MEMPHIS — It took 25 minutes, but Mike Leach eventually took aim at those he blames for his 2009 dismissal from Texas Tech.
The Mississippi State football (7-5) coach had kept to football-related topics for much of his Monday press conference ahead of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Tuesday (5:45 p.m., ESPN), but when it comes to the Bulldogs’ matchup with Texas Tech (6-6), there’s more at play than the trophy.
Leach has battled his former employer in court for the last 12 years, stemming from a scandal that led to his 2009 firing from the Red Raiders. Leach bashed former Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance, said there was no investigation into his treatment of wide receiver Adam James and said the school has illegally hidden public records from him and his representation.
Leach still disputes the validity of that for-cause firing, and he said Monday that he won’t go away until he gets a check for the roughly $2.5 million he feels he’s owed.
“Forever,” Leach said when asked how long he’ll battle Texas Tech in court. “Why not? I mean, what do I got to lose? I don’t have anything to lose. I mean, they cheated me out of $2.6 million, plus four years remaining on my contract.”
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Texas Tech did not immediately reply to a request for comment regarding Leach’s accusations.
The scandal began in December 2009, when James accused Leach and his staff of locking him in a darkened room after he suffered a concussion. Craig James, Adam James’ father and at the time an ESPN commentator, approached Texas Tech about his son’s treatment.
James wanted Leach fired. Texas Tech President Guy Bailey asked Leach to write a letter of apology to James and his family, but after Leach refused, Bailey suspended him on Dec. 28, 2009. That prompted Leach to file a temporary restraining order against Texas Tech, hoping to still coach the bowl game.
Instead, according to court records, Bailey said he and athletics director Gerald Myers decided “the relationship was probably broken.” They fired Leach for cause on Dec. 30, 2009.
“In Lubbock, there were four bad apples that were determined to cheat me out of my salary,” Leach said Monday. “We know about that. And the other four years on my contract. And then continued to hide the documents illegally. But short of that, I thought everyone was great.”
Leach clarified he doesn’t have anything against Texas Tech. He respects the players and is friends with interim coach Sonny Cumbie, a former Red Raiders quarterback Leach coached.
But Leach has been in a legal melee with the university for 12 years. First, his temporary restraining order fell short when he was fired. When he sued the school for wrongful termination, the Texas Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2012 without an opinion. In recent years, Wayne Dolcefino, who runs an investigative media consulting firm, has battled Texas Tech over public information record requests.
“I’ve been willing to settle this thing for a long time, but they don’t seem to be willing to,” Leach said. “I think that’s unfortunate. I think all the people there are great. Some of the leadership, at least when I was there, was very sleazy and slimy and dirty. 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. And we should all celebrate achievements together. But that doesn’t seem to be what they have in mind.”
Leach also pointed to Texas Tech’s investigation into his treatment of James, which was never completed “as the completion of the report was interrupted by the litigation ensuing upon Coach Leach’s termination,” the university said, according to court records.
When Dolcefino submitted a public information request to the school in 2017 to retrieve an investigation documents, Texas Tech said there were no responsive records.
“They lied about having an investigation, and then they won’t produce the documents to prove they had an investigation,” Leach said. “It just goes to show you how Kent Hance and some of his little cronies, how sleazy those guys are. So let’s go ahead and see it. And of course, it’s going to illustrate that they lied to the fans and everybody else. And then they continue to hide documents from everything from sexual assault to everything else.”
Dolcefino submitted new legal action against Texas Tech last week, alleging that the university withheld sexual assault records from the Board of Education.
“I know a few things more about Texas Tech that I didn’t know when we began this fight,” Dolcefino said. “They cheated Coach Leach and to cover it up they will violate public records laws with abandon, even records that directly affect the safety of the young women on their campuses.”
The back-and-forth adds intrigue to Tuesday’s Liberty Bowl — and it won’t end with the final whistle.
“I think settling for $2.6 (million) is very generous on my part, and the hiding of documents becomes even more disgusting, because that shows a level of corruption,” Leach said. “I wouldn’t even rule out some criminal prosecution on the thing. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mike Leach plans to fight Texas Tech ‘forever’ in court after firing