A chance for Tech fans to finally realize the Pirate’s ship has sailed

It is fair to say that Mike Leach and the Texas Tech football program will forever be linked. After all, the success the two entities enjoyed during the 2000s not only revolutionized college football but also gave each the type of national notoriety that neither had gained before or has been able to achieve in the years thereafter.

But since the moment Leach was fired in December of 2009, his ghost has hung over the program like a fog and for many Red Raiders who pine away for the halcyon days of the Pirate’s rule in Lubbock, it’s been nearly impossible to move on.  In fact, in each of the two most recent head coaching searches for Tech football, a significant portion of the Red Raider fan base (including some very influential people) have been staunchly in support of bringing Leach back.  Of course, that hasn’t happened and for many, neither has the closure on the Leach era.

But now, after years of being adversaries in the court of public opinion, Texas Tech and Leach will finally lock horns where it matters, on the football field, as the Red Raiders will square off with Leach’s Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl on December 28 in Memphis.

Hopefully, this game will provide much-needed closure to the Leach era and the ensuing controversy surrounding his departure.

Of course, in the interest of ratings, ESPN will play up the connection between Leach and Tech and if they are smart, they will bring back up the controversies surrounding not only Adam James and the electrical shed but also Leach’s lawsuit against Texas Tech University for money he feels he’s owed for the 2009 season.  And sure, there’s a 100% chance that Leach himself will bring up the fact that he still has not received the full salary that he believes is rightfully his for that season.

But big picture, this is finally an opportunity for Tech fans to put everything that has to do with Mike Leach into a box and store it on the shelves of our long-distant memories.  That’s because this matchup comes at the precise right moment for moving on; a moment when the Texas Tech football fan base is united behind its new leader, Joey McGuire, and has hope for the future; something that has been lacking for nearly a decade.

Sure, when you are stuck with a coach in Tommy Tuberville who never truly wanted to be a Red Raider, when you watch a coach who is in over his head like Kliff Kingsbury, or when you have to live through two-plus seasons with an underqualified coach such as Matt Wells, it’s easy to ruminate on the Leach years and refuse to let go of the dream that he could one day make a triumphant return.  But with Joey McGuire having already won over the hearts of almost every Red Raider, Leach should become just another former coach.

There’s no more reason for any Texas Tech football fan to continue to swoon over Leach as so many have in the years since his departure.  The simple fact is that a reunion isn’t going to be in the cards.

At age 60, Leach could be at his final coaching stop, and given that McGuire has a six-year deal in place with the Red Raiders, even if things go horribly wrong for the new boss in Lubbock, by the time Tech will be in search of a new head coach, Leach’s career could be on its final legs as he will be in his mid-60s.

This could be the one and only time that Tech will square off with Leach.  Sure, these two programs are set to meet in 2028 and 2029 but by then, it seems highly unlikely that Leach will still be leading the Bulldogs.

After all, he’s just 11-12 overall and 7-11 against SEC teams during his time in Starkville and it seems as if life in the nation’s top conference is going to be more than his “Air Raid” attack can handle given that the spread offense is no longer unique or revolutionary enough to give his teams enough of a tactical advantage to overcome the personnel disadvantage they experience most weeks in SEC play.

So we should enjoy this game as one against an old familiar friend but no longer should any Red Raider fan look to Leach as the one that got away.  The truth is that his time in Lubbock was on thin ice when it met its expiration and a two-decade run in the Hub City was likely never in the cards for a man who was openly flirting with programs such as Washington and Miami and who was openly feuding with his superiors at Tech.  The writing was on the wall, we were just all too drunk on success to be able to read it.

Now, some 12 years later, we finally get to have the long-awaited matchup with Leach on the gridiron and that adds some major intrigue to a bowl game that would otherwise be just another December sports time kill.

But more importantly, let this be the final chapter in the Leach story at Texas Tech.  The Pirate’s ship has sailed off to other ports and it is time that those still flying the skull and crossbones around the South Plains should lower those flags and move on.  For this game, Leach is the enemy and we can all unite in support of Tech against him.  After that, he needs to be nothing more than a memory as we turn the page to a new and exciting era of Texas Tech football.

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