ESPN Was Likely To Part Ways With James In April

Earlier this year while discussing a potential run for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, Craig James said he didn’t think his documented, prominent role in Mike Leach’s ouster at Texas Tech would affect his political aspirations.

Craig James: Lubbock Radio Station Poll

 (”No“)

From Glenn Hunter of D Magazine on Jan. 31, 2011,

ESPN college football analyst Craig James, who’s weighing a run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s senate seat, says his role in the firing of Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach won’t hurt him politically–even in the heart of Red Raiders country.

“I feel very confident about our position,” said James. “Most people in Lubbock support my position.”

Those comments prompted an attempt by widely-published, D.C.-based pollster Stefan Hankin to verify the latter claim made by James.

On March 7, 2011, Paul Burka of Texas Monthly magazine reported that Hankin’s James-based poll consisted of, “401 likely general election 2012 voters in the West Texas metropolitan regions of Lubbock, Odessa-Midland, and Amarillo were surveyed March 2-3, 2011.

The results, per Hankin:

We found that Mr. James has virtually zero support in West Texas. He is, most likely due to his role in the firing of Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach, a very unpopular figure.

While the entire region is not overly friendly territory for Craig James, the former SMU football star is especially unpopular in the Lubbock area with 52% of voters having an unfavorable opinion of Craig James and only 7% having a favorable opinion.

If you had to pick a winner in the PR battle between Mike Leach, Craig James and the Texas Tech administration, the former football coach is the overwhelming winner.”

In the same January, 2011, D Magazine article that inspired Hankin to clinically debunk James’ claim of support in Lubbock, James said of his possible political campaign:

I’ve got to analyze it. I’m thinking about it. I’ll announce [my decision] sooner rather than later.”

Over 11 months of analysis and thought led James to affirm his decision to run on December 19, 2011.

The same morning that James committed to vying for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, the highest-rated talk radio station in Lubbock, News Talk 790 KFYO, posted an online poll asking listeners, “Would you vote for Craig James in the GOP primary?

The results: 97% of respondents to the conservative talk radio station’s poll answered, “no.”

And the citizens of West Texas aren’t the only ones voicing disdain over James’ germinating political campaign.

Monday Mac Engel of the FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM reported:

A friend of mine who works for a senator in Austin told me a few lobbyists are already leaning on James to not run in this race. That he has no chance of defeating Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Republican primary in the spring.

The same day as Engel’s report noting Texas lobbyists imploring James to reconsider his political candidancy, James told Fox News:

I’m out of the things I’ve enjoyed and I’m going to take that to Washington to make a change and make a difference.

With former presidential primary pollster Hankin already having verified his microscopic voter support in West Texas, and a reported growing distaste across the state for James as a political candidate, why would the former ESPN announcer jump into such a difficult race?

Perhaps because he was about to be pushed?

Multiple sources have indicated to SbB in recent days that ESPN was unlikely to retain James as an employee of the company after his contract expired in April.

While that likelihood may or may not have played into James deciding to make his first foray into politics, his decison had to have come as a relief to ESPN management, which is facing a defamation lawsuit from Leach that is largely based on the documented actions of Craig James.

It would be impossible to think that those actions by James, which were detailed in a trail of damning emails published in Leach’s Swing Your Sword autobiography earlier this year, weren’t central to what SbB has been told was a pending case that ESPN execs were preparing to make against their future employ of James.

Monday, James said on Fox News, “I’m out of the things I’ve enjoyed.”

For the past two years, Mike Leach has been saying the same - thanks to James.

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