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August 5, 2008

Texas Tech waits to extend Leach

What is Texas Tech thinking?

Mike Leach has the program on the precipice of what could be one of the best seasons in school history the Red Raiders are 14th in the Rivals.com preseason poll and also 14th in the recently released coaches' poll. Those represent the school's highest preseason ranking in 31 years, but Leach has been told he'll have to wait until after the season before getting a sweetened and extended contract.

Insane, but true.

Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers cites budget concerns as the reason Leach won't be given a new contract right now, despite the coach's wishes. So, Leach enters the season with three years left on his contract.

Can Tech afford to lose a coach whose teams have set 151 team and school records, in addition to many national and conference marks? Can Tech afford to lose a coach who has led the program to bowls in all eight of his seasons on campus, including trips to the Holiday, Cotton and Gator bowls en route to compiling a 5-3 postseason record? Can Tech afford to lose a coach who has forged a 65-37 overall record, including 35-29 in the Big 12?

In addition to tremendous on-field success the Gator Bowl victory over Virginia last season was the school's first New Year's Day bowl win in 59 years Leach has brought the Red Raiders program tons of national exposure with his high-powered offense. And he also has stuffed the school's coffers. Attendance has shot through the roof during his tenure. Season-ticket sales for 2008 already have surpassed '07 figures, and Tech is in the midst of its third stadium expansion since Leach took over the program in 2000. That's cold, hard cash.

Again, I ask: Can Tech afford to upset Leach and risk losing him?

Apparently so.

Making a strong commitment to Leach right now would send a strong statement to recruits that Leach is in it for the long haul - and that Tech is serious about football.

A major reason Tech finds its budget squeezed is because it still is paying four coaches a women's basketball coach, a men's basketball coach, a baseball coach and a defensive coordinator who no longer are at the university. Want more? Tech also is paying the women's basketball and the men's basketball coaches' secretaries.

How is this Leach's fault? Why should he suffer and be made to wait because of bad decisions by the Tech administration? Maybe Tech wouldn't be so pressed for money if Myers was a more aggressive fund-raiser.

Leach is worth whatever he's asking, and arguably deserves to be the third highest-paid coach in the Big 12. As it stands, Leach is the seventh highest-paid coach in the Big 12, trailing Oklahoma's Bob Stoops ($3.5 million), Texas' Mack Brown ($2.91), Kansas' Mark Mangino ($2.3), Missouri's Gary Pinkel ($1.85), Texas A&M's Mike Sherman ($1.8) and Baylor's Art Briles ($1.8).

You, me and my dog Rover know Leach deserves to be higher on that list.

Leach is set to make $1.75 million this year. In 2009, he'll be paid a base of $1.85 million, with an $800,000 retention bonus. In 2010, Leach will make $2.15 million in addition to a $200,000 retention bonus.

Tech's decision to make Leach wait could create the perfect storm that sweeps him out of west Texas. If the Red Raiders are as good as many folks think, Leach will become a hot commodity and be pursued by many schools.

Apparently, Tech decision-makers feel Leach has to wait to be rewarded. That's a risk that may end up burning the school.

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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