Leach continues courtroom fight vs. Texas Tech more than decade after firing

By Brad Stephens, Managing Editor

More than 12 years after Texas Tech University fired Mike Leach as its head football coach, he is still fighting the school in court.

Leach sued Texas Tech in December, claiming the school violated the state’s open records laws, ESPN reported. The lawsuit came more than a decade after Leach’s firing in December 2009 for his alleged mistreatment of a concussed player. This suit is only the most recent in a string of legal battles between the coach and the university.

“I think all he really wants is for the truth to come out about what happened 12 years ago when he was terminated,” Julie Pettit, one of Leach’s lawyers, told ESPN of the latest suit.

Leach accepted the position as head coach at Texas Tech in 2000. His Red Raider program produced 10 consecutive winning records, and he was named the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year in 2008.

However, the coach’s tenure at the school abruptly ended in 2009 when player Adam James accused Leach of locking him in an equipment shed after he suffered a concussion. James’ father Craig, an ESPN analyst at the time, approached Texas Tech about the incident, leading to a school investigation that resulted in Leach’s termination.

Texas Tech asserted that Leach was terminated for just cause, and the school maintained Leach was not owed any money for the remainder of his contract. In response, Leach sued for wrongful termination, maintaining that he was owed compensation.

In 2011, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled for Texas Tech and affirmed the dismissal of Leach’s suit. Leach v. Tex. Tech Univ. (Tex. App. 2011). The court held the university did not waive its sovereign immunity and could not be sued for monetary damages on Leach’s claims. The Texas Supreme Court denied Leach’s petition for review.

Around the same time, Leach separately sued Craig James, ESPN, and a public relations firm on claims of defamation, tortious interference with a contract, and civil conspiracy to tortiously interfere with a contract.

Once again in 2014, the Texas Court of Appeals decided against Leach, affirming summary judgment rulings for the defendants. Leach v. James (Tex. App. 2014).  The court concluded the coach’s termination resulted from Texas Tech’s own investigation into the Adam James incident and was not the result of outside pressure from Craig James or ESPN.

Despite multiple courtroom defeats, Leach has continued his fight against Texas Tech. Paxton v. Dolcefino Communs., LLC (Tex. App. Sep. 30, 2021). He hired an investigative firm to obtain documents pertaining to his termination, and the most recent lawsuit relates to those efforts.

After years of battling Texas Tech in court, Leach finally faced his old employer on the football field in December. The coach’s current program, Mississippi State University, played the Red Raiders on Dec. 28 in the Liberty Bowl.

Heading into the game, Leach’s long-running legal battle was a primary story because this was his first matchup against Texas Tech since his termination.

Leach reiterated his willingness to settle the feud for $2.4 million and “an acknowledgement that I didn’t do anything wrong,” ESPN reported.

“Some of the (Texas Tech) leadership, at least when I was there, was very sleazy and slimy and dirty,” Leach told the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. “I enjoy naming names on it too, which I might as well. They all know who they are. We should get this thing settled. They should pay me.”

Once the Liberty Bowl kicked off, Leach’s Mississippi State squad took a resounding 34-7 loss – yet another defeat for the coach at the hands of Texas Tech.

Works cited



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