As meeting nears, 'stalemate not good'

Updated: February 19, 2009, 3:02 PM ET
By Tim Griffin | ESPN.com

Negotiations are continuing as a Texas Tech board of trustees meeting to decide the fate of embattled football coach Mike Leach approaches on Friday.

The two sides have been at an impasse on the terms of a five-year contract extension for Leach when a Tech-imposed deadline passed Tuesday without action by the coach.

You offer a guy a deal he doesn't agree with, he turns it down and says he'll stick with his current deal ... I've never thought of that as grounds for firing. Hopefully, they don't either.

-- Mike Leach

Under Texas law, the nine-member board of trustees does not have the authority to hire or fire personnel, with the exception of the university system's chancellor and its chief auditor. Leach could be fired by Tech's president, Guy Bailey, or Tech athletic director Gerald Myers, who's been involved in the struggle with Leach from its formative stages.

Normally, when the board goes into executive session, that meeting is attended only by its nine members and the chancellor, but Leach requested that it be an open public hearing, and by law, because he submitted a letter to the chancellor Wednesday, it must be open. The meeting begins at 3 p.m. ET.

The school and Leach's representatives had agreed on the financial terms and length of his $12.7 million, five-year contract extension, but the negotiations have become contentious over clauses about what would happen if Leach were fired; if he interviewed for a new job without the university's permission; and how money would be divvied up from his personal appearances and promotional activities.

Leach has repeatedly said he is willing to fulfill the terms of the remaining two seasons under his current contract, but it might be unlikely that Tech would go along with his desire because of the potential for recruiting damage with a lame-duck coach during that period.

Several Tech regents told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in its Thursday editions that they hope a compromise can be reached between the two sides.

"As a regent, I want to protect the reputation of Texas Tech University. I think in order to do that, we just have to get [this] worked out," regent Windy Sitton told the newspaper. "This stalemate, especially in the media, is just not good for Texas Tech. There are no winners."

Leach "pays the bills, he fills the seats," Sitton said.

Last year, the Red Raiders averaged a record 53,625 fans per game at Jones AT&T Stadium during a breakout 11-2 season. Tech was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally -- the highest in the program's history -- and matched the school record for victories as it earned a share of the Big 12 South Division title.

"There's enough blame to go around, but I think we need to get that behind us and look at what is in the overall best interest of Texas Tech," Sitton told the Avalanche-Journal. "I would hope that both sides realize the need to continue to put Tech on a national scale regarding our football program."

Leach has taken Tech to nine bowl games in his nine seasons. The Red Raiders have won five bowl games during that span, as many as in the combined other 75 seasons in the history of the program.

"Coach Leach is a dear and greatly respected member of the Texas Tech family and he's had a very successful coaching career here," board member Dan Serna told the Avalanche-Journal. "I hope it continues for many years to come."

Leach has spent the last several days appearing on a number of television and radio programs, including ESPN's "College Football Live." His support appears to be picking up steam with fans in Lubbock. A pair of disgruntled Red Raiders fans paid for a full-page advertisement in the Avalanche-Journal in support of the coach.

Leach has said in many interviews that he is surprised Tech would consider firing him because he is prepared to fulfill the terms of his contract under its previously agreed-to terms.

"I'm going to be excited to coach no matter what," Leach told ESPN on Wednesday. "We're coming off the best recruiting season we've ever had. As far as the firing stuff, I already have two years on a deal that both parties signed and that we agreed to.

"Again, to my knowledge, it's fairly unusual. You offer a guy a deal he doesn't agree with, he turns it down and says he'll stick with his current deal ... I've never thought of that as grounds for firing. Hopefully, they don't either."

Leach also told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he didn't think he could live with some of Tech's contract terms that he said amounted to extortion.

"What are they going to do after they [get] you to [sign] the sub-par deal?" Leach asked. "Then the next year they'll come at you and say, 'All right, we want to give you an extension again, and we're going to knock off another quarter of the thing, so take this one or we'll fire you.'

"And they'll just kind of extort me down to damn near nothing."

Tim Griffin covers college football for ESPN.com. Contact him at espntimgriff@yahoo.com. Information from ESPN The Magazine senior writer Bruce Feldman was included in this report.

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