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November 11, 2008

Bowden: Leach deserves status as hot coach

It's getting real close to that time of year.

Not the time when we start trying to guess which teams will go where in the postseason, but which coach will go where in the annual coaching carousel.

I have had the good fortune to have been in Lubbock, Texas, the past two weekends. After watching the Red Raiders slice and dice two top-10 teams on the way to a 10-0 record, I am beginning to wonder just how many schools are going to come calling on Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.

He is the hottest coach with the hottest team, and more than one athletic director is looking at what Leach has done at Texas Tech and wishing he had some of that for himself.

Leach, who serves as his own offensive coordinator, is the foremost authority on the passing game. He has had the top passing team in the country in five of his eight seasons in Lubbock, and his passing offense is on top again this season. Leach is a bright guy with an even brighter idea on how to pass the football.

The only wisdom Leach doesn't seem to have is of the conventional kind. For example, it is conventional wisdom that you must be balanced on offense to be successful. That is, you must be balanced between the running game and the passing game. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say the team that runs for the most yards will win the game, I would be a rich man or at least I'd have a lot of nickels.

Winning teams usually run for more yards because when you get ahead you run the football more, and when you get behind you pass it more.

It is the winning that makes you run, not the running that makes you win.

Leach does believe in having a balanced offense, though. The difference is that his idea of balance is more about the distribution of the football between all of the eligible receivers and ballcarriers and making the defense defend the entire length and width of the field on every single play. Whether you throw it to a person or hand it to him doesn't really matter as long as you make the defense defend him and the area he is in.

Needless to say, whatever it is Leach is doing at Texas Tech, it sure is working. Now, the school is going to have to work like crazy to keep their coach in Lubbock.

Can you imagine Leach at one of the elite programs in America, the kind that gets all the best players? No telling what kind of offensive numbers they would be putting up. I could just see Graham Harrell throwing to two or three Michael Crabtrees with a couple of Knowshon Morenos in the backfield and a USC -caliber defense that only gives up 6.7 points a game. I honestly believe he could average 80 to 90 points per game.

Don't get me wrong, I hope Leach is perfectly happy at Texas Tech and never leaves. I saw where athletic director Gerald Myers said this week that the school already is working on a new contract for Leach. Plus, if the Red Raiders can win the Big 12 South this season and make it to the conference championship game and maybe the national title game, there would be no reason to look for greener pastures.

But what happens when he starts hearing those voices in his head? I'm talking about the same voices that Mack Brown heard when he was at North Carolina and Rich Rodriguez heard at West Virginia. There is something about great competitors who want to be in the biggest arena. They want to go where they have the best athletes, the biggest stadiums, the most tradition. They want to go where doing a great job means playing for the national championship every season and not just a possible 10-win season.

Not everybody gives in to that calling. LaVell Edwards never left BYU. Frank Beamer hasn't left Virginia Tech. Even Bobby Bowden, who went to Florida State when it wasn't really much of a place to go, found success and happiness in Tallahassee and never left. There's something to be said for that.

Leach has an opportunity to take Texas Tech to a level it never has seen before and make an impact on an institution and a community that wouldn't be possible at one of the established powerhouse programs if he can just get those voices out of his head.

Terry Bowden is Rivals.com college football analyst. For more information about Terry, visit his official web site. Click here to view previous articles. To send Terry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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