Mike Leach loses appeal in suit vs Texas Tech

By Betsy Blaney

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 17 2012 10:43 a.m. MST

LUBBOCK, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court on Friday denied Mike Leach's appeal in his wrongful termination lawsuit against Texas Tech.

The court rejected Leach's appeal without comment more than two years after he was fired by the university amid allegations that he mistreated a player with a concussion. The player, Adam James, is the son of Craig James, a former star at SMU, ESPN broadcaster and currently a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas.

Leach denied the allegation and later sued the school, saying he suspects an $800,000 bonus he was due the day after his 2009 firing was behind his dismissal. He was recently hired as the coach at Washington State.

Leach's attorneys had challenged an appellate ruling that threw out Leach's breach of contract claim against Texas Tech based on sovereign immunity for the university. The ruling allowed Leach to try to show Tech's reasons for firing him were wrong — without monetary relief — and the university appealed that decision to the state's high court.

The high court denied the appeals on both sides, meaning Leach can seek a ruling that Tech erred in firing him. Leach attorney Ted Liggett said he would seek such a ruling, while Tech spokesman Dicky Grigg said he hoped the latest decision was "the end of the road."

"As we've said from the beginning, we were right on the law and the facts, and the (Texas) Supreme Court has just held that we were correct on the law," Grigg said.

Leach did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The decision is the latest twist in an ugly case. Leach was accused of twice ordering Adam James to stand for hours confined in a dark place after he got a concussion.

Attorneys on both sides have swapped accusations and court filings since the firing, with the highly successful coach claiming among other things that school leaders were persuaded in part to fire him by the older James. Before Leach was hired in December, his attorney said he couldn't get a job because of the firing.

A Lubbock trial court's ruling on sovereign immunity went against the school, but the decision from the 7th Court of Appeals upheld Texas Tech's assertion that it is a state entity and can only be sued with permission from the state Legislature or a waiver based on a defendant's conduct.

Grigg said he didn't know what Leach could gain moving forward.

"We'll just have to wait and see what that is," he said. "Whatever the claim is, it's not monetary."

Liggett hinted at an answer.

"The facts will come out and finally the truth will be known," he said. "While we're disappointed that the supreme court has ruled that Mike can't be compensated monetarily for the work he's done, we are encouraged that we finally get to take Texas Tech to trial."

Leach wrote to Texas Tech regents in November, two days before he was hired as the Cougars' coach, seeking to settle the lawsuit. The regents rejected the offer, which did not specify an amount Leach believed he was owed for his final season.

In a separate case, Leach has also sued ESPN Inc. and a public relations firm, accusing them of libel and slander after he was fired. The lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages and retractions from ESPN and the PR firm.

Associated Press writer Betsy Blaney can be reached at http://twitter.com/betsyblaney

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