Let me first say that I am not fond of Texas Tech or Lubbock, Texas in general based, albeit perhaps unfairly, on my sole visit there. I traveled to Lubbock, Texas to watch the University of New Mexico play the Texas Tech Red Raiders in, I believe 2003 or so. Wow! I could not believe the racism my friends and I experienced there.
The visiting team's tickets were all in the same section of the stadium. Right before kick-off, us Lobo fans and our team were showered with tortillas. What made it worse is that they weren't even the kind of tortillas we most commonly eat. They showered us with 8" diameter corn tortillas whereas New Mexican's eat flour tortillas unless they are cooked and rolled with cheese and/or chicken (or beef) inside them. Their team handed our team a pretty good spanking and we were yelled at and harassed the entire time we were at or near the stadium.
As you might know, I played college football. I was a standout high school football player and a mediocre collegiate athlete. I was a starter during my Sophomore and Senior years at New Mexico Highlands University.
Playing football was a great experience. It taught me a lot about life. Most memorably, I remember my junior year. I came into the season in great shape expecting to start and have an excellent year, but the entire coaching staff had different plans for me. It was clear that they wanted me off of the team for criticizing them the prior year. I was critical of them for allowing a player that was busted using steroids to continue to play. (The player was related to the head coach and was, in all other respects, a real nice guy).
Except for one kick-off play where I basically sneaked on the field, I didn't play the entire year. My coach had very candid conversations with my dad. The head coach told my dad that he didn't expect me to be on the team much longer --he expected me to quit. Anyone who knows me knows I am anything but a quitter. My dad could care less. He always enjoyed watching sports, but if anything, encouraged me to quit playing ball and focus more on my grades. (In fairness to my dad, it should be noted that although I was an All-Academic Team member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, I still had a few B's in some classes).
I had an awesome year playing scout team defense against the first-team offense, however. I clearly remember a few practices where I completely dominated the fist-team offense, bugging the hell out the offensive coordinator. I was shutting down their new plays, stuffing holes, breaking up passes, getting would-be sacks (we weren't allowed to touch the quarterback) you name it, they couldn't get anything done on my side of the field.
After one game, the coaches decided to punish the team for losing. The head coach counted 127 errors that were committed during the previous game and decided that, to make it an even number, we had to do 100 twenty-yard sprints, to be done in a full circle around the perimeter of the football field with jogging in between. In turn, each circle around the field would merit us four (4) sprints towards the 100 we had to do.
I didn't play in the game but it didn't matter. We were all ordered to run. A few players quit on site, turned in their equipment and left the field right then and there. Some of the starters explained that they had injuries that prevented them from running and they were exempted from running that day.
The running was so severe that one of the players crapped his pants due to pure exhaustion. Football players aren't made to run. Cross country runners are. I was upset, but the last thing I was going to do was let the coaches have the satisfaction of knowing they'd gotten to me. Not only did I run the whole 102 laps (we ended up having to run 102 instead of the 100 because the coach didn't count two because he opined we weren't sprinting twice) but I made it a point to come in first in each sprint.
Keith Jardine, my teammate and friend, now famous for being a UFC light heavy weight mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter known as "The Dean of Mean", ran every single sprint and didn't quit even though he was sore and banged up from playing the entire game a couple of days before. As a starter, he could have easily opted to go to the training room. No one that played with Keith is surprised when he outworks and outlasts his MMA opponents in just about each fight he's in.
Was I upset for having to run for mistakes I was not a part of, but could have helped marginalize had I played in the game like I deserved to? Hell yeah I was. But quitting is not what football or life is about. I lost all respect for the players that faked hurt or walked off the field that day. That's why I don't feel sorry for Adam James, and I do feel sorry for Mike Leach.
Adam James' work ethic has been questioned by his coaches and fellow players. I know the type. A little gifted, a little touted, and a lot pampered by his parents and friends, and yet, without the mental toughness that could make him a good player into a good person. Let's just put things into perspective. According to reports, James complained of a minor concussion. In football, that's commonly known to players and coaches alike as a lil' headache. Your head hurts, you don't feel good, but you could put in some work, or hang up the cleats for the day by simply telling the trainer you are hurt. Football hurts. There is a difference between hurt and injured. If you are a hurt football player, join the club. If you are an injured football player, you cannot suit out that day and you should be at a rehabilitation clinic or in the hospital. Instead of giving James the day off, Coach Mike Leach had him stand in the equipment room with a bag of ice.
Mike Leach, last year's Big 12 Coach of the Year, a tremendous coach that has taken his team to bowl game after bowl game and produced great athletes like Wes Welker, and Zack Thomas was fired for trying to make a man out of a boy. Ordering James to stand in the locker room with a bag of ice presented no risk of additional harm. Firing Leach was bullshit. Adam James, being the son of ESPN analyst Craig James has a lot of political power. His parents, in complaining to the University, prevented their son from suffering the type of discipline he desperately needs. The university officials let him down too.
Only now, as the dust settles, we are learning that Texas Tech had contentious contractual meetings with Leach and may be using the issue to avoid paying Leach the money they ultimately, though begrudgingly, agreed to pay him. Only time will tell if Leach will prevail in his contractual dispute against the university. Either way, it was ridiculous to hear their administration say that their student's safety comes first, and getting rid of Leach was due, in large part out of concern for their students. Texas Tech brought in Bobby Knight to coach for them only months after he was let go by Indiana for allegedly grabbing a student by the shirt.
If only Leach were let go when Notre Dame was looking for a coach....