Mike Leach Ready for CBS Booth After Year of Travails and Travels
Texas Tech's loss is about to become college football viewers' gain. On Tuesday afternoon in New York, CBS College Sports Network trotted out its newest game analyst, former Red Raider head coach Mike Leach. For a decade, Leach, who possesses a law degree and who once coached football in the gridiron crucible that is Finland, was as welcome a change in the sport as anyone who stepped to the podium. Come fall, he'll be spending Saturdays in the press box of Conference USA games along with play-by-play partner Roger Twibell.
"About a month ago they started talking to my agent," Leach, 49, said from CBS' studios at Pier 60 in Chelsea Piers. "My agent called me and I said, 'Sure.'"
Oddly enough, it was a former CBS college football analyst who helped end Leach's wildly successful tenure in Lubbock. Last December, Leach was suspended indefinitely during an investigation of alleged mistreatment of one of his players, Adam James, whose dad, Craig James, is a high-profile commentator at ESPN. At the center of the dispute was whether Leach had ordered the younger James, who had suffered a concussion earlier, to spend practice inside a darkened shed.
Accusations led to an ultimatum, which eventually led to a termination that has, of course, incited litigation. Nothing has been settled.
Leach and his family, however, quickly resettled to Key West, Fla., a retreat that he has been coming back to for more than two decades. "We'd bought a home there as an investment last August," he said, "and we went to visit last January (soon after Texas Tech had fired him). After four days we enrolled the kids in school and bought four bikes. We don't even own a car."
Key West appeals to Leach's eclectic tastes . "It's 165 miles southwest of Miami and 90 miles north of Havana," he said. Has he ever been to Cuba? "No, but I desperately want to go."
One mention of the Key West's most famous former resident (Ernest Hemingway) sets off the type of Leach-ian lecture that provides a glimpse of his potential in the booth. "You know, he only set one of his novels in the United States," said Leach, "and that was in Key West. 'To Have and Have Not.'"
Leach, whose peregrinations are unlike most any of his coaching peers, spent part of the spring in France as an adviser to the Flash de la Courneuve, which is sort of the USC of the French American Football League. While in Paris, he visited various cafes that Hemingway once did, drawing upon passages from Hemingway's memoir, "A Moveable Feast," for guidance.
"We went to some of the addresses he lived at, too," said Leach, who had an 84-43 record at Texas Tech and led the Red Raiders to 10 consecutive bowl games. "We even went to Shakespeare and Company Books, where he used to have his mail sent."
With such a keen knowledge of Papa's career, it's a shame -- and how things might have turned out differently -- that Leach did not order trainers to quarantine Adam James in a clean, well-lighted place.
What's mesmerizing about the hiring of Leach, whose other interests include extraterrestrials, Geronimo, and most famously, pirates, is that no one knows how he'll be in the booth. As someone who hasn't attended a game as a spectator in decades, he may come off as disinterested. Then again, with his capacious intellect and eccentric interests, he may just be the next incarnation of John Madden. Nobody knows.
"I'm just going to do the best I can and try to stay out of trouble," said Leach. "Be honest so I don't have to keep track of anything. I always tell my players, 'If you have a clouded mind, you have slow legs.'"
Twibell and Leach open up with a 7:30 p.m. game on Sept. 11, when Central Florida hosts North Carolina State. But the real fun may not occur until October 16th. That's when N.C. State visits East Carolina -- the Pirates.