ESPN’s James Called Tech Coaches During Games

During an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network Wednesday, an attorney for Mike Leach provided more striking revelations about the behavior of Craig James while directly under the auspices of ESPN.

(Leach lawyer for ESPN suit: James called TT coaches from ESPN booth)

Lead Leach attorney Steve Heninger reported to Finebaum that “well before” James ever lodged a complaint to Texas Tech about Leach’s alleged mistreatment of his son, Red Raider football player Adam James, the former ESPN announcer, “was calling (Texas Tech) coaches from the booth during games and telling them to put Adam in and let him play.”


Excerpt of Heninger’s comments to Finebaum Wednesday:

Heninger:

“He was calling (Texas Tech) coaches from the booth during games and telling them to put Adam in and let him play. Disrupting games. Then at night he was leaving voicemails that he was upset that Adam wasn’t … (Finebaum interrupts)”

Finebaum:

“So Craig James from the ESPN broadcast booth was calling Texas Tech coaches? Is that correct?”

Heninger:

“On some occasions, that’s right. I think he called three or four games that year, that Tech had … the coaches were worried and went to Leach with the problem, (they said) ‘what do we do? This is the ESPN guy telling us that we need to be playing Adam more’

“In fact, Mike met with Adam and said, ‘we’ve got these voicemails Adam (from father Craig), do you want your teammates to hear these voicemails? To hear that your dad is calling the coaching staff trying to get you more playing time? How do you think that’s going to play with your teammates?’

“Adam asked him (Leach) not to play the tapes and he didn’t. And this was all well before the controversy about an electrical closet that never happened. That’s the backdrop of this whole thing.”

During the 2009 college football season, James worked at least three Texas Tech games for ESPN, including Tech’s Sept. 26 game against Houston, Oct. 17 game against Nebraska and Nov. 14 game against Oklahoma State. James was also originally scheduled to work ESPN’s telecast of Texas Tech’s meeting with Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl on New Year’s Eve - but was pulled off the broadcast after his complaint helped create Leach’s ouster at the school.

As reported by SbB on Jan. 16, 2010, Leach’s lawsuit against Texas Tech alleges that Craig James called then-Texas Tech Director of Football Operations Tommy McVay and then-Tech assistant coach Lincoln Riley on the same day in 2009 about his son, “stating, in effect, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing. Adam James is the best player at the wide receiver position. If you’ve got the balls to call me back, and I don’t think you do, call me back.’

In his deposition for the Leach lawsuit against Texas Tech, Craig James testified the following on March 13, 2011:

Paul Dobrowski: Did you call (Tech assistant coach) Lincoln Riley at that time (2009)?
Craig James: Yes.
PD: What did you say?
CJ: Left a message for him to call me.
PD: What did you say on the message?
CJ: “Give me a call. I would like to talk to you.”
PD: Why did you call him?
CJ: The same reason, to find out what Adam had done, what we could do to keep him on track here and not go into the tank.
PD: And did you leave a message to the effect that, “if you have the balls and I don’t think you do, call me back?
CJ: I may have. I may have.
PD: Well, when you say you may have, that indicates to me that that kind of rings a bell or sounds familiar.
CJ: I could have. I could have.
PD: Okay. As you sit here today, do you believe that you left that kind of a message?
CJ: I believe I could have, yes.

Later during the 2009 season in which Craig James made the complaints referred to by Heninger yesterday, the ESPN announcer accused Leach of mistreating his son after an alleged injury. That accusation led to Leach’s firing by Texas Tech.

Heninger also told Finebaum Wednesday that as soon as the Texas Supreme Court renders a verdict in Leach’s appeal for a jury trial against Texas Tech in his wrongful termination lawsuit against the school, he will pursue his defamation lawsuit against ESPN.

A lawsuit which prominently documents James’ specific, behind-the-scenes role - which included providing son Adam’s cellphone number to ESPN reporter Joe Schad - in ESPN’s on-air coverage of the coach’s ouster at Texas Tech.

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realtalk: Why Is Mike Leach Really Suing ESPN?

Today Mike Leach filed a libel lawsuit against ESPN and Spaeth Communications. The premise of the legal action, filed in Lubbock District Court today, is essentially to allow Leach to clear his name.

Mike Leach accused Craig James of making inappropriate calls to his coaching staff

But if you’ve followed the Leach vs. Texas Tech saga like I have, you know the real reason Leach is going after ESPN and Spaeth in this instance.

Last night, before Leach made his claim against ESPN and Spaeth, he executed another legal manuever that has gone largely unreported. That manuever though went a long way to revealing the real motivation behind today’s lawsuit.

From KCBD in Lubbock yesterday:

“Officials say former Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach has dropped all legal action against the individuals named in his suit against the University.

“That included Chancellor Kent Hance, President Guy Bailey and Athletic Director Gerald Myers, plus two members of the Board of Regents Larry Anders and Jerry Turner.

“This does not mean he dropped his case against the university, just the individuals named in the lawsuit. ”This is not a new development,” says Leach’s Attorney Ted Liggett.  “The parties entered into a ‘Rule 11′ agreement finalizing the judge’s decision of several months ago that no action will be taken against the individuals. 

“However, Texas Tech and Craig James are still defendants.” 

So Leach has dropped legal action against all persons in the Texas Tech lawsuit except James, while continuing to press his multi-million dollar claim against the school in the same case.

Think that might have something to do with the fact that it was Craig James who first set Leach’s professional life ablaze by going public with charges of abuse by Leach against James’ son?

The same Craig James who …

  • browbeat Leach - against the wishes of his assistants - into giving his son Adam a scholarship when no other prominent football school was offering a full ride
  • secretly hired Spaeth Communications, the company best-known for discrediting John Kerry’s military career with its “swift boat” campaign in 2004
  • called his dispute with Leach “a spiritual war” - implying you-know-what about the coach

In Texas Tech administrators, James did have accomplices in Leach’s firing. Though more James puppeteers than equal participants to the demise of the winningest coach - any sport - in school history. (A coach who, in his final year at the helm of the Red Raiders, led his team to the highest graduation rate for football players of any public institution in the country.)

No, this new Leach lawsuit isn’t about ESPN. Or Spaeth. Read more…

Leach Sues James-Hired Swift Boat PR Firm, ESPN

Today Mike Leach filed a lawsuit in Lubbock District Court that accused ESPN and James-hired public relations firm Spaeth Communications of defamation.

Mike Leach ESPN lawsuit

Case introduction:

Mike Leach ESPN Lawsuit

Lawsuit excerpt:

Mike Leach lawsuit

Here is the letter Leach attorney Liggett sent to ESPN:

ESPN James Lawsuit

 Lawsuit excerpt covering Spaeth Communications:

Mike Leach ESPN lawsuit

What Leach wants: Read more…