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Posted at 1:55 PM ET, 12/23/2010

Terps coaching search part 1 - Stay away from the loony bin

By Rick Nelligan

Welcome to the first half of my analysis of the search for the next Terps football head coach. Make sure to check back later in the day as well; the second half isn't far behind.

As you may have heard by now, Mike Leach seems to be far and away the front runner to succeed Ralph Friedgen as Maryland's next head football coach. But I'm here to caution you (are you listening, Kevin Anderson?). When searching for the next head coach of your football program, a good rule of thumb to follow is to stay away from the loony bin.

Before I get too far into bashing the man affectionately known as "The Pirate," Leach does have some great qualities as a head coach. First and foremost, he never posted a losing season in his ten years as coach at Texas Tech, and he had Texas Tech in the hunt for a national championship for the majority of the 2008 season. That is a fantastic accomplishment that cannot be discounted.

His offensive prowess has been better documented than Albert Haynesworth's conditioning drills. Leach consistently led the Red Raiders to top-10 finishes on offense in both passing yards and scoring. There is no doubt in my mind that if selected as the next head coach, Leach would instantly mold the Terps already talented roster into a scoring machine. That alone would put exponentially more warm bodies in the seats at Byrd Stadium.

To me however, Leach's positives are outweighed by the negatives, both on and off the field. On the field, Mike Leach's rushing offense has never finished in the top 100 in the country. I know some of you will say, "But his offenses pass for a bazillion yards." Yes they do, and passing yards are flashy, but in order to consistently win big games you must stay balanced and run the ball when you need to. Since 2004 (the earliest date for which ESPN has statistics rankings), no national champion has finished lower than 38th in the nation in rushing offense, with most finishing in the top 20. That's a trend that cannot be ignored.

His off-field antics are worrisome as well. While his eccentricities are great material for the media (not to mention YouTube clips,) they're not something I want to see out of the next Maryland head coach. He has revealed a penchant for not being able to connect with his players or the university at times. While there were a few players that came to his defense after he was fired from Texas Tech, I recall far more "unidentified players" coming out and being relieved that he was gone. Furthermore, Leach hasn't been a big fan of being in front of massive amounts of microphones and reporters. Being in the D.C. area is worlds different than being in Lubbock. For better or worse, everything Leach does will be magnified tenfold here, and I'm betting on the latter.

What's more, Leach reportedly has a healthy disdain for recruiting. Personally, the biggest gripe I had during the Friedgen era was our inability to recruit the D.C. area successfully, routinely losing recruits to Penn State among other powerhouse programs that reside hundreds of miles away. I can't imagine a scenario in which this would change under Mike Leach, unless of course we coerced the recruiting guru Mike Locksley to come back home to Maryland (which I will get to in part two.)

You can't ignore the reason Leach was fired from Texas Tech, whether it was true or not. Nowadays, the matter of concussions is no laughing matter in any sport at any level. With the reports of his alleged mistreatment of Adam James being all over the media, you can bet that the parents of prospective student-athletes will hesitate to turn their son over to Leach.

Mike Leach also seems to have a frosty relationship with ESPN. Leach recently filed a lawsuit against ESPN accusing them of libel and slander for the way it covered his alleged mistreatment of James. Then there are the rumors that Leach is apparently looking to add Sean Salisbury to his staff, the same guy who was fired from ESPN a few years back for reasons I won't mention here. Now admittedly I don't know much, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to alienate the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports." This, right or wrong, would be very likely to happen if both Leach and Salisbury resided in College Park.

Mike Leach is not the man to lead the Terps into the future. Heck, I'd rather have (your name here) be named the next coach at Maryland. If he was hired I would still support the Terps, I wouldn't be able to help it. But the potential for disaster outweighs the potential for greatness with Leach in my humble opinion. I would have serious reservations about the Terps future.

Check back shortly to see my wish list of my top four coaching candidates for Maryland.

By Rick Nelligan  | December 23, 2010; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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Next: Terps coaching search part 2 - My wish list


I could not disagree with you more. Maryland would be most fortunate to get Coach Mike Leach. Texas Tech will never recover from his loss. Mr. Leach has a colorful wit, but he is anything but "loony." In fact, he is far more cerebral than the political has-beens and wannabes who conspired to orchestrate his demise on the South Plains. You cast doubt on your own credibility by citing that Mickey Mouse outfit ESPiN as authority for anything. Coach Leach wins football games, graduates his players and is entertaining in the process. Do you not see the irony in exercising your 1st amd. right to criticize Mike Leach for exercising his 7th amd. right?

Posted by: doubletlawalum | December 23, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

greetings from West texas...a Texas Tech fan here with the potential of adding Maryland to must see games each Saturday...Mike Leach surely does not fit the traditional mold of a football coach...but that is only on the surface..he's hardnosed, visionary, his players admire him, he wins his way and is not afraid to lead...his offensive vision changed an entire conference (Big 12)...

If Maryland gets Leach's services the fans will come to the stadium every weekend: expecting to win, anticipating something different, and seeing a brand of football that, win or lose, is entertaining...

Reading this article helps everyone understand why Leach has to go forward with legal remedys. Read the depositions (statements given under oath)of the young man in question (one half of the James gang, the one with the concussion) and you'll readily understand that TTU's firing of Leach was simply a backdoor attempt to break a contract..rather than honorably separate themselves from an employee (as Maryland did with their coach) they attempted to destroy a man's reputation and get out of paying what was owed. Tech will lose legally but some, like the writer of this article, will continue to insinuate Leach has done something wrong. It's not true! Good luck Maryland!

Posted by: cpelphrey | December 23, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Your comments about the Leach departure from Texas Tech demonstrate that you did little more than a gloss over of the specifics. That is not what I'd expect from a journalist of your stature.

Contract law is contract law, TT violated the Leach contract (look it up)he has a right to recover what they owe him. ESPN continues to bash Leach, harming his ability to get another job (saw/heard it myself in a recent broadcast) they should at least drop it and let the man get on with his life.

Leach is colorful, puts fans in the stands, generates big dollars from supporters, graduates his players and will win alot of games.

If the Terps hire him, they will go on my must watch list and we will take a long weekend trip from the mid west and actually attend a game..........count on it

Posted by: kshadowhawk | December 23, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Your comments about the Leach departure from Texas Tech demonstrate that you did little more than a gloss over of the specifics. That is not what I'd expect from a journalist of your stature.

Contract law is contract law, TT violated the Leach contract (look it up)he has a right to recover what they owe him. ESPN continues to bash Leach, harming his ability to get another job (saw/heard it myself in a recent broadcast) they should at least drop it and let the man get on with his life.

Leach is colorful, puts fans in the stands, generates big dollars from supporters, graduates his players and will win alot of games.

If the Terps hire him, they will go on my must watch list and we will take a long weekend trip from the mid west and actually attend a game..........count on it

Posted by: kshadowhawk | December 23, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I moved to Lubbock a few years ago from the Southeast, so I am not a Texas Tech homer. Mike Leach was fired because he was disliked by one of the big money boosters who wanted a good old boy in the job. The Adam James "reason" for his firing was an excuse that the university used that they thought would be somewhat palatable with the fan base so they could remove a wildly popular coach. Had Leach coached one more day, they would have owed him a large tenure bonus. That is why he was fired when he was, and the university tried to come up with "cause" because they didn't want to pay him the remainder of his contract. No person in his right mind would fail to sue in the situation that Leach was in. The university was trying to royally screw him.

Posted by: Football2 | December 23, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Nelligan, your articles reminds me of the old adage, "that you can't see the picture when you're part of the frame." That is to say, that you've framed the picture of Coach Leach in a incomplete poor manner. Try to do a better job the next time around.

Posted by: sammy14 | December 23, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Please don't pay attention to the leach supporters that would have you believe that all of Lubbock misses him. It is NOT true! Loads of supporters were glad to see him go. They also will lead you to believe that he is the greatest coach to walk the planet. Another false claim. He NEVER won a championship title at Tech. He didn't even think that a good strong defense was an important part of the game.
They are a small pocket of people who seem to think they are more important than they are because they made a facebook page and pledge their allegiance to him in a cult like fashion, wishing ill will on Tech and pledging to follow him wherever he winds up. I hope if he is hired some very strict ground rules will be laid down....because he's not too good at following the rules.And how many of us would have a job the next day if we told our bosses to go f&%^ themselves?? Not too many.

Posted by: lizzymus | December 23, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

seriously Rick... this article is a prime example of the ignorance that still permeates college football. and people wonder why Leach is having to sue for defamation of character... this article is a prime example. and frankly Rick, it stinks!
I would suggest you do a little more research before you pen such a ridiculous piece of fodder.
Mike Leach is a good coach and he pushes his players to excel. What is wrong with that? He has the highest graduation rate for his players, what is wrong with that?
He'll generate more revenue for your school and your fans will be ecstatic. What is wrong with that?
and as far as the Adam James saga... if you would have done your homework, you would know that he was never mistreated let alone locked in a electrical closet.
Enough is enough of this BS! If you can't report the truth, then maybe you should find another profession!

Posted by: Chef4U | December 23, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Ok yes Leach can be aggravating, but he has transformed one of the best conferences in the country from running to passing. Oh yeah he runs the ball but he also knows what works against a defense. Plus he fills up seats, and puts points at will on the board. Your a journalist not tell the facts not your opinion. The Washington Post has an Op-Ed section go there and you may tell the world your opinion so tell us the facts about leach. If you don't think Mr. Under Armour isn't having his say you're delusional. You are right money talks and it looks like this time it's saying hire not fire Leach. Espn will report on Leach because he gets ratings and a people talking.

Posted by: Mdwalker8402 | December 23, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Are you kidding me? You must be because you know nothing of the situation in Lubbock. Leach recruited players like Welker and Crabtree, not to mention Harrel in a market where most kids go to OU or UT. And he recruited them to LUBBOCK. And as far a "unidentified players"?????? That came from the same University that screwed Leach.......meaning those were bogus.......just like your article.

Posted by: olemydarling | December 23, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Haha, I realized when I wrote this I wouldn't be the most popular guy in the area considering how much support there seems to be for Leach. But I believe my reasons for being against Leach are legit.

First, please allow me to clear something up. I'm not saying that the reasons for TTU firing Leach were legit, or that he did actually mistreat Adam James. Or that he doesn't deserve to sue who he is suing. What I'm saying is that is what was reported and like it or not has become his reputation. While you and I presume him to be innocent, that doesn't mean that the majority of the parents of prospective recruits would look past what has been reported. It's unfortunate that it has damaged his reputation, but you can't ignore the fact that it has.

Also, someone mentioned that I'm crazy if I think ESPN is an authority in anything. Sure, ESPN isn't always right, but you're out of your mind if you think it's not the number one sports outlet there is and the most influential as it pertains to recruits and fans alike.

olemydarling mentioned that Leach is a good recruiter because he landed Welker and Crabtree. I'm sorry, but that doesn't make him a good recruiter. Both players were not rated as highly as you might think, and the reason he landed crabtree was because Leach was the only coach at a big time program that was willing to let him play WR, Texas wanted him to be a DB. So while I give Leach credit for making them good players, it in no way makes him a good recruiter.

Graham Harrell was also brought up, and I'm pretty sure he's super excited for the position that playing at Texas Tech has put him in - undrafted and fighting for his life in the NFL.

Also, box-seats is a site by fans for fans. It's a blog site for opinions on the local sports teams, not for straight up journalism. The things I talk about have do not reflect the Washington Post, they are my opinions.

Like I mentioned, I never expected to get a whole lot of support for my stance against Leach. Minus one or two comments, it's pretty much what I expected. I'm not completely against Leach, and don't doubt he's a pretty good coach and would likely fill up Byrd from the get go. But I believe the Terps can and will do much better, both for the short and long term betterment of the program.

Posted by: gnelligan1 | December 23, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, lizzymus a/k/a Spaeth "swift-boat" Communications, go f&%^ yourself. No one is falling for your Craig James/Kent Hance damage control anymore.

Posted by: doubletlawalum | December 23, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Rick, Rick, Rick:

First of all, have you ever played the game? Seriously. Mike Leach put Texas Tech on the map. I am a Tech Alumni,was there probably before you were born. I am a "student of the game." Leach is an offensive genius. Football is a man's game, played with discipline and passion.

I represented a player of the SMU championship days (in the NFL)that played along side Craig James. James is another "silver spoon fed player" that felt he was entitled. Just like he expected his son to be. Heck, Adam should never have been playing for a Division I team. But, I understand your thinking, writing for the Washington Post, everyone is entitled, right? That's the Washington way of thinking.Maybe Obama should coach the Terps.

Anyway, I didn't even know that the Terps still played football down here in Texas. Maybe, if for no other reason, Leach will put the Terps on the map again for a prolific offense and the PR, Bowl game money and exposure so that you have something "explosive" to write about. Because if you want explosive stats, I would not be so quick to judge.

By the way, who is your pick for coach?

Anyway, Leach will go somewhere, because real football coach (leaders)think outside of the box, which leads some people to call them "looney bins!"

If you don't get Leach, please send me your record after next year.

A Red Raider from Texas, Texas Tech!

Posted by: kevin75 | December 23, 2010 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Dear Rick,

While you are a fluid writer, and I am sure an educated man... please do not pretend to understand the qualities needed to be a successful college football coach. Your comments about national championship teams having a top rated rushing attack are foolish. When was the last time Maryland was in the hunt for an ACC Championship... much less a National Title? The Terps need a coach that will make them nationally relevant and competative with Virginia Tech every year. If they should choose someone besides Mike Leach... you are simply saying that you are satisfied with being an average team in an average conference.

Posted by: CoachLee | December 24, 2010 1:53 AM | Report abuse

I understand why Leach has supporters from TTU still, he made them relevant. But please stop acting as if he's the only coach in the world that can possibly coach Maryland to be a winner. He's not God's gift to coaching.

I also love the line from kevin75,"because real football coach (leaders)think outside of the box, which leads some people to call them "looney bins!" That's absolutely correct, great football coaches are able to think outside the box. But there's a difference between doing so on the field and off the field. My perception, granted from 2000 miles away, is that Leach was unable to connect with recruits and his players very well. From my experience when I played football, and yes I played football, if your team is not in tune with your coach, there is a serious limit on the ceiling of your success.

Let's also get another thing straight. Great coaches don't necessarily have to be exceptional offensive or defensive coaches. The number one quality of a great football coach is to be able to delegate responsibility to your assistant coaches and convince a group of men to all strive for the same goal. Just because you run an exceptional offense doesn't make you a great coach. If you can't put great assistant coaches in place and delegate responsibility, it's very hard to be overly successful as a coach.

And as it pertains to recruiting, which I stand by my opinion that Leach isn't very good at, UConn women's basketball coach said it best: "There are two kinds of coaches - ones that coach great players, and ex coaches." Just food for thought.

Posted by: gnelligan1 | December 24, 2010 2:26 AM | Report abuse

This is typical media always looking at the glass half empty. Doesn't matter who MD picks, the media is going to pick him apart (even if Lombardi came from his grave to coach the Terps).

Go Terps.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | December 24, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Rick sounds like you have actually done some due diligence. You are correct to be skeptical.

While Leach was a winning coach and a great quote. Check out his efforts in helping Tech raise money or his relationship with high school coaches in Texas. Both were non existent. Leach was fired at Tech because he refused to help clean up a mess he created with his handling of James. Then his insubordination, do you really expect to keep your job if you sue your employer and tell the Chancellor of the University to F himself.

Not just any Chancellor by the way, the one who went to bat for Leach during a contentious contract renewal and gave leach over $2 mill a year with no buy out. Leach repays him by again telling him to F off when Mike is asked to be a team player so the University can avoid litigation.

Finally if the Terps move forward with Leach, get a serious buy out. Leach annually, while under contract at Tech, shopped himself to every job that came available. And nobody bit. It was a killer for recruiting. Leach will be under a much larger microscope in D.C. His hire would be entertaining but it won't last long.

Posted by: scurryman | December 24, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I think the idea that head coaches need to be able to delegate to assistant coaches is wrong. A head coach should have the vision, concept and direction flowing from himself and hire assistants that can pass it on to the players. Bill Walsh comes to mind. His "Coaching tree" results from the vision that he had and implemented, regardless of which assistant he had at the time.

If you don't have your own vision and just hope to hire someone with that vision you are at the mercy of their leaving.

I do wonder if the Pro game will move more toward the spread and if it does the recruits will be looking for the programs that run it. Now, there seems to be a bias against "system" quarterbacks and programs and that will be an obstacle to recruiting until it changes.

Hey, Leach will be fun and fireworks. That alone makes life energizing. Go for Leach and ride the wave.

Posted by: capitol76 | December 24, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

As a Texas Tech Red Raider alumn, now living in California I must say -- I agree with your article. It's true that Leach helped grow Tech football program and increased Tech's exposure, however the program was already on the rise when he got there. Not to discount the great things he accomplished at Tech, but the success of the program was and is inevitable.

The question the Maryland must ask is "What's the price?". I don't know what politics were in play with the Tech administration, nor do I care. However, the reality is a university is a political entity. Coaches must get along with the administrators and recognize the importance of the alumni base. Coach Leach failed on both points.

If Tech was willing to fire a winning coach like Leach, regardless of the pretext, the question Maryland must ask is "why?" Texas Tech certainly took a hit because it failed to bow-down low enough to make one man happy. I'm confident, however, that it was worth the risk. Texas Tech will survive and exceed expections just as we always do.

As for his treatment of players, the statements he made that are on YouTube speak for themselves. Mean people suck, and he appears to have a mean streak. Maybe he has grown from this, I hope so and wish him the best.

Still, I believe he'll get the job at Maryland. He as a relationship with the Maryland Trustee who owns UnderArmor. University politics -- remember. Now Maryland will have to consider the longterm impact to the Unversity, students, NCAA and alumni of hiring a personality like Mike Leach. Good luck.

Wreck'em Texas Tech!

Posted by: CalTexan | December 24, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of how anyone feels about Mike Leach ( and I had my doubts, not about the James incident, but about the rushing offense and the lack of defense at TTU) it doesn't really matter because the University of Under Armour in this whole PR CF has, to borrow a poker phrase, gone "all in" with Leach. They made it painfully obvious from the very beginning that leach was their man, so that getting anyone else would be a failure from the get-go.

It's like when Danny-boy fired Schottenheimer just so the Redskins could get the Ball Coach. Where did that lead to? Initial excitement that wore off after two disastrous seasons. Unfortunately, that's the Terps are heading. Sure, the honeymoon period will bring more fans to the seats, but if the program doesn't vastly improve, those fans will vanish more quickly for Mike than they did for Fridge...

Posted by: ecglotfelty | December 25, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

First of all I do not live in Lubbock, I live in Amarillo. Mike Leach brought a style of football that could compete with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma anually. He didn't have the same quality recruits as the big twelve elite but he took his spread offensive scemes and made TT univ into the most entertaining team in big 12 history. I'm suprised Miami passed on him but Maryland would be very fortunate to get him. I just can't see TT univ being a big 12 power again soon because Tuberville can't recruit the Kids for the system he wants to run. TT univ may have seen their best football years now gone, because I look for a "Musical Chair" situation with head coaches in their future.

Posted by: fastgundunn | December 27, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Rick, Thanks forthe article. Finally, someone who sees the truth. Don't pay attention to the Leeches, they are narrow minded individuals with a vendetta. They work tirelessly to try to disrupt this team & school. Leach's offense IS fun to watch, no doubt. He has no interest in recruiting TOP quality players. He'll take the easy way out & grab "Players" that fir his system. The recruitment of Welker happened when a schollie became available at the very last moment and he was offered. Yes, he was offered a walk on spot but Leach got lucky. Crabtree had more interest in basketball and if not for Bob Knight he might not have even looked at Tech. Graham Harrell was booed off the field his Sophmore year by the same bunch that supports Leach. A previous Chancellor (our 1st) hire a private investigator to check out Leach & his "social life". Mike has a reputation for liquid refreshments after practice. IYKWIM. The Pirate deal is all Tech. He'll never really be the Pirate again. He doesn't care for the media or authority. He'd be a great offensive coordinator for someone but as a HC the Terps could do much better.
Mike got fired for insubordination, plain and simple. He was asked to apologize to James & pretty much in his own words gave the Tech Admin. the finger. That doesn't set well here in West Texas. He continually shopped for jobs that he was hoping would produce contract leverage but rarely received an interview. Yes, he put butts in the seats. Yes, he was an offensive guru, sort of. Yes, he graduated students, but he's the one that DID NOT fulfill his end of the contract and the admin at Tech was tired of asking to do things he refused to do. I wish Mike the best. I've watched Tech football for 50 yrs aand he was probably the most enjoyable, but I'll tell you this,if he worked for me and acted the way he did. I'd fire him too!

Posted by: RealRaider | December 28, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Out of 832 words four words stand out that says it all about the author of this article.

You'll find it in the 3rd sentence of the ninth paragraph.

Quote: "I don't know much..."

Boy o' boy is that ever an understatement.

That's enough for this reader.

Posted by: oldengoldendecoy | December 30, 2010 5:33 AM | Report abuse

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