I am sympathetic to Mike Leach’s cause, as it concerns Texas Tech University and the courts of the Republic of Texas. He says the school owes him $2.5 million for his work during the 2009 season, and without getting into the weeds, I’ll say I find his argument, which is essentially that he coached the 2009 season and should be paid for it, more compelling than Texas Tech’s argument, which is that he coached the 2009 season but shouldn’t be paid for it because he was fired for cause at the end of it.
But the thing is all moot, because of a law in Texas and other states that says, in so many words, that you can only collect on a lawsuit against the state if the state allows you to sue it. Texas isn’t going to let Leach sue Texas Tech, and so that is that. This is known as “sovereign immunity.” The merits and details of sovereign immunity are occasionally debated in the Supreme Court, but the law, as a concept, is not currently under attack.
Which means Mike Leach, now the coach at Washington State, is never going to get his $2.5 million.
He does enjoy the moral high ground in this situation, as far as I can see. He did, after all, coach the 2009 season, and whether or not Texas Tech has to pay him for that work is an entirely different question than whether or not Leach rightfully earned that money. Texas Tech’s position is that Leach violated his contract by mistreating former receiver Adam James and is therefore not entitled to his salary from that season.
Whether you side with Leach or Texas Tech on that, the fact of the matter is that Texas’ sovereign immunity law, in effect, prevents Leach from taking legal recourse against Texas Tech to collect that money.
From USA Today:
“It is indisputable that they owe the money, whether the state of Texas will let them snake out of it or not,” Leach said in a text message. “How many other people has Tech cheated over the years? By exposing these abuses of power, maybe we can get the sovereign immunity law in Texas changed and me and others can get paid.”
These are good points by Leach, but on the other hand, there is a reason these laws exist, and it is primarily that state governments and institutions have giant piles of money everybody and their dog would like to get a piece of. None of this is exactly fair to individuals like Leach, who don’t even get to have their day in court, but by and large the courts have seen this as something of a necessary evil, and controversies regarding sovereign immunity laws are relatively rare, and gain little attention from the press.
The Texas Supreme Court denied Leach’s appeal … in 2013.
He has now hired a Houston-based attorney and former investigative reporter, Wayne Dolcefino, to dig up dirt on Texas Tech officials in what appears to be an effort to simply annoy Texas Tech into paying him.
“We’re going to get into their stuff, OK?” Dolcefino told USA TODAY Sports Monday.
Dolcefino said it’s time for “hardball” with Tech. That includes making public-records requests that seek evidence of waste, fraud and abuse.
“If they want to be weasels and not pay the guy, then they won’t pay him,” Dolcefino said. “But we’re going to look under every nook and cranny. We’re starting with phone records.”
There will probably be some news stories generated by this, and perhaps some embarrassment for Texas Tech, but Leach getting his $2.5 million or changing sovereign immunity law in Texas appears to be a pipe dream.
Not that he shouldn’t keep trying.