Mike Leach would have taken the job with the Tennessee Volunteers if it had been offered, according to the school’s former athletics director John Currie. That’s the biggest of a handful of revelations about the Washington State Cougars coach from a series of documents from the University of Tennessee obtained by media outlets as part of a freedom of information request.
Just how close the two sides were to an agreement, however, is still a bit unclear — it’s a bit difficult to follow the specific timeline with regards to Leach from the handful of electronic communications that pertained to him. But we’re going to give it a go, anyway!
Currie and Leach met in Los Angeles on Nov. 30 where they presumably discussed things related to the vacant Tennessee job, but Currie reported back to his boss that no offer had been made:
“Although I have not offered the job of discussed terms with (Leach), he told me that he would take the job if offered,” Currie wrote in an email to Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “oh, well then — no offer was made, so they couldn’t have been that close to an agreement,” ... here’s the thing: That’s probably just a little bit of plausible deniability from Currie — who was in hot water with Davenport at that point for apparent insubordination — because here’s how the contact between Leach and Tennessee ended (emphasis mine):
Matthew Scoggins, General Counsel for the Tennessee: “Sorry I’ve been in meeting and still am. We are going to take a couple of days and regroup on our search. It has nothing to do with Coach Leach. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner.”
Matt O’Hagan, Leach’s agent: “Thanks Matt, the people we worked with the past two days who are associated with the Vols search were professional and thorough. We negotiated earnestly and in good faith and feel we had reached and agreed to a deal. We hope that UT sees the tremendous value in having Mike Leach as their football coach. He is disciplined and innovate, attributes which has led to great success on the field and in the classroom.”
So, while Currie and Leach might not have specifically discussed an official job offer or specific terms themselves, it’s safe to assume there was a conditional offer on the table that each was well aware of with terms that were agreeable to both sides. That’s usually how these things work — the interview is the final step, not the first.
The negotiations seemed to be happening simultaneously with Tennessee’s pursuit of NC State coach Dave Doeren, with whom Currie met before he took a cross-country flight to Los Angeles to meet with Leach. Currie described Leach as the “back up plan because I was concerned that Dd (Doeren) would back out.”
However, it appears Doeren’s agent thought there was an agreement in place for his client to become Tennessee’s coach, saying Doeren was “fired up.” Communication stopped after that, with the agent saying to Currie, “Really need to hear from you.”
It seems Currie wasn’t giving the agent the cold shoulder; the wifi was out on his 6-hour flight across the country, during which time it appears the deal fell apart and Doeren re-upped with NC State.
“I had every intention of being able to communicate and that we could still get a DD deal done while I was traveling but without an immediate answer, the negative social media assaults against him and the media news of their negotiating with NCSU, I was concerned that I needed to be in position to meet with other candidate [sic] including Coach Leach, who was in LA recruiting.”
During the meeting with Leach, Currie was summoned back to Knoxville.
Leach then sent a series of text messages the next day to Currie, who was by then embroiled in a very public ouster: “It was great to meet and talk to you. You’re a good man and I hope you come out of this ok and we can work together.”
And then later: “Let me know if I can ever do anything for you. I truly wish I had gathered you up and we had the first of many beers together. I wish you and your family the best.”
This certainly leaves me with a number of questions, not the least of which is this: Can Leach be fully committed to this program when he tried so hard to leave?
I’ll let y’all hash out the rest of them in the comments.