Friday, January 1, 2010

Mike Leach: It's bad to be both wrong and dumb

After being fired for punishing Adam James for being unable to play without a concussion, Leach has granted an interview with ESPN, shown in its entirety here.

It's an interesting situation that warrants commentary from us given how actively we've discussed concussions here. This is an important topic that deserves the media attention that it's getting. But what I'm not certain of is how much people are truly focusing on the correct thing.

Leach is maintaining he's done nothing wrong in this situation. And this is becoming a he-said-she-said story about how big the shed was, whether there was an ice machine in the shed or not, and whether or not what he did was put the kid in danger. In the interview, Leach says:
"The most important line on this statement [by the dr that diagnosed James with the concussion] says 'According to the information given to me, no additional risks or harm were imposed on Adam by what he was asked to do.' Okay and I'm gonna read it again because I think that's the most important issue on this."

The problem is, that's not the most important issue here. Not even close. Which makes Leach both wrong and stupid.

No, the most important issue in this is that Mike Leach is being accused of punishing a player for having an injury. And it doesn't sound to me like he's denying any of it.

It's one thing if Leach was saying he didn't believe James had a concussion and was punishing him for being an idiot. I could accept a story like that. And I've waited to post something about this until I got to hear Leach's position on this issue. Now that I know his stance is that he's done nothing wrong because the kid wasn't put in any additional risk, I'm happy to talk about how impressed I am with the stance Texas Tech has taken, and hope it sends a strong message to coaches around the country.

This, pure and simple, is an issue of the message Mike Leach was sending to the rest of his team. The message that having a concussion - or other type of injury - is a stigma. It's an encouragement for his kids to keep quiet about the injury and play through it.

It's a terribly dangerous message for him to send. It's tough for me to see how he doesn't understand that, but then again, I don't get a lot of the machismo crap that seems to be ingrained in many of these athlete's heads. It's a mentality that needs to change, and hopefully the actions Texas Tech have taken will begin to institute some of that change.

As a father of two young girls, I try to put myself in Craig James' position, or the position of the parents of one of the other kids on that team. And all I can think is, if I heard my kid's coach punished someone for being injured, I would explode. My kid would be off the team the next day, and then I'd be giving the coach and the school's administration an earful, and potentially getting a lawsuit ready.

Kudos to Texas Tech for firing him. Leach's inability to admit he's done anything wrong says to me honestly that he shouldn't work again, even though I'm sure he will. If he were a coach of a team my kid was considering, my kid wouldn't be considering that school any longer.

But more than that, I hope this sends a powerful message to other coaches and schools that this sort of attitude is no longer acceptable. For the sake of the kids and their safety, it's an attitude that has to change.


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