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Mike Leach: The TT Interview

The former Texas Tech football coach on his pending lawsuit against the university, how the state's doing at educating student athletes and what happens if the Big 12 falls apart.

Former Texas Tech football coach, Mike Leach - September 15, 2011.

On Monday, former Texas Tech University football coach will submit a brief to the Texas Supreme Court challenging the school's assertion of immunity from his wrongful termination lawsuit.

Ahead of the court action, Leach stopped at BookPeople in Austin to autograph copies of his best-seller Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life. He took a few moments to talk with The Texas Tribune about his lawsuit and the ongoing hoopla over college football conference realignment.

Texas Tech fired Leach in 2009 after one of his players, Adam James — son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James — accused the coach of sending the young player to a dark supply closet when he opted out of practice because of a concussion.

In the most recent legislative session, state Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, submitted a resolution on Leach’s behalf that would override Texas Tech’s claims of sovereign immunity and allow him to sue the university. The resolution didn’t pass, but if the Texas Supreme Court agrees to hear his case, Leach could get his day in court.

Video excerpts of the interview and an edited transcript follow.


TT: Why is it important for you to challenge Texas Tech’s claim of sovereign immunity?

Leach: Well, I don’t think there’s any question it’s important. The state should be required to honor contracts it engages in. Should the public citizen be protected from the state like they are from another citizen? I mean, Abraham Lincoln [believed] that, and Abraham Lincoln lived back in the 1860s.

Texas, with regard to honoring their contracts, you think would’ve evolved since the 1860s. Another interesting thing to note is 38 states, most of them beginning in 1946 or before, have gotten rid of sovereign immunity when it comes to contracts with the state.

We just want our day in court. When you think of the absurdity of saying the Pledge of Allegiance and not being allowed in court. Ten other states allow you in court after you do some procedures, but you will get to court. Two states require legislative approval, Texas and Kansas.

Interestingly enough, if you do business internationally, you look to see if somebody is a member of the World Trade Organization. If they’re not, you don’t do business with them because their governments can’t be counted on to fulfill contracts.

If Texas and Kansas were countries they wouldn’t be admitted to the World Trade Organization. Their policies are congruent with North Korea, Somalia, Turkestan, several other countries I can’t pronounce and Micronesia. So it seems to me that it’s about time [Texas and Kansas] get in line with everybody else, protect their citizens and stop allowing the government to say, “it doesn’t matter if we screwed up, it doesn’t matter if we induced you into a contract just so we could steal the money later and not fulfill it,” and claim sovereign immunity.

TT: Do you think you have a chance to win if the Texas Supreme Court agrees to hear the case?

Leach: Well, I’m not a lawyer, but if the Constitution means anything, I think it should be pretty well a done deal. The thing is, we’re not talking about the merits of the case; we’re talking about whether the merits of the case even get to be heard.

I don’t know everybody’s view on due process, but I do have an opinion on what the Constitution says, what the Pledge of Allegiance implies, what sixth- and seventh-graders are taught in civics classes, and I think it is that you’re going to have the opportunity to be heard.

So, if we don’t have a good case, if our claim is no good, and if we’re wrong, which we’re not, because if you read my book, which I recommend, if you buy the book, there are two chapters that are going to have memos from [Texas Tech] with their words in sworn statements, phone records and text messages.

All of this “there’s two sides of the story,” that’s going to go out the window. There’s one side and [the book contains it] in their words. This is what they said, this is what they did. But do I think the chances of winning are high? In 48 other states do I think the chances of winning are high? Let’s put it this way, in 48 other states [our case] would be a slam dunk.

TT: Do college athletic programs at Texas do enough to educate athletes as compared to elsewhere?

Leach: I think they do pretty good as far as educating athletes. We had the highest graduation rate of any public institution in the country, so I felt like we did a good job. I feel like Texas high schools, when you consider the melting pot that exists in Texas, do a fairly impressive I job. No education process is perfect, but I think that, with plenty of room to improve, they do an admirable job when you compare them to the rest of the field.

TT: What do you think will happen to Texas Tech if the Big 12 falls apart?

Leach: Difficult to say. I think they’re on the bubble. Now, there’s three BCS conferences that aren’t going to go anywhere: the Pac-10, the Big Ten and the SEC. And I think they’re going to pick up additional members and work their way to somewhere between 16 and 20 each. I think there will be another conference, probably on the East Coast, probably some combination of the ACC and the Big East, and then they’ll take a couple teams, too. I think it’s a close call.

TT: What would the best possible outcome of a conference realignment?

Leach: The best possible outcome would be for Texas Tech to be invited to the Pac-10.

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