By Brent Schrotenboer
Originally published Jan. 7, 2017
Mike Leach’s war against Texas Tech is headed back to court, this time to gain access to records related to his firing from the university in 2009.
Leach, now the head football coach at Washington State, hired an investigative firm in Houston last year to dig up information on Texas Tech officials and pressure them into paying him the $2.4 million he says he is still owed by Tech.
But that firm, Dolcefino Consulting, says Texas Tech has refused to comply with its requests for public records related to his firing. On Sunday, the firm filed a lawsuit against Tech that seeks a court order forcing Tech to comply.
“The public — including students, alumni, and taxpaying citizens — have a legal right to see the emails and investigative notes surrounding coach Leach’s improper termination,” said Julie Pettit, an attorney representing Dolcefino Consulting.
Texas Tech spokesman Chris Cook said Tech likely would not make a statement about the lawsuit until Monday.
The lawsuit further stirs the pot in Leach’s ongoing feud with Texas Tech officials.
Leach recently finished his sixth season at Washington State with a 9-4 record and has not shied away from publicly attacking his former employer.
“We’re still peeling the onion,” Leach told USA TODAY Sports on Dec. 30. “We certainly would like to see the records first of (Texas Tech’s) false statements and false investigation that didn’t even exist. We’re more than pleased to expose that.”
Texas Tech fired Leach in December 2009, accusing him of mistreating a player, Adam James, who had suffered a concussion. Leach denied the accusation and sued the university for wrongful termination and breach of contract.
Leach ultimately lost that case after Texas Tech shielded itself from the suit by claiming sovereign immunity — a Texas law that essentially protects state institutions from being successfully sued for monetary damages.
Leach never got his day in court but previously assembled emails and witness statements that he says proves Texas Tech was wrong. After his firing, he also said Tech never paid him the rest of what he was owed for the 2009 season, when the Red Raiders finished 9-4.
Texas Tech disputes this and says it paid him what he was owed according to his contract.
And now the conflict is spilling back into court.
“This case is about providing public access to information to ensure accountability of our government institutions,” says the lawsuit filed in Lubbock County. “Texas Tech has flagrantly disregarded the law following its controversial termination of popular football coach, Mike Leach — it breached a contract, hid behind sovereign immunity, and now blatantly violates the Texas Public Information Act by failing to produce the public records associated with the termination. This suit is to ensure that abuses of power do not go unchecked.”
Dolcefino Consulting is led by Wayne Dolcefino, a former Houston television investigative reporter.
Dolcefino told USA Today in October that it was time for “hardball” with Texas Tech over the pay dispute and that the only way Tech can make him go away is “to work it out and pay” Leach.
He said Texas Tech has improperly refused to release phone records from Tech’s board of regents, details of expenditures of the football team, and emails between former Tech Chancellor Kent Hance and Kelly Overly, a former Tech foundation official. Dolcefino shared an email from Tech responding to one of his requests, in which Tech said it didn’t have the records he sought.
“TTU does not have a completed investigation report regarding Leach’s mistreatment of Adam James as the completion of the report was interrupted by the litigation ensuing upon Coach Leach’s termination,” the email said from Ronny Wall, Tech’s associate general counsel.
Texas Tech issued a statement in October after Leach hired Dolcefino to investigate Tech:
“When Texas Tech tried to assist Coach Leach in resolving the (player treatment) matter in a reasonable way, he refused. This led to his suspension for the 2009 Alamo Bowl game. Rather than accepting his suspension and moving on, he chose to sue Texas Tech, making it clear that not only was he unrepentant for his actions, but that he was unwilling to cooperate with Texas Tech regarding student-athlete safety. This led to his termination. The courts decided this case years ago, and there is nothing more to add.”
Leach’s contract with Texas Tech said that if he were fired for cause, then its “sole obligation” is to pay him his base salary amount of $300,000 and other performance incentives. Leach says he did receive that $300,000 but not the rest of what he is owed. He also said the cause of his firing was false and not proven in court.
He said he didn’t receive the $1.6 million he was owed in “guaranteed income” or the $800,000 retention bonus owed him if he was the school’s coach on Dec. 31, 2009, a day after he was fired. Leach said that bonus was “six years in the making” and should be paid to him.
Dolcefino Consulting is being represented in the records case by Dallas attorneys Michael K. Hurst of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst and Julie Pettit of The Pettit Law Firm. Hurst previously represented Leach in his prior legal battle against Texas Tech.
“This case represents an example of abuse of power entrusted to Texas Tech as a governmental body, and about demanding accountability,” Hurst said in a statement.