Fowler 48 Hours Before Ouster: Leach ‘Clueless’

Two days before Mike Leach was fired, Dec. 29, 2009, Chris Fowler appeared on Colin Cowherd’s nationally syndicated ESPN Radio show.

(Leach’s life went up in flames thanks to claims by Fowler ‘close friend’ James )

Fowler appeared on the show to, in part, discuss complaints made about Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach by his ESPN colleague Craig James. The complaints to Texas Tech administrators about Leach were made by James on behalf of his son, Red Raider football player Adam James.Below is audio of the exchange and a transcription of the conversation.


Cowherd:

When you first read about the Mike Leach story, what do you think? What is your first broad thought when you read the accusations, the player, so forth.”

Fowler:

I read it from a different perspective than most people because I’ve known Craig James for 20 years. He’s been a close friend and I’ve worked with him on (ESPN College) GameDay since the early ’90s, so I definitely feel for him and his family and what they’ve gone through and how tough it would be for them to notify the administration in this case.

This is not a hot-headed guy who is going to fly off the handle at the first complaint from his son. He knows what football is, it’s a tough sport and you have to endure so I know for him to make the move that he did, and be aware of the repercussions that it would have for Leach, the program and his own son and he’s got a younger son Andy that also goes to Texas Tech and was thinking about playing football there next year so I feel for what he (Craig James) went through to make that decision.

Everybody that’s a parent who has kids that plays sports, you get confronted with these things at one some point or another, an overzealous coach that’s my perspective. It’s kind of tough for me to step back and comment with distance because I’ve known Craig and I’ve known Adam for a long time.”

Cowherd:

I would imagine there was some reluctance, and I said this earlier, when you’re a public figure, you know you’re going to get beat up on a story like this. Can you tell us how long Craig considered this? Obviously this is difficult but for a public figure it’s even more difficult.

Fowler:

Well they considered it for awhile but I don’t know if he’s being hammered about this. I don’t, I mean, the sense I have is, again, it’s a pretty fresh story with the identity of Adam only being revealed publicly yesterday though it’d been whispered around. 

I think that most people feel that when it’s a head injury, and I speaking just in general terms Colin, a head injury, if you’re a coach in football these days and you don’t understand the importance of that and the need to take it seriously and the need to treat each case individually, listen to the medical experts, listen to the player, understand the long term ramifications of dealing with a guy who has a head injury you’re out of touch. I mean, you’re clueless, if you don’t understand that.

This isn’t a sprained ankle where you’re made at the kid because he isn’t able to go, this is a head injury and I think that’s what has coaches shaking their heads. Guys you run into, and talk to the past 24 hours about this story. They don’t understand how a head injury, you can’t comprehend the seriousness of that.

Two days after Fowler’s comments on ESPN Radio, Leach was fired by Texas Tech and remained unemployed for two years.

Craig James, meanwhile, worked the 2010 and 2011 football seasons with ESPN and is currently running for political office in Texas.

On Dec. 31, 2009, two days after Fowler’s comments were made on a nationally-syndicated ESPN outlet, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS published the following statement from Texas Tech team physician Michael Phy, dated Dec. 25:

I saw Adam James as a patient on December 17th. At that visit I diagnosed him with a mild concussion. I made recommendations regarding level of activity and treatment. These were shared with Adam and the athletic training staff and are documented in Adam’s medical record.

I was not aware of any incident until I was contacted by (Texas Tech representative) Charlotte Bingham. She provided details of a complaint, and I completed a short phone interview and answered questions for her. According to the information given to me, no additional risks or harm were imposed on Adam by what he was asked to do.

Also on Dec. 31, 2009, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS published the following, excerpted statement from Red Raider football team head trainer Steve Pincock, dated Dec. 31:

“In regard to the Adam James situation, the first building was an athletic training storage garage, two of which were adjacent to the football field.– Adam was placed in the sports medicine garage, there is no lock on this building.

“On the second occasion, practice was in the stadium, and Coach wanted Adam to be in a dark location to help his concussion and wanted him out of public view because of his poor attitude and bad work ethic.– Zack Perry, our equipment manager, suggested using the visiting team media room.– I walked Adam to the room, which was at least as big as a two-car garage.

“Inside the room there is an electrical closet.– I looked in the closet and stated that there was ‘no way that Adam would be placed in there’. I shut the door to the electrical closet, and it was never opened again.

“At no time during this practice was Adam ever placed in the electrical closet. The door to the media room was never locked, and trainers attending to Adam stated that he was sitting at times during the practice.

“Adam was never locked in any facility, and was never placed in an electrical closet or tight space, or instructed to do so.

“I received calls about both incidents from Charlotte Bingham, and was asked and answered many questions on the subject, and pictures were taken of both locations. Adam exhibited no symptoms of a concussion after the first day: no memory loss, no confusion, and no dizziness.”

Texas Tech attorney Charlotte Bingham headed the school’s investigation of the James complaint. In her report, she noted that during her interview of Adam James he indicated to her that he “stayed in (electrical) closet (for) five minutes.

Of his punishment by Leach, Adam James stated in his own deposition that the coach’s treatment of his condition was “funny” and that, “being in the shed was not causing me any medical harm.

While in “the shed” on Dec. 19, 2009, Adam James admitted under sworn testimony on March 13, 2010, that he shot the cellphone video of the “electrical closet” in question which he subsequently provided to the public relations firm his father had hired to assist in his handling of the Leach complaint, Spaeth Communications.

Craig James, who also called Texas Tech coaches during games he worked for ESPN in 2009 to complain about his son’s lack of playing time, then authorized Spaeth Communications to release the video publicly on Youtube with the following description:

This video was taken by Adam James, a player on the Texas Tech Red Raider football team on Saturday, December 19th, after being confined by Coach Mike Leach in an electrical closet off the Press Room at Jones AT&T Stadium. James was suffering from a concussion received during an earlier scrimmage game. James was ordered to stand in the darkness until released several hours later. James momentarily turned on a light to record his surroundings with his cell phone.

Craig James later said in his own sworn deposition on March 13, 2010, that he authorized the public release of the video, which led to innumerable airings on various nationally-televised ESPN outlets, because it “was going to help support Adam’s claim.”

It was Spaeth, which also famously derailed John Kerry’s 2004 Presidential campaign with its “Swift Boat” attack ads, that posted the “electrical closet” video on Youtube under an anonymous pseudonym with a description that reported Adam James was “confined by Coach Mike Leach in an electrical closet” for “several hours.

The day after ESPN first aired the Adam James video uploaded by Spaeth Communications, Leach was fired.

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