Even though Texas Tech is coming off its best football season ever and the graduation rates of Red Raiders football players have gone from being among the worst in the country to among the best for public schools, I can't say I'll be surprised if the school fires coach Mike Leach in the next week. Things in Lubbock seem to have gotten that bizarre, and with each cryptic statement from athletic director Gerald Myers, it gets more bizarre by the day. Many Tech fans are tired of the rumors, and things finally have come to a head this week. Tech brass, a source says, fear there might always be some drama about Leach and other possible coaching jobs as long as he's working in Lubbock. They love that through Leach, who took over the program while it was in the middle of probation, they have upgraded the stadium and become a big draw, yet they don't relish the notion that the coach is bigger than they are. The Leach camp argues that not only has the coach had unprecedented success on the field and in the classroom, but he also enabled the university to build a high profile nationally; "60 Minutes" even came to town. Leach fans think the Tech administration has something of an inferiority complex and still sees itself as a second-division Big 12 South program. It's no stretch to wonder whether egos have gotten bruised here. Now, with Tech just a few days from its Board of Regents teleconference Friday, the school is wrestling with some hefty questions. For starters, an athletic department that is struggling in other sports might risk not filling its football stadium and seeing the program's image take a big hit nationally if it fires Leach. How do you reconcile firing someone who has been the best coach in the history of the school AND just coached a team that had the highest graduation rate of any program in the Top 25? Financially, the firing would be hard for Tech because not only would it have to buy out Leach, but it also might have to pay two football staffs. There also is the odd twist this might put in Tech's relationship with Under Armour. The school recently announced a five-year, $11 million deal that encompasses all Red Raiders teams. Leach was in Wales a few days ago with UA founder Kevin Plank and is pretty tight with the Under Armour guys. I doubt Tech would have gotten that deal if Leach had not been in Lubbock. I've heard that if Tech opts to cut ties with Leach, it will go after Baylor coach Art Briles, a one-time Leach assistant. But it might not be so easy to pluck Briles away from Baylor since the school just unveiled its upgraded facilities, which were a huge chip with Briles. He also would be leaving a program with a lot of ripe young talent, led by a franchise-type QB in Robert Griffin III, who is coming off a spectacular freshman season. Griffin, by the way, had committed to Briles when he was coaching at Houston and followed him to Waco. Another possibility for Tech is Buffalo coach Turner Gill, a native Texan coming off an amazing season leading UB to the MAC championship. For Gill, Tech clearly would be a better job. Sonny Dykes, Leach's one-time offensive coordinator and the son of former Tech coach Spike Dykes, probably is the most viable potential option, and I suspect his hiring would play fairly well, given that he has a recognizable name, has the personality and wouldn't alter the Leach system much. As for Leach, I think there are a handful of potential vacancies that would be intriguing. Glancing around at the places with the hottest seats, here's a quick rundown: Notre Dame: Charlie Weis might need a huge season to save his job, but even if he can't win 10 games in 2009, Leach's personality doesn't seem to mesh with the ND persona. In fact, I think you'd have a better chance of seeing the Irish bring back Gerry Faust or even Ty Willingham than hiring Leach. Virginia: I don't think it's outrageous, considering that Leach would get fans fired up and could pump life into a program that is flat-lining under Al Groh. But there might be better fits out there for both parties. Colorado: Dan Hawkins' seat isn't hot yet, but it will be if CU doesn't get off to a good start. He is 13-24 in three seasons at CU and needs to get the Buffs into a bowl game. My hunch is Leach would love Boulder. Maryland: OK, so the school just named James Franklin the coach-in-waiting. Sounds good, but Leach would come across as a bigger coup for Terp football. It probably also would play well with Plank, a former Maryland fullback who has made this program his company's flagship school. And who better to lead the flagship than the pirate from Lubbock? Arizona: Mike Stoops finally got the Cats to a bowl game, but he needs to sustain the momentum. He reportedly has agreed to a three-year contract extension that is expected to be approved later this spring. Wisconsin: After starting out 12-1 in his first season, Bret Bielema needs to have a good 2009 at Wisconsin, since he's gone 8-8 in Big Ten play the past two seasons and is coming off a 2008 season in which the Badgers were one of the country's biggest disappointments. I doubt this job will be in play, barring catastrophe, but it is a good football program, and Leach coached in Iowa and probably would be intrigued. Louisville: There might be a Big East job or two that wouldn't be a step down from Tech. Right now, this probably isn't one of them. Indiana: I think Leach would be more tempted to get a job on "Celebrity Apprentice 4" before going there.
Random StuffI talked with former Miami QB Robert Marve on Tuesday afternoon about how he is dealing with being away from school and football for a semester and about his new recruitment. He said the schools that have been showing the most interest are Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, although he's been hearing from a bunch of other schools as well. He thinks he won't make a decision until May or June, saying he's going to pick the place where he feels the most comfortable with the school and believes he can "trust the coaches and learn the most from them." Ideally, he said, he'd like to go to a place where he can run the spread system like he ran in high school. Obviously, going to a school that will have a senior starter in 2009 is the most appealing. A lot of these variables make Mike Gundy's program at Oklahoma State seem like a very logical option. There also is another plus to OSU. Dylan Brown, one of Marve's receivers at Plant High in Tampa, Fla., who now is a baseball player at Oklahoma State, is going to play football for the Cowboys this spring. "We've been talking quite a bit," Marve said of Brown. "He's really a legit receiver." Marve went on to say Brown's presence would "help a lot" in OSU's favor but added that he's still going to pick the school he feels is best for him, regardless of whether he has a buddy there or not. Marve said he's been working out daily with a personal trainer and throwing to Seahawks WR Logan Payne, a former Minnesota player who lives near him. To go around the college football landscape with Bruce Feldman, become an ESPN Insider.
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