BeyondU Sports will have an in depth discussion with Mike Leach – the former Texas Tech head coach and New York Times best selling author of “Swing Your Sword” – each week. Enjoy this week’s installment:
We had some huge upsets this past Saturday, did you see that Oklahoma upset coming?
I didn’t see that one coming but I did see upsets in general coming. Not specific upsets, but as long as I have been in this it’s that kind of year. Teams define themselves as top dogs and they have a target on their backs and everyone is gunning for them. Teams with an unsatisfactory season are trying to redeem as much respect as they can. Teams that have levels of success some times can get complacent and not have as much respect for their opponent. All these factors come into play. I think that it’s that time of year people are taxed physically and mentally. One team’s up the other is not. There can be surprises especially in these conferences that play one team after another back to back. You know they may not be having as good a season as they like. They (Texas Tech) have big strong players that are fast, so this is really as they say any given week, anybody can beat anybody. That’s especially true this time of year. There will be more upsets this week too.
OU has a lot of veterans with players who have played a ton of minutes at key positions. It’s really rare for Oklahoma to loose a game at home. From a mental standpoint, how does a team slip up like that?
They had a ridiculous number of wins at home. At some point there’s a sense that you are invincible. I think that’s fueled by the media, I think its fueled by the people in town, it’s fueled by the players themselves. Sometimes confidence becomes complacency. You take victories for granted. Texas Tech was not afraid of Oklahoma. We used to have a sign, ”respect everyone but fear no one.” Texas Tech didn’t fear Oklahoma even though they were a superior opponent. Oklahoma didn’t have enough of a healthy dose of respect for Texas Tech. Texas Tech is a good enough team that if they play for 60 minutes, Oklahoma can’t beat them playing 30. OU squandered the first half, they need more than 30 minutes of good play to beat Texas Tech.
I think that the weather delay factored in too. It’s one of those things you get ready to play at Owen Field. If you are Texas Tech, you are relaxed. If you relax, collect your thoughts, play loose, etc. then you don’t have anything to lose. If you are Oklahoma, you are initially ready to play. You go through your workmanship ready to have a game. Then as the weather delay hits, you know the rhetoric I have overheard once in a while. Some of your weaker minded players are saying:
“This fouls my plans after the game”
“Boy I will sure be glad when this game is over”
“This is taking forever”
“At least we are 24 points favorites, yeah this team can’t beat us, remember how bad we beat them last year”
Then you go through the motions for a half and the other teams doesn’t go through the motions in the half then you are in trouble. The trouble with those weather delays, it’s not like they are saying we aren’t go to play for 1 hour and 45 minutes. It’s constant 15 to 20 minute updates, then it’s a half hour and the storm hasn’t passed. I mean, you are sitting on ready waiting on go. It really is a nuisance.
Do you think in a weather delay it’s actually an advantage to the away team?
I don’t know if it is or if it isn’t. I was thinking about it but I don’t know where I line up. If you are playing at night and you’re the visitor, you’re probably not thinking about what you are doing after the game as you know what you are going to do. You are getting a plane, going home and going to bed. If you’re Oklahoma, its like – Well, alright, I can’t meet my mom or my girlfriend so there goes that. I just think over time if you don’t have the right frame of mind winning so many in a row can on one hand be a burden if you generate pressure on yourself, which you shouldn’t. Or, if victories are being taken for granted, confident drifts into a lack of respect.
What do you know about Texas Tech QB Seth Doege?
I know a lot about him. I’ve known him since he was in the 8th grade. He came to our camp all the time. I coached him for 3.5 years. He has a really good arm, not a tall guy, but a strong arm guy. Good player and it doesn’t surprise me at all to see him have success.
Moving onto Michigan State/Wisconsin. What did you make of that hail mary?
Well, it’s something that teams practice that you don’t always have to do. They executed it well, to a point. Everyone in the place knew it was going to be a Hail Mary. I thought the first receiver should have had it in the end zone but it bounced off his face mask. You send two guys deep to catch it or to at least tip it up. You have the guy to trail it to try to catch the rebound. Of course, that’s what happened and Nichol muscled his way in the end zone. Well executed play, not based on the Hail Mary. Kirk Cousins is one of the most underrated QBs in the country. Seth Doege may be one of the most underrated QBs in the country too.
Have you ever lost a game after a Hail Mary?
We played Iowa in the Alamo Bowl one time. We threw a Hail Mary at the end. It was before they had instant replay. There was a big pile of bodies there. It was to Nehemiah Glover. I suspect he did not catch it after running it back and forth on film over and over. I’m not sure if he did catch it. I’m not suggesting a bad call was made, I just don’t know. There’s just a pile of bodies. It was one of those plays. I don’t think it would have been overturned by instant replay. I still am not sure whether he caught the ball. I lean toward the fact that he didn’t catch the ball, just because that was what the call was. Kirk Ferentz went sprinting across the field as soon as they said no catch and went to the locker room as fast as he could before their changed their minds. It was a heck of a game. I’ve never lost one where someone else threw the Hail Mary.
There’s been some last play stuff. We beat Texas with the play to Crabtree which wasn’t the last play because we had to kick the ball off. People stormed the field so many times we had to kick it off from our 7. Then we looked for a fat guy, squibbed it to him. Of course that guy fielded it like a short stop and went to pitch it to a really fast guy. Fortunately, the fast guy dropped it and that ended the game. An Oklahoma game we had a guy score in the end zone on the very last play. It was a hell of a goal line stand by OU. Then our guy scored at the end. It was quite a play, he was over a bunch of bodies, and has yet to be tackled before the ball crossed the plane. To this day, they still haven’t tackled him. It was a great photograph that was placed on billboards all over Texas for the season ticket drive for the following year.
Who scored the touchdown?
It was Taurean Henderson
Let’s shift gears to Stanford. Have you seen the Cardinal this year?
I’ve seen them a little bit. I think they are a little untested, although that was a good win against Washington. Not sure how good Washington is but they had a pretty good record. Stanford plays with a lot of confidence and composer, led by Andrew Luck. Andrew’s leaderships skills, he’s physical, he’s big, he’s strong, real fast for a guy his size, throws the ball well. To me the most impressive about him is his leadership; they just draw from his confidence and enthusiasm out there.
What do you think their chances are of running the table and having a chance to play for a national title?
Well. I think that if they can beat a real talented USC team that doesn’t play as consistent as they maybe like to, or if they can get past Oregon, they have a shot. There biggest test will be against Oregon. I think they have a chance. Their path is easier then the other teams. The SEC’s path appears to be the toughest and those guys are getting ready to have a showdown not this week but next week. Clemson’s path is a little easier and they are on a roll. Of course K-State plays OU this week and we will see what happens there. Then Oklahoma State and Oklahoma play at the end, so that will define some things. I think the path is pretty tough in the Big 12. I think the Pac 12 is an easier path. That helps (Stanford). Of course Boise is undefeated. I’m not saying it won’t happen, funny things happen in this game but It’s hard to envision Boise getting beat.
Transitioning over to conference realignment. What are you making of what the Big East is trying to do?
I think it’s a combination of dysfunction and desperation. It seems like their conference gets raided and it’s always the pick of the litter teams. Most recently it sounds like West Virginia is leaving. If they don’t have teams, they wont be a conference. Here’s where the dysfunction is. There’s an awful lot of basketball schools that don’t play football. When it comes to making decisions in that conference the ones that are basketball schools that don’t play football decided not to commit to football. On some level they probably don’t understand and fully appreciate the value of football, otherwise they may have football themselves. So they are making this decision. The really ironic thing is the chairman of the committee is the representative from Notre Dame and Notre Dame as an institution themselves are not interested in their own school playing football in the Big East. So to me the vision of football in the Big East under the best of circumstances is clouded when you consider the people making the decision.
With TV revenues sky rocketing and TV being the central motivator for conference realignment, there’s been 369 players in both football and men’s basketball that have signed a petition. They are asking the NCAA and school presidents to raise available scholarship and grant funds. They say the money should come from the TV revenue generated by the various conferences. What are your thoughts on what these young men are trying to do?
Well, that’s a loaded question. I think first of all, that if everybody opened the books and I mean truthfully I think both sides will be surprised. In some instances they would be surprised how much TV revenue there is and for some they will be surprised how little. I think some schools in the lower half of 1A don’t have the TV revenue to perhaps cover something like this and of course others do. If a portion do cover it and a portion don’t cover it then all of a sudden there are are schools at a disadvantage. Do we want that to happen? The other thing is we have guys 18-22 years old who are fairly unproved products. Does the All America QB make more money than walk on defensive back who doesn’t play? Just because money is made in football, in nearly every profession in the country, whether you are a meat cutter, a plumber, an accountant, a doctor doing their residency, a chef, there’s an apprentice period. You don’t make much money. MLB makes a lot of money, but a bunch of those minor league players don’t make much money. First of all you get a degree that’s the most important, just a minute minority make it to the NFL. It’s an oversimplification just because the schools make more money that we put it in the hands of student athletes. I also think it’s a little too narrow minded not to consider the idea and variables that go along with it. I don’t know how it will be administered I think that would be very difficult to decide.
The way the conference realignment is being pursued , the interest of the student athlete under is being ignored for the sake of profit. You are sliding on the thin line of amateurism and professionalism where there’s an exorbitant amounts of revenue being made, small percentages of people are benefiting from it, yet all the labor is on the backs of the apprentices. At some point wouldn’t it be fair to be addressed?
I don’t have any problem raising the stipend as long as it’s consistent and easy to administer. I have no problem with that. The notion that you’re an 18 year old and you signed up to play football that all of a sudden you should be paid $50,000 just because you are on TV, I think that’s crazy. I think the truth of the matter is that if you want to consider it from a market point of view. What’s the market? They play for free. If we said we aren’t giving scholarships or grant and aid, it would be a huge mistake, an injustice and would be wrong. But if they did say that they wouldn’t have trouble fielding football players. There will still be football, the quality of football may diminish, but there will still be football and plenty of people to play.
Let’s close today by diving into a chapter of your book Sports for Dorks. This week the focus is on the no huddle offenses. There’s someone who you encountered that has done extensive research on the no huddle offense. Who is Mark McElroy what is his connection to the no huddle offense?
Mark McElroy has a PHD in physical education and for years has been a great student of football. He’s the coach at Saddleback Community College is in Mission Viejo, CA. He’s studied and written a number of papers and has some interesting statistical material on the historical background of no huddle offenses and their impact on football. What’s interesting, besides Mark’s clear minded point of view, is that he coached the surf team and teaches surfing classes. I’ve had the opportunity to go surfing with Mark and he’s a great surfer. I think the historical background is fascinating, and the statistical material is fascinating. No huddle has been around for a long time, especially if a team’s behind with limited time left. Now teams are doing it throughout the entire game. Of course Oregon and Auburn ran it last year and that commanded some attention. I think that showing and illustrating it’s impact is interesting. A lot of people a toying with the idea. His analysis is fascinating.