Saturday night ESPN enjoyed its highest rated bowl game telecast ever as Texas Tech defeated Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl. The game was played immediately following the unpopular firing of Red Raiders coach Mike Leach, and Tech fans made it clear during the broadcast that they were extremely unhappy with the decision to jettison the school’s winningest football coach.
But while the Tech administration that made the call to fire Leach can live with that embarrassing, nationally-televised outrage, it can’t live without money, and apparently donations to the school have dropped off a cliff since Leach was terminated.
What’s worse is donations to Tech’s largest private benefactor, the school’s alumni association, uses those donations to primarily fund academic initiatives. Classroom programs that because of the backlash over Leach’s firing are now in jeopardy.
Responding to fan outrage, the Texas Tech Alumni Association sent out a somewhat panicked-sounding letter to members noting that “failure to renew their memberships” will cause significant cuts to:
• over 600 student scholarships
• support for academic recruiting
• support for faculty
It only gets worse for the Tech administrators who decided to throw Leach under the bus, as the LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-JOURNAL reports, “Bill Dean, the association’s executive vice president and chief executive officer, said administrators need to reveal more information about the circumstances surrounding Leach’s abrupt suspension and termination.”
Dean also told the Lubbock newspaper that Tech alumni, “are almost 100 percent opposed to the university’s firing of Mike Leach. They’re angry and they’re mad and threatening to withdraw support from every aspect of the university because of this.”
Again, Dean runs the largest private benefactor of academics at Tech, and he and his members are universally outraged over the school’s opaque representation of the Leach dismissal.
Not surprisingly, sentiment is now growing among prominent Tech academic donors for the ouster of Tech Chancellor Kent Hance and Athletic Director Gerald Myers.
Tech Alumni Association donor Dan Atcheson said the Leach saga has been a “worldwide embarrassment” for Tech.
“I would like to see (Tech Chancellor Kent Hance) go and I would like to see (Athletic Director Gerald) Myers go - and anybody else who they can prove was part of this,” said Atcheson, now a resident of Venice, Fla. “Again, it just comes back to the administration. If they can’t shoot straight with the coach, they can’t shoot straight with anybody.”
In response to the Alumni Association letter to members and the article in the Avalanche-Journal, the school’s Board of Regents (Directors) posted a letter tonight on the Alumni Association’s website.
The letter was a response to CEO Dean’s desire for, “more information about the circumstance” surrounding the Leach dismissal.
But instead, the Regents memo rehashes the Tech administration’s already-public party line on why Leach was fired, with no new details. Of course, because Tech is facing a massive legal battle with Leach, that was probably advisable, but in the meantime donations will continue to disappear and there isn’t much the Tech administration can do about it until next football season gets underway. (On second thought, Hance and Myers could always resign.)
Hance and Myers and school President Guy Bailey have painted themselves into a corner with the school’s largest private donor and the relationship only figures to get worse if the school ends up having to pay out a multi-million dollar settlement to Leach for wrongful termination, which is a distinct possibility.