Texas Tech University officials wasted little time in acting upon allegations of player mistreatment on the part of head football coach Mike Leach: Leach was fired Wednesday, just two days after being suspended by the university as an investigation into the alleged misconduct was launched.
The swift death knell for Leach came in the form of termination papers handed by a university representative to Leach's attorney, Ted Liggett, just moments before the two sides were due to appear in court for a hearing on the coach's suspension in Lubbock.
It was no secret that the relationship between Leach and Texas Tech Athletic Director Gerald Myers was a tumultuous one. And now, in the wake of the firing, a palpable backlash in Lubbock and across the national college football landscape has begun. Leach's camp contends that the suspension was unjustified.
"So they pulled the trigger," said Liggett. "They don't want that coming out.
"We can guarantee the fight has just begun."
Outside of the courtroom, the decision has been met with fervent indignation.
"I feel cheated, I feel robbed, I feel that the support of the alumni over the years has been more than gracious, even through tough economic times and especially with the donations made for the stadium [expansion in 2008]," said a board member of the Texas Tech Alumni Association. "For one man (Myers) to be able to take that away without giving any answers is utterly wrong."
Many alums and critics of the move see the firing as a sort of betrayal. The Red Raiders were experiencing what was described by many as a sort of "golden age of Texas Tech football" under Leach, an idea that served as a selling point for many of the program's donors.
His quick and decisive ouster, the validity of which has become a point of contention in West Texas, has left many of these donors incredulous. Myers, who played basketball for Texas Tech in the mid-50s, has become the target of relentless and widespread criticism in the wake of the decision, with many believing his strained relationship with Leach to have been a factor in the timing of the move.
Leach and Myers butted heads last year over the coach's decision to interview for the head coaching position at Washington without informing university officials. After Leach pulled his name from consideration, a tense and drawn-out period of negotiations over an extension with Texas Tech began. The two sides finally agreed in February to a five-year, $12.7 million extension.
With Wednesday's termination, Texas Tech, their fans and alumni are left with myriad questions and very few answers. With angry calls and e-mails already overwhelming switchboards in Lubbock and droves of fans calling for Myers' resignation, the after-effects of the move, it's safe to assume, are only beginning to be felt.
"The decision jeopardizes fans, alumni and a program that was on the rise," the source said. "[Myers] just threw that away because of a personal vendetta."