Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach Fired After Claims of Abuse

Coach Mike Leach fired day before he was due an $800K bonus.

Dec. 30, 2009 — -- Texas Tech University football coach Mike Leach was fired today in the wake of allegations that he mistreated one of his players.

The dismissal came one day before Leach, who signed a five year, $12.7 million contract earlier this year, was scheduled to receive an $800,000 bonus, according to ESPN. Instead, Leach will receive a severance package of $400,000 annually for the next four years.

His firing also came just days before his Red Raiders team is scheduled to play Michigan State in the nationally televised Alama Bowl game.

The university initially suspended Leach, but the coach fought back by hiring an attorney and challenging the suspension.

The university gave Leach's attorney, Ted Liggett, a termination letter just before the two sides were scheduled to meet in court for a hearing on the coach's suspension, according to the Associated Press.

Liggett told the AP that the letter says Leach is "terminated with cause effective immediately."

The university suspended Leach Monday after the family of receiver Adam James -- whose father is Craig James, a football analyst for ESPN -- complained to the university that the college sophomore had been mistreated.

But Liggett said the allegations are untrue and that his client keeps all injured players near the team so that players still feel like "part of the team."

"Right now, we're going through the court system to try to get this decision reversed and have him coach in the bowl game," Liggett told ABCNews.com, calling the effort to get Leach reinstated before the Alamo Bowl an "uphill climb."

While the university itself did not name James in its announcement of Leach's suspension, calling the incident a "personnel matter," the family itself released a statement Monday identifying the 21-year-old as the player in question.

In the statement, the family claimed that their son had "been subjected to actions and treatment not consistent with common sense rules for safety and health."

The university has named defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill as the interim head coach who will lead the team in the Jan. 2 game.

Craig James, the player's father, will also no longer announce the game on Saturday, following the allegations, according to an ESPN spokeswoman.

Coach Mike Leach Accused of Putting Player in 'Dark Shed'

Both Craig and Adam James declined requests for interviews with ABCNews.com.

Leach's suspension comes on the heels of an in-depth investigation by local Lubbock, Tex., newspaper the Avalanche-Journal, which, on Dec. 17, the day after the student athlete was diagnosed with a concussion, reported that Leach had allegedly mistreated James.

According to the paper, Leach ordered James to "stand in a dark shed at the Tech football practice facility because he thought James was faking a concussion."

Two days later, the paper reported that Leach had James stand in another dark room "for three hours."

But Liggett says that the characterizations of where James was put are inaccurate, and that Leach was trying to protect the player from an "unseasonably warm" day in Lubbock while he recovered from his concussion.

"[Leach] thought James would probably be better off in the equipment room -- it's like a portable building -- it's not a shed," Liggett said. "It's air conditioned, if not very well-ventilated, to a point where it's a luxury to go in there in the heat.

"Not only did he put him in a room out of the heat, but [Leach] put him in a room that was very dark, which is good if you have a concussion," Liggett said, adding that an assistant also was ordered to check on James throughout the day.

As for the allegations that James was put in another dark room a few days later, Liggett said that Leach put James in a media room that he says is being unfairly described as an "electrical closet."

"It sounds like a band from the '60s, I don't know what an electrical closet it," Liggett said.

Liggett says that Leach was treating James like he would any other injured player, making sure his condition didn't alienate him from the team.

"Anyone who knows Mike and has been to his practices knows that if you're hurt, you're still part of the team," he said, "and he keeps you as close to everything as he possibly can.

"If you have a bad hamstring, you're on the sidelines on a bike, outside," Liggett said. "This was just Leach keeping James close."

Former Texas Tech Player Defend Coach Leach

A former athlete for Texas Tech's football team, Eric Morris, told the Avalanche-Journal that Leach would always require injured players to be present during practices, saying, "If you're injured, you're required to still participate in some form or fashion. You still have to be outside and doing something."

And while other former players have stepped up in Leach's defense, this is not the first incident that has called the coach's behavior into question. During a news conference in October, Leach blamed the team's loss against rival Texas A&M on his players listening to "their fat little girlfriends."

In the meantime, Leach is holding up "just fine," according to his attorney, but is anxious to return to the sidelines.

"All Mike wants is to be reunited with his boys as the winningest coach in the history of Texas Tech University football," Liggett said.

"He wants to be reunited with his boys to play in this 11th straight bowl game."