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Lanning, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Vietnam veteran, was approached by Scottsdale (Ariz.) Book Publishing to write the Mike Leach tale. This publisher believed Lanning was right for the job because the Leach story was, as he put it, "basically a history."
"My intention was take a great mound of information and rumors and innuendo and just get to the facts so a person who didn't know much about it would know the entire story," said Lanning, whose books have sold more than a million copies.
Lanning knew little about Leach prior to writing the book, other than he used to be coach at Texas Tech, a school his daughter attended. After researching and writing the book, Lanning is far more intrigued by Washington State's first-year coach.
"I went into the project totally neutral. When I came out, I was sympathetic toward Mike Leach," Lanning said. "I think the book was fair to him. It shows the absolute illegal and immoral things that Texas Tech did.
"Washington State is very fortunate that Texas Tech did the things it did."
Lanning's opinion of the Leach firing is simple.
Lanning said he spent six months writing, researching and editing the book, "about half the time I have had for other books." Early on, Lanning decided not to talk to Leach, because "I wanted to maintain that separation, so someone couldn't say, "Oh, you're working for Mike Leach.'"
Lanning reached out to Leach through his research assistant, and questions were submitted. The WSU coach responded by saying he was free to use anything Leach's book "Swing Your Sword" and his depositions in the Texas Tech matter.
Lanning says he would like to meet Leach, and has friends that may arrange such a meeting some time this fall prior to an early-season WSU game.
At the heart of the Texas Tech/Leach situation is Craig James, the former SMU running back and ESPN analyst who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Texas. It was Leach's perceived treatment of James' son Adam, a Texas Tech receiver/tight end, that led to the coach's dismissal.
James went so far as to hire a communications firm – the same one that crafted the infamous swift boat attacks on John Kerry – to launch a multi-layered public assault on Leach.
Among Lanning's findings:
"Once Craig James accomplished his objective of getting Leach terminated, he seemingly changed his position and his stories," Lanning writes in his book. "He now claimed, despite the emails and witness statements that proved otherwise, that he was surprised by the firing of Leach and that all he ever wanted was to look out for the health of his son and to receive an apology from the coach … Meanwhile, James and his employer ESPN seemed to be doing everything possible—spiritual or not—to ruin Leach's reputation as a coach and as an individual."
Lanning said James was the only person to complain about the book.
"He didn't like that I called the Pony Express the "Phony Express." He said I had some things wrong, but he didn't say what they are," Lanning said.
The most difficult part of writing the book was dealing with Texas Tech officials. In a nutshell, they wouldn't talk. Near the end of the project, Lanning said he presented a half-dozen questions to Texas Tech officials out of fairness, but was rejected.
Still, Lanning and the publisher made sure plenty copies of the book were sent to various officials at Texas Tech, including chancellor Kent Hance.
"I think it's interesting their spokesperson said he hasn't read it. If they haven't read it, maybe they're using it for doorstops," Lanning said.
In the end, Lanning sees Texas Tech's loss of Leach as Washington State's enormous gain.
"It will be a long time before (Texas Tech) sees the glory days of Mike Leach again," Lanning said. "They'll be watching Washington State play in a bowl game, probably as soon as this year."
Lanning said the book has sold well. At his first book signing, more than 300 copies were sold.
"For the military books, they usually did well initially they tapered off quickly. This was start off well, and it's still selling well," said Lanning, who estimated it would probably rank in the middle of sales for books he has authored when all is said and done.
Interestingly, Lanning has ties to the state of Washington. He lived in Tacoma from 1982-88 while in the Army, and two daughters graduated from Lakes High School. Lanning said he nearly retired in Washington, and currently lives on the Texas Gulf Coast.
"I've watched the Apple Cup, and I usually cheer for Washington State," Lanning said. "Washington State is the perfect place for Mike Leach. Lubbock and Pullman are similar towns, with an exuberant student body and a football program that Mike can develop."
EXCERPTS FROM DOUBLE T DOUBLE CROSS
As research progressed, I quickly discovered the Leach supporters to be more available and forthright than the Texas Tech University administrators, who seemed to have adopted a deep-bunker mentality. It soon became apparent that something was just not right—morally or legally. From the outset, the firing of Mike Leach appeared to be more the result of the good old boy buddy system at work than any sound business practice in play, more about personal politics for control than basic professionalism, and more about finances than fairness. But I wanted to gather all the evidence and details in order to present a fair analysis.
"I strongly urge you to not close this matter concerning Adam James … I don't want to eliminate our ability to use this to our advantage should we determine to use it to terminate Leach." Email from Regent Larry Anders to Chancellor Kent Hance, December 27, 2009
"Contract obligates TTU to pay ‘completion bonuses' (800K in 2009 and 200K in 2010) only if he is head football coach at University as of December 31, 2009 … but if we fired him on November 30, 2009, contract does not entitle him to receive the completion bonus." Email from Regent Jerry Turner to Regents John Scovell and Larry Anders, February 20, 2009
Windy Sitton, the first female mayor of Lubbock and a former Texas Tech University Board of Regents member, emailed Vice Chair Jerry Turner hours after the announcement of Leach's termination … "I want you to know that I am very upset with the end result of what happened today … Mike Leach is not perfect by any means, but he cares about his students, he wins games, he fills the seats, he has brought us from last to second in graduation rates. I do not understand why TT has never supported him. I guess we just want to go back to mediocrity. Jerry, I know his firing has been in the works since the Chancellor and the AD were out maneuvered by Leach. That is our problem. The problem rests with arrogance of the Chancellor and the ineptness of the AD. Everyone sees through this injustice to Mike Leach and Texas Tech …
The elder James attended so many practices and made so many phone calls to the coaching staff that they soon began referring to him as a "helicopter dad" for the way he kept "dropping in and hovering." They also less politely called him a "junior high dad" and a "little league dad" because of his interference.
… Leach asked Adam to have his father cease his calls to the Tech coaching staff. Adam apparently relayed the request because Craig James did stop his calls to the coaches. He did not, however, stop lobbying for his son. It appears that he soon began telephoning Chancellor Kent Hance, Regent Larry Anders and other school administrators to complain about Adam's lack of playing time.
Eric Morris played inside receiver … sent a "To Whom It May Concern" letter about James. He stated, "You can find out a lot about a person after playing three years of college football with them … He expected people to baby him and that he was going to make it solely on the fact that his father was a very successful player … he always seemed to have a negative attitude towards the football program the majority of the time."
Graham Harrell … said that James had a negative impact on the team … "the most detrimental part of Adam was his off the field attitude and actions. In the locker room and away from the facilities Adam used any opportunity he had to tell other players that he was being treated unfairly … Adam pretty consistently talked bad about the coaches or down played the importance of working hard when he was off the field … Because of Adam's work ethic and attitude, many of the players on last year's team had a hard time trusting him or relying on him because he was not always practicing and we had seen his laziness during the off season."