IF YOU CAN'T WIN IT ALL, MIGHT AS WELL BE INTERESTING
By mark rogers
November 4, 2009
I guess that's better than not being a contender and not ever getting in the national spotlight.
Let's be real here. If the best season in your program's history ended with a 65-21 loss to OU (a legitimate perennial national power), a 7-point home win against Baylor (which led by 14 in the 2nd half) and a 47-34 bowl loss to a 9-4 Ole Miss team that had lost to Vanderbilt and Wake Forest earlier in the season...you're not a contender.
If that season is considered the "best in Tech history?" You get the idea...
That being said...and there's no disputing that fact...at least the Tech administrators know what they have in Mike Leach.
He's a quirky, interesting, genius who is a master of mind games, manipulation and the media.
His quotes and antics constantly make headlines and draw the attention of the national media.
Take his latest gem. The "fat little girlfriends" controversy.
Anyone with half a brain would know that Leach wasn't singling out any player's girlfriend. He wasn't making a statement about the obesity rate in America (right around 40% by the way). He wasn't starting a campaign against school lunches and the junk we're feeding our kids.
He was personifying the thing that distracts football players from playing to their potential: praise from family, friends, girlfriends, teachers, classmates, fans and the media.
That's what he was saying.
But why say, "Our players are distracted by the praise they're getting from their family and friends," when you can say, "As coaches we failed to make our coaching points more compelling than their fat little girlfriends."
And we all know that if you play football at Tech, you don't have a "fat little girlfriend."
It caused ripples on a national stage and was a conversation piece at water coolers across the country.
Good publicity. And as some professional team owners believe, any publicity is good publicity.
He's also called out Browns coach Eric Mangini, A&M's "pretend" cadet corps and the Aggie coaches.
The point is, Mike Leach is a brilliant offensive football coach. He knows his stuff. He could and would probably be successful at any number of big programs in the FBS.
Any non-delusional Tech fan can agree that Leach is the best coach in school history. He wins more games every year than Spike Dykes did, plays a tougher schedule and is 5-4 in bowl games.
But having a brilliant coach doesn't mean you can be a national powerhouse.
I don't think you could bring anybody, any coach in the world to Lubbock that would make Tech a contender. Not Urban Meyer, not Nick Saban, not Mack Brown, not Pete Carroll, not anybody.
Location, location, location.
I'm not banging on Lubbock here. I happen to love the city. Met my wife there.
But Lubbock simply cannot compete with Gainesville, Austin, Los Angeles, Tuscaloosa, etc...in terms of weather, proximity to other "interesting" things or tradition.
I can hear the rebuttal now, "but look at Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State. They're national powers and are in 'bad' weather spots not close to anything great."
Yes, but back in the day, you used to have to go to those types of schools to get seen on TV. That was a big selling point.
Now 4- and 5-star high school seniors can go play football where the weather is warm (not dust storm desert-ish or cold) in great areas of the country - near mountains, hills, the beach, big cities - and be on national television nearly every Saturday (especially if your coach likes to play on Tuesday).
And it's those types of players that ultimately make a program a national title contender. You can have the best coach and scheme in the world, but in college football if you don't have the talent, you'll never win it all.
Plus, those other schools already have big-time tradition and momentum. It helps to tell a recruit you have 3 or 4-plus Heisman trophy winners or 5 national titles.
Tech can't show anything other than some SWC championships from the Stone Age and an 11-2 record in 2008 when they knocked off a #1 ranked team.
What I'm trying to say is that there are a lot of programs out there in the same boat as Tech - good teams with the ability to have a great year every now and then and to knock of some ranked teams - but don't have a Mike Leach to make them interesting and relevant.
I bet if Leach wasn't the type of coach he is, he wouldn't have half the talent on the roster that he does today....great talent brought to Lubbock because Tech is in the national spotlight every so often.
That helps in recruiting. It helps to get some very good players.
But the majority (the MAJORITY, not all) of the 4 and 5-star recruits (the type of players that lead to championships) will continue to go to Texas, Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Miami and LSU.
I'd rather have an interesting guy coaching my average football program than a completely boring guy coaching my average football program.