LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Attorneys for Texas Tech asked a judge Friday to essentially throw out a lawsuit by former football coach Mike Leach, saying it has legal immunity under state law.
State District Judge William C. Sowder said he would issue a decision later and expected an appeal to the 7th Court of Appeals in Amarillo in any event.
"The sooner we get it up there the sooner we'll resolve things," Sowder told the attorneys.
The university fired Leach on Dec. 30, two days after he was suspended following a claim from the family of receiver Adam James that the coach mistreated the player after he got a concussion.
Leach, who is now living in Key West, Fla., has denied that he mistreated James and said he suspects an $800,000 bonus he was to have received Dec. 31 was the reason he was fired one day earlier.
Leach's lawsuit includes a conspiracy claim, alleging that school officials had wanted him gone since he signed a five-year, $12.7 million contract extension Feb. 19, 2009.
Tech's attorneys told the judge that Leach cannot sue the school because it is a state entity that can only be sued with permission from the state legislature or a waiver based on a defendant's conduct. Sowder said his decision would take time, given the complex legal issues involved.
Leach's attorneys have suggested previously that there was a conspiracy to fire the outspoken and highly successful coach. That issue came up again Friday.
Paul Dobrowski, one of the former coach's attorneys, told the judge that school president Guy Bailey and athletic director Gerald Myers had decided to issue Leach a reprimand and to fine him $60,000 over the incident.
"If Guy Bailey and Gerald Myers weren't coerced then Mike Leach would be the head football coach at Texas Tech today," Dobrowski said. "This was cabal. They were out to get him."
An attorney for the school, Dan Perkins, said Tech wanted to resolve the complaint brought by the player's father, former NFL player Craig James. He said Tech officials tried to get Leach to agree to a list of how players needed to be treated when injured and to have him write an apology letter.
"Why give him the opportunity if the goal is to fire him?" Perkins argued. "Who could have known that Mike Leach would put Adam James in a shed?"