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Mike Leach fired: Texas Tech coach's methods seen as cruel

Mike Leach, the most successful coach in Texas Tech football history, was fired Wednesday after being accused of punishing receiver Adam James for not playing through a concussion.

By Staff writer / December 30, 2009

Fired: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said he looked forward to playing in the 2010 Alamo Bowl against Michigan State during this press conference at the Club at Sonterra on Dec. 10.

Kin Man Hui/Newscom

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The summary firing of Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach Wednesday for allegedly punishing a concussed player by isolating him in an equipment room for hours shows that even today’s highly-paid collegiate coaches can expect swift justice if they overstep their bounds with players.

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Leach is the winningest coach in the history of Texas Tech and succeeded in bringing a measure of glamor to the football program in Lubbock, Texas, through a blitzkrieg offense that routinely leads Division I college football in passing. The Red Raiders have qualified for a bowl in each of Leach's 10 seasons and have won five of the past seven.

Firing him is a potential civic catastrophe in football-mad Texas.

True, there has been some ill will between Leach and Texas Tech Athletic Director Gerald Myers as Leach began demanding more authority over the program. But the speed with which Leach was fired is striking.

Leach was suspended Monday as the school investigated complaints from a player, Adam James, that the coach sent him to sit alone in an equipment room for not playing through a concussion. The room was originally described as a dark shed, but reports have since suggested it is a decent-size storage room.

When Leach filed a lawsuit trying to overturn the suspension so he could coach in Saturday's Alamo Bowl, the school fired him.

'Old school' coaching or new anger?

The Leach firing comes a few weeks after Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino resigned amid accusations by players that he physically and emotionally abused them at practice and during games. Mangino was college football Coach of the Year in 2008. Leach was 2008 Big 12 Coach of the Year.

Unlike coaches such as Rick Neuheisel or Mike Price, who were both fired in 2003 for off-campus issues (gambling and allegations of indecent behavior with a stripper, respectively), the two recent examples point to coaching techniques that verge on cruelty.

"I think it's almost comical, if it weren't so serious, that too many parents and too many coaches kind of treat players and children like dirt during the week, and then on the weekend when the game comes up, they tell them, 'Okay, now go out and be great,' " Fred Akers, the former Texas Longhorns coach, told the Washington Post last month.

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