Leach, Texas Tech still unresolved

Updated: February 18, 2009, 7:01 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach missed another deadline Tuesday to accept a contract extension and now the school's board of regents will meet Friday to discuss his job.

Leach said he's happy to coach the remaining two years of his current contract, which pays $2.65 million next season and $2.35 million in 2010.

"It's well documented that we want to be at Texas Tech for years to come. Our results have been positive and I have no regrets whatsoever. We're very excited about the future of the program. We had a strong recruiting class. We've won more bowl games and had the best season in the history of Texas Tech. I'm trying to focus on my job," Leach told ESPN's Joe Schad.

Leach and Texas Tech have essentially agreed on the financial terms of a new five-year deal that would average $2.54 million annually, but negotiations hung up on several clauses.

The provision that bothers Leach most is one that would trigger his firing and a $1.5 million penalty if he interviews for another job without athletic director Gerald Myers' permission. Leach's current deal has no such restriction.

"I don't have to have hall passes on this one," Leach told The Associated Press during an interview near his office a few hours before a deadline to accept what Myers said was a "last and final offer" that would be pulled off the table.

The previous deadline was Jan. 20.

Shortly before the deadline passed, the school's board of regents announced they have scheduled a teleconference Friday where they will discuss "consideration of matters addressed by Section 02.03.2, Regents' Rules -- including but not limited to the position of the football head coach."

Leach earlier told ESPN.com that he would sign the $12.7 million, five-year contract proposal that his agents presented Tech last Tuesday, but Tech officials rejected that one. Myers said that proposal wasn't even worth his consideration.

Myers made a brief statement released by the school shortly after the 6 p.m. deadline passed.

"Coach Leach has declined our $12.7 million contract," Myers said. "We will enter the decision-making process and should have some announcements by next week. Our decisions will be based on the best interest of Texas Tech and all of its supporters."

The board of regents' meeting provides the school two options. It could accept the contract proposal of Leach, who directed the Red Raiders to an 11-2 record in 2008 that matched the school's single-season record and had them ranked as high as No. 2 in the national polls late in the season.

Or the school could terminate him and begin the process of finding his successor, ending a nine-season tenure that has seen Leach notch a 76-39 record -- seven victories short of the school's all-time mark for coaching triumphs.

A person familiar with Texas Tech's thinking on the negotiations with Leach told Schad on Tuesday night that the school had implied through intermediaries that it would actually consider firing him if he did not accept their offer by a Tuesday deadline.

"I am prepared to finish out the last two years of my contract. I am not familiar with the notion of firing someone for failing to sign an extension to a contract. That notion to me is mind-numbing. But I guess stranger things have happened. I don't know what part of this is based in rumor or fact, but I can't fathom it. Maybe there are reasons I don't know about," Leach told Schad.

Earlier this month, Myers said he'd made it clear to Leach and his agents that he would not withhold permission if Leach wanted to interview elsewhere. He just wanted to be informed, Myers said Feb. 6.

A call to Chancellor Kent Hance was not immediately returned.

Scott Dueser, the chairman of the school's board of regents, did not immediately respond to a voice mail message and an e-mail seeking comment.

Leach said he wasn't going to forget what his job is.

"I'm disappointed but I don't dwell on it," Leach said. "It's out of my hands. I'm focusing on the team, what we can do together. I think we have a chance to have a great team."

He declined to discuss whether he would negotiate for an extension after the 2009 season.

"Just have to see, too far off," he said.

Myers' earlier statement said the proposal was tantamount to saying Leach could never be fired and that if Tech wanted to change coaches in the first year it would cost the school as much as $4.4 million to release Leach.

The counterproposal from Leach agreed to having Leach notify Myers if he planned to interview elsewhere.

Earlier Tuesday, several dozen Leach supporters -- students and city residents -- rallied outside his office.

Leach appeared briefly to thank the group, which included one person displaying a small skull-and-crossbones flag on a corner of a sign that read, "Keep Leach or walk the plank." Leach has a well-publicized fascination with pirates.

Information from ESPN.com Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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