Under Mike Leach, Tech qualified for 10 straight bowls. But was fired after the 2009 regular season. "I was a victim of a national smear campaign," he says.


Mike Leach's 23-month exile from football has been grand.

He has spent time with his family at their Key West, Fla., home, traveled to Europe, written a best-selling book, landed a television gig and started an all-star game. He even visited a movie set, where he thought about - of all things - football.

The former Texas Tech coach looks thin and seems happy, especially when talking about his various side projects.

"It's been fulfilling, and it's been fun," he said.

It could also be over.

Leach, 50, said Wednesday he would like to return to the sidelines next season, provided it's the right fit. And while he's heard "nothing in particular, just murmuring," about whether he'll be considered for the Arizona Wildcats' vacant head coaching job, Leach says the UA position is an attractive one.

"Anybody would be interested in that job," Leach said. "They have an idea of what they're looking for, an idea of the direction of where they're going.

"If somehow I fit in there, maybe there will be some dialogue; if I don't, I'm sure they'll select a good individual for the position."

The UA is looking to replace Mike Stoops, who was fired Oct. 10 after 7 1/2 seasons as the Wildcats' coach.

Athletic director Greg Byrne has not commented about potential replacements and has vowed not to talk about the search until Stoops' successor is introduced. Byrne also has demanded silence from any potential candidates, which makes Leach's decision to talk publicly about the job a curious one.

Leach went 84-43 in 10 seasons at Texas Tech. He was fired following the 2009 regular season in the wake of a scandal involving the son of television analyst Craig James. Leach has since sued the university for wrongful termination.

Leach spoke Wednesday at a news conference to promote the first Casino del Sol College All-Star Game. The Jan. 16 game will be held at Kino Stadium and will feature college seniors from throughout the country.

A business partner in a group that owns the game, Leach said he hopes it will become "a January cornerstone" in Tucson.

Game officials believe the contest - formerly the Blue-Gray Game and more recently the Eastham Energy All-Star Game - will bring $1 million in economic impact to Tucson.

The Star talked to Leach on Wednesday about topics ranging from the vacant UA job to Tucson's newest sporting event. Here are his thoughts. 

On Arizona's pending hire: "Anytime you have a position like head coach, it's a team effort. It has to blend in to the interests of the whole university. There are people who know the answer to whether I somehow fit into that better than I do, really."

On Tucson's location, and how it helps the UA program: "I think it's good: You're in a place that's got short flights to LA and direct flights to Dallas and Houston. This is a great place where a lot of people want to be."

On his impressions of UA athletic director Greg Byrne: "I've met him before. I know his father at Texas A&M. Good guy. Young, enthusiastic. We used to talk about our team: Be a team, be the most excited to play, and be the best at doing your job. He's excited about doing his job, I think. He's always been kind of an enthusiastic guy, and I met him before he was an AD."

On whether the way he left Texas Tech will affect his ability to get a new job: "I was a victim of a national smear campaign, which is pretty well-documented. It's also pretty well-documented that it was false: You had a father (Craig James) who was dissatisfied with his son's playing time who used his national media position to smear me. Worse yet, he hired a PR firm 10 days before he complained about anything. There's a whole lot of layers where that's corrupt.

"The more important thing is, we had all kinds of administrators there who I got along fabulously with. Look at the body of work: I have a 10-year body of work. … We won 29 games in the last three years (including the 2010 Alamo Bowl, in which he didn't coach), we had the highest graduation rate of any public institution, we went to more bowl games than the rest of the history combined, my players never got in trouble, and I've never had a major NCAA violation or any of that. I think all that speaks for itself."

On why Tucson will support the Casino del Sol College All-Star Game when other events have failed: "They're tired of them leaving, and those are all done; they're not going to obstruct our effort. … The enthusiasm everybody has shown since we got here (is strong). … (At other places), you charge up the hill and look around and the troops aren't behind you. Every time we looked at this Tucson deal, the troops were growing."

On visiting a movie set: "'Battleship': It'll be out in May. A friend of mine, Peter Berg - he did 'Friday Night Lights' - is interested in football, and that's how I got to know him, actually. I'll tell you what's amazing: When you go there, each day they'd have a two-hour meeting. Their storyboards nowadays are animated; they're on film. So just like coaching, there are 10 guys sitting around a table watching it on film, analyzing how they can best execute it when they go out there and shoot it. In a two-hour period, they'd go over two minutes of film, refine it. It reminded me of football."

On his next step: "I think pretty much everybody knows I'm interested in being back in. I haven't really been that invisible of a guy."

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