Ahoy, mates. A full-blooded American pirate will be in our burg the next two days. Consider yourself warned.
Mike Leach, the swashbuckler himself, will be at the Oak View Barnes and Noble at 7 p.m. Tuesday to sign his book “Swing Your Sword.” Then, on Wednesday night, the new Washington State football coach will be the headliner at the annual B’nai B’rith sports banquet.
There’s no telling what will happen at either event or when they’ll end.
“He’s very approachable,” said Bruce Feldman, who co-authored “Swing Your Sword” with the former Texas Tech coach. “He likes to talk to people. He’s that guy that will talk to anybody. He might sit there and talk to one person for 20 minutes.
“Last fall, when he started doing these, he had a book signing in Dallas that was unreal. He outsold an appearance by Sarah Palin at that store. The only bigger draw there had been Ozzy Osbourne.”
His firing at Texas Tech. His grudge against Craig James. His tenure as offensive coordinator/sports information director/equipment manager at Iowa Wesleyan in 1990, when he lived in a trailer decorated in red shag carpet. Anything Nebraska football. Playoffs. Politics. And, of course, pirates. Leach will take on anything, as he did in his book.
Leach filed a wrongful termination suit against Tech. The coach might disagree, but Texas Tech may have done him a favor. For years, he was a free spirit in west Texas, an original, this great character out of a Dan Jenkins novel. He was a brilliant football mind, a voice worth listening to, but hidden among the tumbleweeds.
Now he’s mainstream, and it could be argued public opinion has turned on James and favored Leach. He’s got a hot book, he co-hosted a national radio show on XM last year, and he’s ready to bring his way of football into the Pac-12 this fall. Leach has never been more popular. He’s got his name back and then some. But for two years, things weren’t so rosy.
“There’s something to that,” Feldman said. “But for two years, he didn’t know if he would get back into coaching. He went through a lot. I know how tough it was every time someone mentioned the ESPN and Craig James thing. But the truth came out.”
Enjoy, Omaha. And be careful of that sword.
• Creightonians need to be on Big East Watch. John Marinatto resigned as Big East commissioner on Monday. This looks like the beginning of a big mess. The Big East has issues. Membership issues. Identity issues. There’s talk now that the Mountain West is trying to talk Boise State and San Diego State into jumping Big East ship and coming back.
Whatever happens, the idea of a league of basketball-first schools coming together has to be considered. I don’t know where Creighton would be on a list of prospective schools. With Butler going to the Atlantic 10, maybe CU would move up the ladder. Bottom line, the Big East is highly volatile. Anything could happen in the next few years. Keep an eye on this one, Jays.
• I realize that Darin Erstad inherited issues at Haymarket Park, but the Nebraska baseball season has now become confusing. And at a danger spot. The Big Red is coming off arguably its worst day in years, losing a doubleheader to Indiana. That knocked NU to seventh in the mediocre Big Ten. The top six go to the Big Ten tournament. There’s two weekends left to pad Ws. But let there be urgency. Another year without a conference tournament— and a Big Ten tournament, at that — would be unthinkable. Meaning, Husker fans wouldn’t want to think about it.
• Some people are using the death of Junior Seau to connect the dots and say they want to ban football, that they won’t let their kids play football. That’s incredibly sad.
As football and Seau fans looked back on the life of the late San Diego Charger linebacker last week, all the memories came back to one image. Here was a man who loved life, who loved football and made a celebration out of the game. Seau played with a boyish passion that drew people to him, and to the game.
That’s not to say that the dangers of concussions should not be studied and dissected. They should. But it’s too soon, with too little evidence, to say what caused Seau to allegedly take his own life. Depression can come from many things. There are countless former NFL players who aren’t depressed, who found a life after football. Many struggle with it. Rather than talk of banning football, I’d challenge universities and the NFL to create programs that help players prepare for life after the game.
• Shout Out: To Nebraska defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler, who made the initial Lott IMPACT trophy watch list. And while there are seemingly 1,019 college football award watch lists this time of year, Steinkuhler is an interesting case. The senior defensive tackle was a high profile recruit from Lincoln Southwest. There was debate what side of the ball he should play on. He was projected to take the baton from Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick. He’s flashed potential, but has yet to reach dominant status.
Do the Lott folks know something we don’t? Should be something to watch next season.
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