Washington State's new head coach, Mike Leach, is well-known for his unconventional approach on the football field. But what's less well-known is the way that delightful disdain for the status quo seems to extend off the field as well, where Leach has partnered with the publisher of a series of Houston-area strip-club guides to put on a college all-star game.
On January 16, dozens of the top college football players in the country will travel to Tucson, Ariz., to play in the Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game, to be broadcast on FOX Sports. On the game's website, the organizers are listed as Arizona Sports Group, LLC, a business, incorporated in 2010, listing Leach and John Gray as co-managers. The site's "About Us" section also features bios of both men, but with some notable details missing.
Leach is accurately described as "one of the most innovative offensive minds in the game of football," while Gray is listed as having served as a marketer for the Dallas Blackhawks and the Dallas Mavericks.
Yet nowhere does it mention where Gray is currently employed.
As the publisher of titles like Adult Quest, Wildscene, and Risque Business, Gray presides over a regional strip-club-guide empire. His magazines are a quirky mix of raunchy editorials from local lawyers and porn stars and glossy ads for Houston-area cabarets.
In the December 2011 edition of Adult Quest, running alongside the "Sexscopes," reviews of the latest DVD porn releases, and a legal-advice column from "Jeffrey L. Greco of Greco & Associates" is the "Publisher's Pen," a front-of-the-book note written by Gray. Consistent with the issue's holiday theme, Gray's December note takes the form of a revised version of "A Visit from St. Nicholas": " 'Twas the month of Christmas when all through our land, not a Christian was praying nor taking a stand."
At the end of Gray's note is a photo of a naked man wearing a small Santa doll as a skirt, with his flaccid penis protruding from a hole where St. Nick's nose normally would be. "Rub Santa's nose for good luck" reads the sign in the picture.
According to Heath Stillwell, site designer for Adult Quest, Gray is also the man behind a once-annual gathering of porn stars. From 2007–2009, Gray hosted three editions of Lone Star Pornutopia in Houston. All that remains of the bacchanal are a bare-bones site and a Facebook page. But those artifacts, along with its on-the-nose name, offer a clue as to what Pornutopia was all about.
Stillwell says it was a huge industry party, with big names like Ron Jeremy and Ginger Lynn in attendance. He says Jeremy has been a "close personal friend of [Gray's] for years and years." Pornutopia's Facebook page also has 32 pictures under "Invited Stars," calls itself the "party of the year," and lists a local ESPN affiliate as a sponsor.
Nor is Gray without his legal troubles. In 2010, Austin photographer Leann Collins sued him in federal court, alleging he'd stolen $240,000 worth of copyrighted photos that he'd used without permission in his magazines. When Collins sent an e-mail to an address listed in one of Gray's publications, she got a concise response (subject line: "fuck you") from a Gray employee who identified herself as Ginger Johnson and provided a nearly unreadable explanation of the relevant public-domain law: "bitch your pics are public domain," she wrote. "if ya don't wnt them usd don't put them on web ya dumb btch don't threatn me agin don't call I talked to mags they don't give a shit thers nothing ya can do so fck off."
Collins says the suit is ongoing. Gray, meanwhile, did not return multiple calls for comment.
While it's unclear when Leach and Gray first met, they've known each other for at least two years. On December 3, 2009, Gray and a number of Leach's other friends, including his personal attorney, surprised him with gifts in the Texas Tech locker room a few weeks after the coach had broken the record for the most wins in school history.
"We wanted to thank coach for all the wins," Gray told a reporter with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal shortly after presenting Leach with a Rolex and a 30-inch stainless-steel sword, a nod to the coach's obsession with pirates. "Hopefully he stays at Texas Tech."
Gray, of course, would not get his wish. A week after receiving his sword, Leach was suspended by Texas Tech for what the school said was the mistreatment of an injured player. That suspension marked the beginning of a years-long, still-unresolved lawsuit involving Leach, his former employer, and ESPN, the world's biggest sports broadcaster. It's also what allowed Pac-12 basement-dweller Washington State to hire a coach once seen as a shoo-in to lead a major national program. (Washington State's athletic department also did not return multiple calls for comment.)