Hours after Mike Leach's firing several nights ago, in thinking about the whole ridiculous situation, something struck me -- Leach marks the second former Stoops assistant fired in the last few weeks (Chuck Long was fired from San Diego State in November 2008). I began to wonder, does the Mack Brown curse, which famously attacks former Texas targets who spurned or somehow wronged Brown, applied to coaches as well. Leach and Mark Mangino, both fired in the last several weeks, were part of the coaching cabal that voted the Longhorns ridiculously low in the final Coaches Poll at the end of regular season last year.
In fact, Stoops and Art Briles could conceivably be included in the curse as well, as the Sooners suffered injury after injury after injury this season in losing Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham and others, while Art Briles lost the face of his program and only truly talented player, quarterback Robert Griffin, to a season-ending knee injury. Even Kevin Sumlin lost most of the luster brought by early-season victories over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, eventually losing to UTEP and suffering an absolute destruction at the hands of Air Force.
The old saying goes, "Don't Mess with Texas," but it's beginning to appear that "Don't Mess with Mack Brown" is an equally powerful warning to recruits and opposing coaches.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons not to actually believe in curses, so PB provided another explanation in a chain of emails in the early morning hours two days ago -- despite so many struggles by others in the coaching business like Leach and Mangino and even Stoops with his infamous BCS loses, Brown continues to find success and build upon it, as the Texas program is not only in excellent shape for the next several years with a strong coaching staff and excellent recruiting classes, but also for the long-term future with Will Muschamp tagged as the next head coach. And Brown has done that by being willing to learn from his mistakes and move forward with the intent of not repeating those mistakes.
All that leads back to Leach, notoriously quirky and unorthodox. Instead of recognizing that he had barely won the stand off last February with the Texas Tech administration and avoiding future conflicts, he refused to apologize for his actions towards Adam James, then filing a lawsuit to overturn his subsequent suspension. Leach never learned that he should't antagonize his bosses, those people more powerful than him.
Leach also made the major mistake of not understanding the sea change in college football, not only in regards to the treatment of players, but also the serious danger of concussions that has been a national topic now for weeks. Didn't he see Mangino get fired for similar offenses? Why is he so petty that he even had to do something like this to make a point? Leach's antics were cute several years ago and it was always interesting when he was around providing good quotes for the media, but recently his antics began to wear thin, beginning with his accusations of a conspiracy following Tech's loss in Austin several years ago.
Ultimately, this story is a sad one for Leach, who will likely never sign a contract even approaching the nearly 13 million dollars he was to receive from Texas Tech -- those days are nearing an end for the second and third tier programs around college football. As someone who was not a former football player, Leach has always been on the margins of the coaching fraternity, looked down upon for a variety of reasons. Not only that, but he's also not particularly adept or willing to fraternize with boosters or fulfill -- some of the unique obligations for college coaches. Now, it's possible that Leach will be even further marginalized, with major programs avoiding him because of those deficiencies, but more likely, because he has shown himself to have a problem with authority. Who wants a coach like that? It's quite possible that Leach will find himself in the backwater of the coaching ranks, working hard to regain his former perch, facing what will be a difficult path.
Texas Tech loses in all this as well. What coach wants to play for a program where the chancellor exchanges emails with boosters plotting the firing of the head coach? What coach wants to head a program where the expectations are at an all-time high, where they must compete for the top talent with LSU, Oklahoma, Texas, and any other national programs seeking to poach talent from Texas. It is a deep pool of talent, but one that Tech has never been particularly successful in convincing to come to Lubbock. It's quite possible that the Leach era will end up representing the pinnacle of Tech football, without having made any appearances in the Big 12 championship game or a BCS bowl. It's quite possible that Tech returns to the abject mediocrity that defines the program.
The James family loses as well. Craig James looks like the prototypical overbearing sports dad trying to secure more playing time for his son. Not only that, but his alleged attempts to use his position at ESPN and the power that the network wields over the college football narrative to incfluence Leach, a clear abuse of power for a guy who certainly hasn't cared about the rules in the past. His son even worse for getting his coach fired for what appear to be stupid, yet relatively minor infractions. There is no longer any way that he can continue with the Tech football team after alienating many of his teammates and proving himself a prima donna. An announcement of his transfer should follow in the near term, but what school wants to take on a player with a father who will always be questioning his son's playing time and a player who will take the necessary steps to undermine or fire his coach? It's hard to imagine another major program wanting to take him on at this point.
In this sad story, it's the Texas Tech fans that will suffer the most. Without having read much in terms of their reactions to the firing, it's probably safe to say that a great part, if not the majority, of the fanbase disagrees with the firing and would want Leach to continue as the head coach. They now have high expectations that a new coach may not be able to meet, heightening the disappointment of losing their head coach.
There will be a prolonged legal battle where both sides will suffer and be painted in the most negative light possible by the respective counsels of both sides. There will be no easy or quick resolutions in this case. And what happens if the court rules that Leach's firing was not with cause? What happens then?
The only certainty is that everyone will suffer. And that Mack Brown is a damn good coach.