Published February 17, 2012
LUBBOCK, Texas – The Texas Supreme Court on Friday denied Mike Leach's appeal in his wrongful termination lawsuit against Texas Tech.
The ruling from the state's highest civil court rejected Leach's appeal without comment more than two years after the coach was fired by the university amid allegations he mistreated a player with a concussion. The player, Adam James, is the son of then-ESPN broadcaster and current U.S. Senate candidate Craig James.
Leach, who denied the allegation and later sued the school, has said he suspects an $800,000 bonus he was due the day after his firing was behind his dismissal. He was recently hired as the coach at Washington State.
Leach's attorneys had challenged an appellate ruling that threw out Leach's breach of contract claim against Texas Tech based on sovereign immunity for the university. The ruling allowed Leach to try to show Tech's reasons for firing him were wrong -- without monetary relief -- and the university appealed that decision to the state's high court.
The decision Friday denied the appeals on both sides, meaning Leach can seek a ruling that Tech erred in firing him. Leach attorney Ted Liggett said he would seek such a ruling, while Tech spokesman Dicky Grigg said he hoped the latest decision was "the end of the road."
"As we've said from the beginning, we were right on the law and the facts, and the (Texas) Supreme Court has just held that we were correct on the law," Grigg said.
A Lubbock trial court's ruling on sovereign immunity went against the school, but the decision from the 7th Court of Appeals upheld Texas Tech's assertion that it is a state entity and can only be sued with permission from the state Legislature or a waiver based on a defendant's conduct.
Leach wrote to Texas Tech regents in November, two days before he was hired as the Cougars' coach, seeking to settle the lawsuit. The regents rejected the offer, which did not specify an amount Leach believed he was owed for his final season.
In a separate case, Leach has also sued ESPN Inc. and a public relations firm, accusing them of libel and slander after he was fired. The lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages and retractions from ESPN and the PR firm.