Contentious negotiations stall contract for Texas Tech FB coach Leach

LUBBOCK, Texas — Contentious negotiations on a new contract for Texas Tech coach Mike Leach have stalled largely on questions of what happens if he tries to leave the Red Raiders.

Leach and his agents have taken issue with termination and buyout clauses and a provision that would trigger the coach’s firing and a $1.5 million penalty if he interviewed for another job without permission, according to documents released by the school Friday.

“It’s pretty much out of my hands. I’m just focused on coaching football,” Leach told The Associated Press late Friday.

In his current deal, which has two years remaining, Leach has no restrictions on interviewing elsewhere.

Athletic director Gerald Myers wrote to one of Leach’s agents that approval for interviews “would not be withheld unreasonably, but we want you as his agent to stop shopping Coach Leach everywhere and him not saying anything to deny that he’s looking for another job.”

The letter was among 92 pages of correspondence between school officials and Leach’s agents released to several media outlets through an open-records request. The letters and e-mails were obtained by The Associated Press.

Leach has raised the profile of Texas Tech since taking over in 2000 and this season led the Red Raiders to their first 10-0 start and highest ranking (No. 2) before a blowout loss to Oklahoma knocked them out of the BCS picture. Texas Tech lost to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl to finish 11-2.

Before the Cotton Bowl, Leach went to Seattle when the Washington Huskies were looking for a coach and refused comment when he returned to Lubbock. Washington hired Steve Sarkisian.

“I’ve made it clear that I would not withhold permission” to interview, Myers told the AP on Friday. “I just want him to let me know.”

At his national signing day news conference Wednesday, Leach indicated contract negotiations were at a standstill.

“Money’s never been the issue with the contract, not for quite some time,” Leach said at the time. “The biggest thing with the contract is after about a year of negotiations, four items were presented that weren’t part of the original agreement and aren’t acceptable.”

Leach declined to elaborate, but those four items were revealed Friday. Besides the termination, buyout and permission clauses, the agents objected to a provision that they said essentially gave the school the rights to Leach’s name and likeness. Myers disagreed with that view in a follow-up letter.

The agents’ objections led them to reject Texas Tech’s “best and final offer” last month, although the sides essentially agreed on financial terms that would pay Leach about $2.5 million annually through 2013. Myers has given Leach a Feb. 17 deadline to accept the offer.

Negotiations were at their most contentious in mid-January, when the president of Texas Tech’s Board of Regents blasted one of Leach’s agents for e-mailing details of the talks directly to board members without notifying Myers, chancellor Kent Hance or president Guy Bailey.

“If your message was calculated to divide the Board or undermine the Chancellor, President and Athletic Director, you have greatly misjudged us and the mutual respect we have for one another,” board president Scott Dueser wrote to Matt Baldwin.

In a follow-up letter, Myers accused Baldwin of insubordination because he contacted board members directly. Baldwin’s last letter to Myers, dated Jan. 28, had a sharp retort.

“Just to be clear, in order to insubordinate, you first need to be subordinate,” Baldwin wrote. “IMG is retained by Coach, not by Texas Tech; and thus IMG cannot be insubordinate to Texas Tech.”

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