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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2 Wash. St. Players: 38 Marijuana Plants At Home

Vince Grippi of the SPOKANE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW reports today that Sunday morning two Washington State football players were arrested in Pullman on drug charges for allegedly having over three dozen marijuana plants in their residence.

Washington State players busted with 38 marijuana plants

(Agronomy Gone Wrong?)

Pullman police arrested redshirt freshman backup linebacker Jamal Atofau and redshirt freshman Andre Barrington, who is academically ineligible this semester, after finding 38 marijuana plants growing in a house they rented with two other men.

Pullman police spokesman Cmdr. Chris Tennant said that while executing an unrelated search warrant, they discovered the marijuana plants growing in a basement room. Later the cops found manufacturing equipment and paraphernalia. All four residents of the house, including the two football players, were arrested. Read more…

Week In Review: Cowboys Can’t Pick Any Winners

• The new Cowboys Stadium opens with a couple of embarrassing picks, courtesy of Tony Romo & Jerry Jones.

Tony Romo Jerry Jones nose pick

• Well, at least the fans had fun inside the new digs in Dallas - unless you had a “party pass” but weren’t allowed in.

• An angry Oregon fan wants his travel expenses back after watching the Ducks get plucked in Boise. So UO coach Chip Kelly sends him a check.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. delivers a verbal beatdown to Max Kellerman during Floyd’s post-fight interview.

• This week’s sports Twitter craziness comes courtesy Redskins LB Robert Henson, Larry Fitzgerald’s younger brother Marcus, and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.

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SbB@3: Let He Who Is Without Sin Throw 3 TDs

Some Web sites offer you “insider” information on which teams to put money on during the week’s big football games. But only Sports by Brooks has the ultimate insider: Jesus Christ. That’s right, each week Our Lord and Savior will descend from Heaven to offer His insight into the week’s top games. And with over 60 percent of all college and NFL players attributing their success to Him, no one is more qualified to pick winners.

jesus christ, sports handicapper

I know a lot of people wrote into me (bigbettinjc@godmail.com) to give me grief for going 2-3 last weekend. To the people who doubt my wisdom, I can just say that this is a journey and not a short trip. Or as Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” So instead of asking how your picks did, we’ll just use our knowledge gleaned from last week’s games to make better picks.

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Plaxico’s First Night In Jail Could Have Gone Better

• How did Plaxico Burress’ first night behind bars go? Fine - if you discount the other inmate taunts of “A**hole!” & “The Giants suck!

Plaxico Burress courtroom

• Washington State RB James Montgomery underwent surgery on his injured knee last Sunday. And doctors soon learned that it was a good thing James didn’t delay - or he might have died.

• Could the Nets’ new owner have LeBron Russian to New Jersey?

Perez Hilton posts his doubts about whether Lamar Odom & Khloe Kardashian will actually tie the knot.

Evander Holyfield has the bright idea to turn his Georgia mansion into a solar power plant.

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Speed Read: Wait - WSU Cougar RB Almost Died?

It’s not often that injury news takes us completely aback, but that’s absolutely the case over in Pullman tonight. One slightly mentioned aspect of last weekend’s game pitting Washington State against Southern Methodist was WSU’s tailback, James Montgomery, suffering an apparent knee injury. Not that those aren’t serious, but, y’know… they happen.

James Montgomery WSU

But one thing that doesn’t usually happen is a potentially fatal injury that nobody recognizes immediately. That’s what apparently befell Montgomery during the game; after the game, he reported increasing discomfort with the knee, and went in for surgery on Sunday morning. It probably saved his life.

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Speed Read: Lions Fans As Horrid As Their Team

“She gets mad/Starts to cry/She takes a swing but/She can’t hit/She don’t mean no harm/She just don’t know/What else to do about it” - “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction

Most people assume that Jane’s Addiction’s seminal alt-rock ballad “Jane Says” is about their hometown of Los Angeles. It isn’t. It’s actually about Detroit, where lead singer Perry Farrell lived for some time.

Detroit Lions fan arrest

It’s not actually about the Detroit Lions or their female fans, but the lyrics seem incredibly appropriate when watching this video from Sunday of a pair of loaded Lions fans making total asses of themselves after pouring beer on the head of a fan before getting hauled off by police to what was probably the biggest applause of the day:

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WSU’s Football Program Is _____ (Fill In The Blank)

As any attorney can tell you, it’s very time consuming and frankly wasteful to have to write the same thing over and over again, when a standard form can be devised to make things much easier. THE DAILY EVERGREEN, the student newspaper at Washington State University, has taken this concept and run with it in its sports section. The paper unveiled its new fill-in-the-blank Cougars football arrest story last month, and the only question seems to be… what took them so long?

(”Hey — where is everybody?”)

With four Cougars’ football players either arrested or suspended from the team since May of this year — and 25 players arrested or charged with offenses that carry possible jail time from 2006 through 2008 — THE DAILY EVERGREEN decided to take this unusual measure. The result — at once sad and hilarious — is following the jump. (My favorite part: ____ was arrested for ____ after using a (circle one) frying pan /knife/rubbing alcohol/broken whiskey bottle to ____ ____.).

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Speed Read: ESPN Pulls Its Punches With WWE

If you’ve watched ESPN for more than five minutes this week, you know that last night was the season premiere of “E:60″, ESPN’s version of “60 Minutes,” and the featured story was a “rare, behind-the-scenes” look at the WWE and a profile of Vince McMahon. Jeremy Schaap was sent out to watch as the organization prepared for Wrestlemania.

Vince McMahon at Chris Benoit special on Raw

The choice of reporters makes sense - McMahon is notoriously volatile with cable TV reporters and diminutive hosts alike, while Schaap is best known for not being as good as his Dad (in the opinion of Bobby Knight). And because of the controversy which always surrounds the WWE, there were a litany of hard-hitting questions that Schaap could have asked - questions that other reporters either didn’t know to ask or wouldn’t.

So what was the end result? If you guessed “a 13 minute long sloppy wet kiss to Vince McMahon from your friends at ESPN,” you win an autographed 8 x 10 of Mean Gene Okerlund. Because what Schaap and the E:60 crew put together was - at best - shockingly lax reporting bordering on the type of fawning, hands-off “journalism” you would expect from “Access Hollywood.”

Don’t believe me? Watch it for yourself, and pay attention to all the times Schaap completely whiffs on asking a tough question, or when he does, how it’s set up as the perfect softball for McMahon to nail over the fence. I would suggest making a drinking game of it, but this is a morning post and I don’t want people to get too plastered to go to work today.

Apparently in ESPN’s world, Owen Hart’s death never happened, and the XFL was just a figment of my imagination. And even the “tough issues” they touched on were either brushed over or poorly handled.

For example, let’s look at the segment on Chris Benoit. First off, Schaap mentions McMahon’s federal steroids trial and his own admission of steroid use, but never actually asks him a question about it. And he doesn’t follow up on the WWE’s “Wellness Policy” - which has been highly criticized in the industry - other than to say “why do you need one at all?” and give McMahon a perfect opportunity to play the role of the caring boss who only wants the best for his employees.

Of course, getting sidetracked into steroid talk overlooks significant issues in the Benoit case, like how much Benoit’s history of multiple concussions might have rattled his brain to the point of no return, or how the WWE’s insane travel schedules with almost no time off can crack anyone. (They did briefly mention the WWE’s treatment of wrestlers as “contractors”, but again they didn’t ask McMahon directly about it, or any of his current roster.)

Which makes me wonder: just how much did ESPN have to give up in order to get the “exclusive” access to the WWE? It sure seemed like there was a whole list of questions that were off-limits, or at least not fully explored. I think the level of “exclusive” access ESPN received is best summed up by the fact that they were kicked out of the weekly WWE production meeting midway through because they were hitting on something Vince McMahon didn’t want to share.

But I’m sure that Schaap would argue the point tooth and nail with me…except that I read this interview with him about his profile of the WWE, and he basically admits that this was a softball piece:

I think our interview is very different and it revealed a different side of him. I didn’t go into it and put him on the defensive. We asked him the tough questions - you have to ask him the tough questions and he addressed them but he didn’t get defensive or angry as you’ve seen him in previous interviews because he understood we were approaching it from a perspective of giving him a chance and treated him with the respect that you would treat Paul Tagliabue or Roger Goodell now or Gary Bettman or George Steinbrenner. I’ve seen George Steinbrenner interviewed over the years many times - not recently of course because he has not been well - but George Steinbrenner is a guy who, with all due respect, is a felon. A guy who was kicked twice out of major league baseball, once for committing federal felonies, once for hiring a known extortionist and ex-con to dig up dirt on his best player Dave Winfield and yet, have you ever hear anybody interview George Steinbrenner on TV or in a press conference or any situation as rudely as sometimes Vince McMahon has been treated?

Good lord…sounds to me like Schaap is angling for a spot as a guest ring announcer at next year’s Wrestlemania. Have fun with that. Simply embarrassing - someone wake the ESPN Ombudsperson from her slumber and have her try to explain this to me.

Knee injuries in girls

Also needing to do a better job of explaining things: sports medicine expert Dr. Robin West, who was interviewed by the NBC Nightly News for a look at the rise of knee injuries among young athletes (surprise - they are being pushed too hard too soon by overbearing parents). In a Web exclusive, Dr. West talks about why female athletes are especially at risk for ACL injuries, and why menstruation might be a factor. Or not.

This is about as confusing as Newt Gingrich trying to explain why women can’t serve on the front lines in the military because they get “infections” once a month. So having a period makes athletes more susceptible to knee injuries? Got it. And goes a long way to explain so much about Tom Brady. ZING!

(Also, I question giving anything the title “Knees: The Achilles Heel of Girls’ Sports.” Wouldn’t the Achilles heel be the Achilles heel of girls sports? Unless women don’t have an Achilles heel - let me check my copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and get back to you.)

Lastly, the computer the NFL uses to create its schedules - which I suspect has a computing power somewhere between the evil machine from “War Games” and Hal from “2001″ - finally spit something out last night for the rest of us to ponder. Among the teams cursing the results, according to THE SPORTING NEWS, are the Bucs, Panthers and Dolphins, while somehow the Steelers wound up with a relatively pothole-free schedule. Go ahead and start the conspiracy theories now.

Other stories that happened last night as you tried to come up with a worse way to die than being crushed by a palm tree:

  • It looks like TBS has found its baseball version of Charles Barkley, as they have announced the signing of David Wells as studio analyst for their MLB coverage. Much like Barkley, he’s fat, frequently in trouble and has a loud mouth. I’m sure he’ll mesh well with Cal Ripken.
  • david wells dodgers

  • You might remember a few weeks ago when members of the Oregon basketball team were accused of some Duck-on-duck crimes. The EUGENE REGISTER-GUARD reports that as punishment for shooting at ducks at a local park, head coach Ernie Kent has ordered the players to work at a local humane society.
  • The SPOKESMAN-REVIEW says that Washington State might be done with football players Romeo Pellum and Micheal Willis, after they were arrested early Saturday morning on separate driving charges (suspended license and DUI, respectively). At least they were able to save head coach Paul Wulff having to drive over to the jail twice to pick them up - how thoughtful.
  • According to the AP, Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam threatened to “cut off the head” of the leader of the Korean Football Association in a recent interview, which sort of irritated the Koreans. I can’t imagine why.
  • Speaking of soccer, Chelsea and Liverpool had one of the craziest games in recent memory yesterday during the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, with the game ending in a 4-4 draw and Chelsea advancing on a 7-5 aggregate. The LOS ANGELES TIMES has the blow-by-blow.
  • Don’t really know much about Masters champion and now two-time major winner Angel Cabrera? This piece in the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE will change that, and give you a new appreciation of just where he’s come from - he’s no silver spoon, well-bred golfer.
  • New Jersey has just built a new state-of-the-art arena for the Devils and also upgrading the Meadowland’s Izod Center, the home of the Nets which is just eight miles away. As the NEWARK STAR-LEDGER notes, some people are wondering if this money could be put to slightly better use.
  • Apparently in Wisconsin, you can’t have junior hockey without booze, which is why the JANESVILLE GAZETTE says that Janesville City Council had to vote to allow the local ice rink to sell alcohol. The City Council did need to look up wine coolers online as part of their debate, making me wonder what self-respecting drunk hockey dad would be caught dead with a wine cooler?
  • The Mets opened Citi Field in ignomious fashion, with a 6-5 loss to the Padres. So it’s probably for the best that, as NEWSDAY reports, many fans weren’t able to see the game thanks to “obstructed view” seats.
  • Least surprising story of the baseball season so far: MLB.COM says Nomar Garciaparra left the Oakland A’s game against the Red Sox after one inning with soreness in his calf muscle.

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Wazzu QB Passed Out In Truck At Police Station

Think about this question for a moment: If you were a 19-year-old college student who was drunk, where would be the one place you would choose to park your truck to sleep it off? If your answer was anything but “at the police station,” then you are smarter than Marshall Lobbestael allegedly was. KXLY-TV says Washington State’s top QB from last season was arrested Saturday morning and charged with being a Minor in Possession after cops found him passed out in his truck outside the Pullman police station.

Washington State QB Marshall Lobbestael

Perhaps the poor kid was just tired: after all, the cops had run into Lobbestael just an hour earlier in the College Hill section of town, carrying around a passed out female student. The unidentified coed was charged with MIP, and was joined a short time later by her “hero.”

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