The new Mike Leach book, Swing Your Sword, is out.
In the book, Leach retells the events of his legally-challenged ouster at Texas Tech in late 2009 - and provides stunning new documents and details that verify a professional public relations campaign paid for and orchestrated by ESPN’s Craig James against the all-time winningest coach in Tech football history.
If you followed the story as it initially unfolded, you may be aware of at least some of the actions of Texas Tech officials during the regrettable episode. Actions that left Leach no choice but to seek legal remedy soon to culminate at the Texas Supreme Court.
If you were reading SbB at the time, it wasn’t unreasonable to suspect that Craig James and his professional public relations representative, Spaeth Communications founder Merrie Spaeth, may have had a role in shaping ESPN’s coverage of the story.
But now, thanks to Texas Tech’s status as a state-funded institution, emails obtained through open records requests by Leach and his attorneys show a concerted effort by Craig James and paid agents of the ESPN analyst to materially impact ESPN’s editorial approach to Leach’s untimely departure from Texas Tech.
Leach reports in his new book that even before a complaint against Leach was lodged by Craig James regarding the coach’s alleged mistreatment of his son - former Texas Tech football player Adam James - Craig James had hired Spaeth. (It was Spaeth who hatched the infamous Swift Boat public relations campaign that helped turn public opinion against John Kerry’s during the 2004 presidential election campaign.)
Here is one such email included in Swing Your Sword in which Spaeth Communications employee Rebecca Shaw asks Craig James in an email “if we want to forward the players’ names and numbers exclusively to [ESPN reporter] Joe [Schad].”:
From: Rebecca Shaw
Sent: Monday, December 28, 2009 11:30 PM
To: James, Craig Subject: RE: ESPN 6:29 PM
Craig - Merrie’s position - and I agree - is that the story has been put to bed tonight. Let’s take a look at the coverage first thing in the morning and make a decision then if we want to forward the players’ names and numbers exclusively to [ESPN’s] Joe [Schad], whether we want to include the AP reporter, or if we want to hold off a day to see if the university makes a statement. I’ll be up early checking the coverage. Merrie’s good with the statement that I drafted for you for ESPN. Would you like it circulated to Kevin and Jim or do you want to noodle on it awhile?
Rebecca Shaw Executive Vice President Spaeth Communications, Inc.
In addition to the emails, Leach reports in the following Swing Your Sword excerpt that Craig James went so far as to personally provide the cellphone number of his son, Adam James, to ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad:
There were statements out there from Adam James’s two position coaches, Dana Holgorsen and Lincoln Riley. There was a statement from the strength coach, Bennie Wylie. There were statements from three of James’s teammates—players that had been successful in the program and had witnessed Adam’s behavior, as well as mine.CBSSports.com and other media outlets chose to run those statements. ESPN, which also had them, chose not to.
When one of my agents asked Joe Schad, the ESPN reporter, why they neglected to report those statements, he said he didn’t see how they were relevant to the story. But when Craig James gave Schad Adam’s cell number so he could hand the phone over to his roommate Chris Perry, a back-up lineman whom we’d suspended twice, his statement was considered relevant.
There’s much more incriminating, verifiable information in the book as it pertains to the role ESPN’s Craig James played in helping to personally direct ESPN’s coverage of Texas Tech’s inexplicable decision to terminate Leach.
Leach’s book is now shipping and the Kindle version is available for download. (Bought it myself today.)