a program that will annually compete with Baylor and Texas A&M for fourth place in the Big 12 South. Of course, if Leach gets fired and Mike Sherman has a second dismal season in College Station, maybe the Aggies, who have far more financial resources than the Red Raiders, will snap up the mad genius and make him their 12th man.
Even if that doesn't happen, getting fired might be Leach's best option. He should coach where he is appreciated. Still, he doesn't want to leave Lubbock. "We have an agreement both parties signed," Leach told the Morning News Tuesday night. "We agreed to do two more years, and I don't see how that could be unsatisfactory to anybody. Why anybody would have a problem with two years left on my contract, I don't know."
After Texas Tech shocked Texas in '08, Leach drank coffee as he stood in a hallway beneath Jones AT&T Stadium with New York Times reporter Thayer Evans. Leach, who had been reading up on legendary British prime minister Winston Churchill, recalled Churchill's famous verbal joust with Nancy Astor, the first woman to serve in the House of Commons. According to William Manchester's The Last Lion, Astor once said, "Winston, if I were your wife, I'd poison your soup." To which Churchill responded, "Nancy, if I were your husband, I'd drink it."
Myers and Texas Tech's administration have poisoned Leach's soup, and Leach has drunk it.