Shame on Craig James.
Shame on ESPN.
Shame on Texas Tech.
If what Mike Leach said was true in the New York Times on Friday, then what we all thought two days ago is a mirage. Leach and other sources claim that the coach did not, in fact, mistreat Adam James. Leach said only that he did not know where the player was taken and that he ordered only that James be taken "out of the light." Leach is supported by head trainer Steve Pincock and a team doctor.
Leach hasn’t spoken this candidly because he was busy suing the school. But now that it has fired him, the gloves are off. Most telling is the accusation by Leach that James leveraged his position as an ESPN analyst to get more playing time for his son. Through a spokesman, James said the accusations were "absurd."
I received two calls this week from people I trust saying James had bothered coaches and that he had tried to leverage his influence at the network to get his son playing time. Big Daddy James had become a royal pain in the you-know-what. None of that should dismiss the assertion that Leach allegedly mistreated James' son. But if a court ultimately rules in favor of Leach in what is sure to be an unlawful termination suit brought by Leach, James' job could be in danger.
I thought from the beginning it was borderline unethical that friends and co-workers of James were reporting this story. It had that "railroad" smell to it from the beginning with James being portrayed as the protective parent.
There is definitely another side to this, a side that ESPN hasn’t reported until after the Times ran its story. An ESPN employee said that it did report the e-mails written by assistant coach Lincoln Riley as well as a memo written by Texas Tech doctor Michael Phy before the Times story. Just throwing this out there but where was the Worldwide Leader’s info coming from – James, his son, maybe both? That’s OK if Craig James worked for Fox. It’s not OK if he drives a story in his favor with his employer.
With Leach firing back, Texas Tech better check its bank account and ESPN should consider firing their guy. First, he is now as radioactive as Leach in his own profession. The rumor that James is considering a Senate run might have to be addressed. Free publicity, it would seem, for a future politician?
Also, what coach will want to talk to James in the future? Even if his son was mistreated by Leach, the allegation that has been badgering the Texas Tech staff will not go over well in the coaching profession.
As is usually the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle but let's look at this a different way. The fact that Leach would not "apologize" to the James family didn’t make sense from the beginning. If Adam’s treatment was so heinous, why would a simple apology make Big Daddy go away?
There are three sides of this story: Texas Tech's, Leach's and James'. I don’t know quite who to believe but I do know who has lost. The Phony Express, Big Daddy James.