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The former Texas Tech coach can still appeal.
Former Texas Tech Red Raiders coach Mike Leach has seen his appeal against his former school denied by the Texas Supreme Court. Leach's lawyers wanted to argue against a ruling that prevented Leach from collecting money from Tech.
Leach began his wrongful termination lawsuit against TTU after being fired the day before a $800,000 bonus was due. An illegitimate report that player Adam James had been abused while recovering from a concussion was cited as grounds for his firing at the time, though Tech administrators has also grown tired of Leach looking into job opportunities elsewhere.
Leach is now the coach of the Washington St. Cougars, and the next Friday Night Lights movie might be sort of about his plight against Texas Tech and certain media members. Everything's worked out just fine for him, but various legal battles remain.
For more on Red Raiders football, visit Texas Tech blog Double-T Nation.
Mike Leach's new lawyer stayed on the offensive this week, taking his tour to -- where else? -- Paul Finebaum's show on Wednesday. In just about a week of work, Stephen Heninger, formerly lawyer for Mike Price and current lead attorney for Leach, has already sent out a press release accusing Craig James of making conflicting statements and called into The Finebaum Show. There's probably not a better way to get started than this.
Heninger's appearance on Finebaum was a lot of the same, with updates on the two cases Leach is pursuing and more on James' role in the whole ordeal. Right now, the suit against Texas Tech is waiting for a sovereign immunity ruling, and the suit against ESPN, Spaeth Communications and James is waiting on the Texas Tech case. It's all intertwined and all waiting on the complicated sovereign immunity issue.
As soon as the Texas Supreme Court rules on whether Texas Tech's sovereign immunity will be upheld, Leach can pursue the rest of his lawsuits. No matter what happens, he'll be free to continue pursuing James, ESPN and Spaeth, and his lawyer intends to do so right away.
Heninger said they have an "incredibly good case" against ESPN, James and Spaeth. He plans to re-depose Craig James, Adam James, Joe Schad and the ESPN players once they get the green light, following some kind of resolution on the sovereign immunity front.
And then there was this fun quote about Craig James and his role in pushing for Adam James' playing time.
"Any of us that have coached little league are familiar with helicopter dads and the people that are railbirds. That was Craig James. He was calling coaches from the booth during games and telling them to put Adam in and to let him play, disrupting games even."
This seems like an exercise in futility -- Leach carries a scrap of paper and a headset to the booth during games; is he really going to have a cell phone? -- but Heninger was adamant James was trying. He said the former ESPN analyst would leave voicemails with the assistant coaches, pressuring them to play Adam James more. But when Leach threatened to play those voicemails to the team, Adam James asked that he not -- a request Leach honored, Heninger said.
Heninger seems dead-set on pursuing both cases with gusto, so the next few months should be fun, especially as James tries to clear his name, perhaps resulting in him digging a deeper hole.
Full audio of Heninger's appearance can be found here.
I'm not a lawyer, but that's probably not going to stop me from playing one on the Internet for a moment. On Thursday, Mike Leach hired a new lead lawyer -- the last having stepped down quietly a week or two ago. The lawyer is the same one that represented Mike Price back in the day, and his new legal team seems to have gone on the offensive immediately.
This press release is how Stephen Heninger, Leach's lawyer, introduced himself. It's lengthy, it's thorough, and it essentially takes dead aim at Craig James. The summary, which hopefully makes sense:
On December 12, 2011, Craig James signed a sworn Petition concerned with two books that recount the firing of Texas Tech coach, Mike Leach, in December 2009 regarding events between Leach and James' son (Adam James) who was a football player on that team at the time. This latest sworn Petition states that James was not responsible for Leach's firing. These sworn statements are in stark conflict with the sworn testimony taken earlier by depositions of Craig James, Adam James and Texas Tech officials which state that Craig James was working for ESPN and had a powerful platform and the Texas Tech President and the Athletic Director wanted to give Leach a private reprimand and a fine but James wanted an apology and Leach fired.
The press release goes on to detail sworn statements by James, in the form of then-and-now, that are in direct conflict with each other. At hand, James is upset that two books -- Swing Your Sword and Double T - Double Cross -- wrongly paint him as the reason Leach was fired.
We pause for a moment to note that in the back of Swing Your Sword, there are numerous emails and deposition statements that serve as evidence to back-up Leach's claims. It's one thing if the statements that concern James were pulled out of thin air, but there's documentation -- and lots of it.
The statements made by James and various Texas Tech officials remain important for Leach, who still has pending lawsuits against his former employer, as well as James, ESPN and Spaeth Communications. If I were to take a stab in the dark, Friday's press release seems to be aimed at the latter -- ESPN/Spaeth/James. His suit against Texas Tech, which Leach apparently tried to settle recently, is tied up in a battle over Texas' sovereign immunity; a messy situation, to be sure.
If James did give conflicting statements, it would further bolster Leach's case in what's become a battle bigger than a shed and a videotape. James is also running for senate -- and not doing so hot -- which adds another layer of intrigue to the battle. James feels he can clear his name by countering Leach, and the former Texas Tech and current Washington State coach continues to stick to his guns.
It's important to note Friday's press release is one-sided, coming from Leach's new legal team. However, it leans heavily on sworn testimony from the parties involved, and paints James in a pretty terrible light using his own words.
No idea where this goes next, but it doesn't seem like it's going away anytime soon.
Washington State coach Mike Leach is definitely not yet done suing Texas Tech, ESPN and Craig James.
You knew ESPN would respond in some fashion to former employee Bruce Feldman's Thursday multimedia blitz. After Feldman tore apart the company on the Dan Patrick Show, at SI.com and at the Wall Street Journal over his suspension last month for participating in Mike Leach's book, the college football world granted the floor to ESPN:
Nothing changes the fact that ESPN still allows Craig James to talk about college football after he hired a PR firm to get a college football coach fired, and nothing changes the growing perception that ESPN's Longhorn Network is already affecting its coverage of the team.
Based on that recent track record -- not that that's exhaustive, mind you -- it's hard not to assume the version of the story offered by one of college sports' most-trusted journalists is closer to the truth than ... whatever ESPN's version is.
Bruce Feldman wasn't suspended. Or maybe he was. None of us know for sure, and it will probably stay that way, with one side steadfast in the assertion ESPN put him on the sidelines and ESPN steadfast in the assertion it didn't. And at this point, the argument has devolved into a debate about semantics, triggered by an oddly-worded press release from the WorldWide Leader.
Read the press release again, noting it says Feldman was never suspended, but will now resume his normal duties. Call it what you want, but throwing in a line about him resuming his duties clearly implies some kind of suspension -- pressing the pause button, if you will.
This is what Chris LaPlaca had to say in response to the uproar. Mind you, this was after he blamed Twitter for spreading false news about Feldman's status.
That's spin from a public relations man, and it's also incorrect. To the dictionary, which is important in any semantics argument.
v. sus·pend·ed, sus·pend·ing, sus·pends
1. To bar for a period from a privilege, office, or position, usually as a punishment: suspend a student from school.
2. To cause to stop for a period; interrupt: suspended the trial.
1. To cease for a period; delay.
Taking a timeout is, in fact, suspending the game for a short period of time.
To borrow a better sports analogy, "suspended pending the results of an investigation." We see this all the time, especially in college football, Feldman's realm of expertise. A player does something stupid, breaks a rule or gets arrested and is suspended until his boss, the head coach, can figure out what happened.
Feldman did none of these things, but it would seem ESPN wanted to figure out what it had on its hands with the impending release of Mike Leach's book. Network executives hit the pause button, called a timeout or suspended him; whatever you want to call it. A mass uproar forced ESPN's hands,and Feldman was back in action, with the network whistling innocently and acting as if nothing happened.
Whatever happened here is almost insignificant at this point. The dialogue was about much more than Feldman or his suspension, and there's no erasing the black mark whatever ESPN wants to call this move left. Because of the perfect storm -- the SI profile on Leach, the release of the book, the lawsuit, everything -- ESPN put itself in a losing position by investigating Feldman's pre-approved involvement in the book. It appeared petty, controlling and downright wrong.
The semantics don't matter here and by arguing about them, we're ignoring the real, underlying issues in the situation. Denial was not the public relations strategy; distraction was the motive of the statement. The point was to create misdirection: If people are talking about whether Feldman was suspended, they're not talking about the questionable decisions made in this entire ESPN vs. Mike Leach saga.
Call it what you want to call it, but the perception is already out there in the open, allowed to fester thanks to almost a day of silence from ESPN. This whole situation was bungled in the worst way by ESPN, and it sparked a discussion about the journalist standards at the WorldWide Leader. Somewhere last night, Mike Leach was laughing maniacally, looking like a genius in a room full of fools.
After being mercilessly ripped on Twitter for the better part of a day, ESPN now says that its suspension of Bruce Feldman for participating in a book by Mike Leach (after getting the network's permission to participate) wasn't a suspension at all. Here's the entire statement (which seems to be loading right now).
"There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review his upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed. Bruce has resumed his assignments."
Maybe I'm just a stickler for silly things like 'coherence' and 'the meanings of words,' but ... if he wasn't suspended, what was there to "resume"? Why was he (apparently) not even allowed to tweet during the review period? And if he honestly wasn't suspended, why did ESPN wait to make a statement while every sportswriter from Tallahassee to Tacoma was trashing the network Thursday night? It's good to see that Feldman is back on the job, but let's be clear - by every indication, he really was suspended, and what's really going on here is that ESPN has given up trying to defend the indefensible.
For more on the Bruce Feldman situation, follow this storystream.
Bruce Feldman, as you probably know by now, has been suspended indefinitely by ESPN. The college football writer has basically kept quiet over the fallout following a book he assisted former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach in writing. The book takes some shots at analyst Craig James and the roll he played in Leach's firing, something ESPN apparently did not take kindly to, despite the "sports leader" giving Feldman approval to work on the book.
While Feldman has remained quiet, though, Leach has been very publicly defending him and the book. During his interview with the Big Dog, Joe Rose on WQAM in Miami (via Sports Radio Interviews), he accused ESPN of having an agenda and responded to the assertion that James may be the channel's golden boy:
"He evidently is because if you look at the public reaction, if you look at the blogs, everybody sees through it and understands it. People are recognizing the truth and nobody appreciates Craig James’ role in this. It’s insulting to everyone’s intelligence. Between Craig James and ESPN both they’re starting with this. Me being too dumb to see through what they’re doing and then it became well the public is too dumb to see through what they’re doing. Then with this thing with Bruce they think it’s almost like they’re so smart that we won’t understand it anyway and they’re so powerful that we have to do whatever they want no matter what. Everyone is seeing through it and everybody resents it."
Bruce Feldman's suspension from ESPN has nothing to do with Craig James' godlike powers, and everything to do with giant infants in business suits.
Senior writer at ESPN the Magazine Bruce Feldman has been suspended indefinitely by the Worldwide Leader in yet another display of muscle-flexing from the head honchos in Bristol. Via Sports By Brooks:
(ESPN Vice President and Director of News Vince) Doria, (ESPN the Magazine Editor-in-Chief Gary) Hoenig and (ESPN.com Editor-in-Chief Pat) Stiegman informed Feldman today that he has been banned from writing for any ESPN entity, is forbidden from appearing on any ESPN platform, is not allowed to Tweet from his Twitter account nor participate in any promotion of a recently-released book in which Feldman played a role ...
... Multiple management and editorial sources at ESPN have told me in recent months that Feldman would only participate in the Leach book project upon direct approval from ESPN management - which Feldman indeed received.
Leach, of course, was fired from his head coaching job at Texas Tech amidst allegations he mistreated ESPN college football analyst Craig James' son Adam James. Not only has ESPN not forgiven Leach for these apparent injustices, it also apparently seeks to exile Leach from the sporting world, Robinson Crusoe-style.
If SbB is to be believed, the move is not only a head-scratcher, but a ridiculously over-the-top one. Feldman is a talented writer — just read this piece he wrote on Mike Leach before the whole controversy blew up — who doesn't appear to have an ulterior motive to bash the mothership.
More on this as it develops.
In December of 2009, Texas Tech fired Mike Leach. A couple of weeks later, Leach filed a wrongful termination suit against the school. A year passed, likely full of lawyer-y type stuff, and now this: the 7th Court of Appeals has thrown out Leach's breach of contract claim.
Essentially the court ruled on Friday that Texas Tech is "immune to Leach's attempts to receive monetary damages from the university."
However, the ruling does still allow Leach to continue to try and prove that Texas Tech's reasons for firing him were false, but he is no longer able to seek "monetary relief."
"We have felt all along that we would win, and we did win," Tech attorney Dickey Grigg said in a statement e-mailed Friday morning. "As we've maintained all along, the facts and the law were clear, and the Court of Appeals agreed. The breach of contract claim was properly dismissed, as were all other monetary claims."
Leach can still appeal, though, and it's expected that his attorney will indeed take it to the Texas Supreme Court.
Mike Leach is back in court, this time suing ESPN and Spaeth Communications for defamation. The coach is already suing Texas Tech and ESPN’s Craig James for wrongful termination.
Short recap: Craig James’ son, Adam, was allegedly shut in a closet while he had a concussion. Mike Leach was eventually fired, Craig James was bumped from Alamo Bowl duty, lawyers descended. Which brings us to this.
The suit filed in Texas district court claims the network’s coverage of Leach’s firing last year was “willful and negligent defamation” and that it failed to “retract false and damaging statements” it made from “misinformation” provided to ESPN by Craig James.
ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said the company has not seen the lawsuit and that it would be inappropriate to comment. …
[Broadcaster Mike] Patrick described Adam James to “an audience of millions,” saying, “There is Adam James, who is the young man who was actually punished for having a concussion,” the lawsuit claims. Patrick’s comments left the impression that “Leach punished a player for having a concussion.”
Whether the Alamo Bowl was watched by “an audience of millions” — or at least millions who were actually listening to anything Mike Patrick said — is questionable, but in any case, this raises the prospects of more depositions involving Craig James and Leach, which will if nothing else provide some entertainment in the offseason.
And why would Leach think Spaeth Communications had anything to do with the purported clip post online of Adam James in the tight space?
YouTube shows the name of video’s uploader as "Spaethcom8181."
Well, yeah, there is that.
In the meantime, Leach reportedly wants to coach at the college level again. The question is whether the litigious end to his time in Lubbock will clear his name for future employers — or send a message that they hire him at their own peril?
Less than sixty shopping days until Leachmas! For those of you not following along in your page-a-day Countdown To Mike Leach Calling Craig James Horrible Names In Court calendars, look alive. We're under two months now until the Dread Cap'n Leach faces Texas Tech's band of marauding bureaucrats before the jolly magistrate:
The Amarillo appeals court handling former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's lawsuit against the university over his 2009 firing has set Oct. 7 for oral arguments.
The school in Lubbock is appealing a trial court judge's ruling that, by its conduct, the university waived its right to sovereign immunity in Leach's breach of conduct claim.
Oct. 7, by the way, falls the week after the Iowa State game, so it's fairly safe to say spirits will be high on the University's side. It's also a mere two days before the Red Raiders are scheduled to meet Baylor at the Cotton Bowl. Will the old Cap'n is planning on pressing his pirate academy student section into service for a few warmup cheers on the courthouse steps? Stay tuned.
Follow along with college football's latest trial of the century here and at SBN's Texas Tech community, Double-T Nation.
Man, Craig James just looks better and better in the whole Mike Leach ordeal. He already developed enough of a reputation over his and his son’s actions that set the dominoes in motion, eventually leading to Leach’s firing. Wednesday night it was revealed for the first time that James threatened to sue the university if it didn’t investigate then-coach Mike Leach.
Texas Tech University System attorney Ronny Wall wrote in the Tuesday memo to the Texas attorney general that the threat came during a Dec. 20 exchange with James’ father, ESPN sports analyst Craig James. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal obtained a copy of the memo in response to an open records request.
The Tech memo says James’ father “indicated that litigation could ensue” if Tech didn’t investigate Leach “for the improper treatment” of his son.
“The threat did not appear to be an idle threat as the parent expressed genuine concern for the health and well-being of his injured child, as well as other student-athletes,” the memo continued.
Through his spokesperson, James denies the allegation. Not that it matters much at this point. All parties involved certainly can’t look much worse anyway.
Today, a judge ruled that former-Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach’s lawsuit can go forward as planned, but denied a motion for a speedy trial. From CBS Sports:
State District Judge William Sowder denied a motion by Leach’s attorneys to speed up taking depositions from school administrators and obtaining documents relevant to the case.
“I see no reason to give Mr. Leach any special treatment in this case,” the judge told the court. “So this case will take an ordinary course of action.”
Leach’s attorneys said Sowder’s denial doesn’t jeopardize their case.
“We’re pleased with the court’s decision today,” attorney Ted Liggett said after the hearing.
This was an inevitable end for the Texas Tech-Mike Leach kerfuffle, but still. Mike Leach officially announced that he will seek legal retribution against Texas Tech University. From the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:
Attorneys for former Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach filed documents Friday specifically claiming the university wrongfully terminated the coach without cause.
The document alleges the university breached its contract with Leach, defamed him and committed fraud by not honoring his employment contract.
This comes on the heels of motions that Leach’s legal team filed on Thursday, which petitioned the court for a speedy trial. This is going to be fun!
You can't be good at everything. Take Bob Davie, for instance. Bob Davie can tan. My god, can that man tan. Bob Davie has a multi-layered coating of sun-baked skin flakes a rotisserie chicken would envy. If people randomly approach him on the street with basting brushes and holding forks, surely they're not to blame.
No one pays him to think, though. He's paid to talk, and on ESPN these can be very different things depending on who's doing the speaking. Davie is known as an announcer these days for ESPN's college football team. He has trademarks. He overemphasizes unimportant words in sentences like this: "The most important thing IN the game is taking care OF the footbaw." He also loves saying the word "footbaw," which would be charming if it didn't make up thirty percent of what he said. Take this sentence from Saturday's broadcast of the Alamo Bowl, for example:
"Texas Tech Footbaw they screen footbaw with the footbaw footbaw footbaw Mike Leach footbaw gosh footbaw."
He may not have said that in so many words, but after five minutes your brain tunes out Davie completely and translates everything to that anyway. Count it as a miracle that we heard this comment, then, which actually came out of Bob Davie's sober mouth on Saturday night.
"Craig James is courageous."
Courageous. Yes, we remember the time Craig James donated one of his eight kidneys to a sick little girl, all the while refusing to take his eyes off the microscope in the lab where he's curing AIDScancerplague. I personally recall the time Craig James fistfought with the chupacabra to help restore America's pride during the humiliations of NAFTA negotiations back in 1991. Who can forget James punching Hitler in the face at Woodstock Two and saving that girl from getting raped by a Nazi Biker Gang? Let's not even get into the time he saved Christmas with five safety pins and some well-timed macrame.
He's done so much for this country that picking one moment is hard. If forced, though, I'd have to agree. Nothing is as courageous as coming out in defense of your grown and reportedly lazy and entitled son on national television, using your broadcast connections to serve as a "source close to the family" on ESPN, and then bravely enduring the "victimhood" of giving Texas Tech administrators an excuse to fire the best coach in the history of their school. As Peter King would say: "Craig James defines bravery."
(Phil Simms, that coward, never said a thing about his son's troubled tenure at Texas, and let him be his own man. Clearly cowardice in action, that.)
Davie cleared that all up for us on numerous occasions Saturday night, with he and Mike Patrick hammering home the company line and sealing up the case broadcast ESPN has been making all along without excusing one of the principals from the coverage of the case itself. It is a gross lapse in journalistic standards to not excuse James from the story altogether, but ESPN bizarrely compounded the mistake by allowing James to openly stump for his family's "victimhood," and then doubling the weirdness by having no one question the accusers' account of the events.
By the time Davie and Patrick recited the Ballad of Craig James, Modern American Hero, the case had become infinitely more complex. Texas Tech officials clearly did not get along with Leach; James was a malcontent whose shoddy effort and entitled behavior was widely known and corroborated by coaches; and Leach's own trainers and medical staff said the coach acted in a fashion they did not condone. Contradictions and complexities just lying all over the place, and no one to even attempt to sort through them on-air besides Trevor Matich, ESPN's only on-air commentator who attempted to paint a complete picture on-air of the case's nuances and complexities.
Instead we got Craig James, American Patriot and Study In Victimhood, and a storyline swallowed almost entirely wholesale by ESPN's on-air talent without the slightest hint of professional scrutiny or skepticism. It happened for the same reason James never should have been a part of the story to begin with: because they're taking paychecks, and that matters in different ways to some people.
Some people see money as a reward for work, and some see it as a reward for loyalty. Those who take it for work are referred to as "employees." Those who take it for loyalty go by a different name entirely: whores. And if you're seeing Bob Davie in a miniskirt shimmying on the corner looking for a good time, I have three words for you. You. Are. Welcome.
After saying in his initial statement that he'd prefer to engage in a question-and-answer session to discuss his firing, Mike Leach has done just that. In his first interview since being fired from Texas Tech, Mike Leach spoke for almost 40 minutes to the New York Times. From Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans at the Times:
It has been widely reported that Leach locked Adam James in a closet or a shed after James sustained a concussion at a practice last month. Leach said he only ordered James to be taken “out of the light” and did not know specifically where he had been taken.
“I was busy coaching practice,” Leach said.
He added: “There have been several things that have been brought to my attention on the ticker that’s just false,” Leach said, referring to ESPN’s bottom line ticker. “He was never locked anywhere. At no point was he locked anywhere. At no point was there an electrical closet.”
Leach described a divisive and tense relationship with Craig James, whom he said he had to deal with more than every other parent on the team combined. He said that James frequently attended practices and called assistant coaches.
“I think he used his position at ESPN to try to coerce me into allowing Adam to play more,” said Leach, who said he expected to coach again.
And then, later last night, Mike Leach spoke to ESPN:
Alleged video of Adam James in the alleged electrical closet that he was allegedly locked in by former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. Allegedly. And presented with appropriate amounts of skepticism.
The YouTube descrption reads as follows: "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."
UPDATE: WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth reports: "This video link was given to WFAA.com by representatives of the James familiy. We have found that it is Adam James in a electrical closet, but we do not know if it was during a practice."
In response to losing his job at Texas Tech earlier today, former head coach Mike Leach issued a statement Wednesday night.
“I want everyone to know what a privilege and pleasure it has been to teach and coach more than 400 student-athletes at Texas Tech University over the past 10 years. When I arrived at Texas Tech, the football program was on NCAA probation and the graduation rate was far below the national average. However, in the past 10 years, Tech has been to 10 straight bowl games, has the third best record in the Big 12 Conference, and has the highest graduation rate for football players of any public institution in the country.
Over the past several months, there have been individuals in the Texas Tech administration, Board of Regents and booster groups who have dealt in lies, and continue to do so. These lies have led to my firing this morning. I steadfastly refuse to deal in any lies, and am disappointed that I have not been afforded the opportunity for the truth to be known. Texas Tech’s decision to deal in lies and fabricate a story which led to my firing, includes, but is not limited by, the animosity remaining from last year’s contract negotiations. I will not tolerate such retaliatory action; additionally, we will pursue all available legal remedies.
Leach goes on to say that while he prefers "to engage in question and answer sessions," he was advised to leave it at just a statement for the time being.
The full release can be read here.
Did Texas Tech athletic department personnel set the stage for Mike Leach's firing themselves to nurture longstanding grudges that lead back to last year's contract negotiations? Matt Hayes of Sporting News certainly thinks so:
The public reason for Texas Tech firing Mike Leach was the alleged mistreatment of Adam James. The real reason is payback.
The record will show that Leach, Tech's unorthodox yet highly successful coach, was fired Wednesday for mistreatment of a player with a "mild" concussion. The reality is Leach was fired because he took Texas Tech for everything it had last February during contract negotiations -- and made the university brass look like bumbling fools in the process.
Clay Travis of FanHouse also smells a legal rat, and does some lawyerin' around in Leach's contract:
So the university is citing language that didn't exist in his prior contract to fire Leach. Whether or not they intentionally set this legal trap for him remains a question, but there's no doubting that this language drastically strengthened the hand of the university.
And at least in this case, it appears Texas Tech knew exactly what they were doing when they signed their coach to a contract extension ten months ago with brand new language.
That sound? That's the plot, thickening. Again.
The coach's termination was precipitated by his treatment of a player after the player was diagnosed with a concussion. The player was put at risk for additional injury. After the university was apprised of the treatment, Coach Leach was contacted by the administration of the university in an attempt to resolve the problem. In a defiant act of insubordination, Coach Leach continually refused to cooperate in a meaningful way to help resolve the complaint. He also refused to obey a suspension order and instead sued Texas Tech University. Further, his contemporaneous statements make it clear that the coach's actions against the player were meant to demean, humiliate and punish the player rather than to serve the team's best interest. This action, along with his continuous acts of insubordination, resulted in irreconcilable differences that make it impossible for coach Leach to remain at Texas Tech.
Juicy! Read the whole smoking screed here.
If you haven’t seen the comments over at our Texas Tech blog, Double T Nation, it’s worth a few minutes to comb through some of the reactions. They are NOT happy over there. Some of the reactions are below:
Pretty sure I’m about to drive to Lubbock and do something real stupid…..
It suits Baylor just fine...
Back to being a women’s basketball school.
Is this one insult or three?
We have a bunch of country simple minded bumpkins running things
Well, when you put it like that...
Lost coach, lost recruits, lost lots of money, lost what respect we had.
And even ... (gasp) ... blashphemy!
My kids are both going to University of Texas at Austin.
There's lots more, so if you've got a few minutes, check out all of the comments here.
Further reaction to the firing of Mike Leach comes from former players and coaches in support of Leach, including this quote on Adam James from former Red Raider QB Graham Harrell:
"In the locker room and away from the facility, Adam used any opportunity he had to tell other players how he was being treated unfairly, how the coaches did not give him a fair chance and how we did not have to do everything the coaches told us because they had no option but to play some of us. When I heard these kinds of things I usually tried to put an end to them but Adam pretty consistently talked bad about the coaches or down played the importance of working hard, when he was off the field."
The support is not unanimous for Leach. From current defensive lineman Chris Perry, via ESPN:
"I have no complaints about this decision. He put Adam in a shed like an animal. Like an animal in a cage. … That was bull. … You call the players. We practiced hard this week. We have our pep back now. We had less stress this week. You know why? Because he’s gone."
Wait, what just happened? Yeah, Texas Tech fired Mike Leach, the most successful coach in their history coming off an eight win season and one season removed from the best season in their history. They have as many bowl wins in Mike Leach’s decade as they have in the entire history of the program, and have never had a losing season under Leach. And, yeah: he’s fired, effective immediately according to the university.
On what planet does this make sense? It makes sense in a world where Leach, an oddball among oddballs, finally reaches the limit of tolerance both on his part and on the part of his bosses in the TTU administration. Leach’s contract negotiations were, to put it politely, contentious. His flirtations with other jobs were brazen. The university’s patience with his high-profile antics was running low even before a season where he suspended players from Twitter, referred to their “fat little girlfriends” after a loss to Texas A&M, and secluded/imprisoned/whatever happened with Adam James. The university will hint at “other things” that Leach did or didn’t do to provoke his firing, but ultimately it came down to Leach pulling a suicide by injunction earlier today and forcing Texas Tech to fire him.
Suicide by injunction? In effect, yes. Leach filed suit against his employers, which isn’t exactly like sending a Christmas card unless you’re fond of dipping yours in anthrax.The hearing that was supposed to happen Wednesday never occurred, something due likely to Tech bypassing the legal process by firing him, and thus nullifying the hearing.
So, why does Texas Tech say he was fired? For cause, something Smart Football’s Chris Brown says the university likely has in legal terms.
“I anticipate them to focus on this clause: "Coach shall assure the fair and responsible treatment of student-athletes in relation to their health, welfare and discipline." Did he not give Adam James fair treatment? That’s unclear. Adam James claimed to suffer from a concussion, and, contrary to Craig James’s assertions, there is nothing detrimental to a player’s health about being isolated in a dark equipment shed or media room. Yet it does sound something akin to punishing an injured player, and I expect the University to take the position that Leach was trying to deter injured players from coming forward or not participating. That might have some weight.”
Whether he treated James fairly or not, the incident was the tipping point for a relationship long headed for trouble. Steve Spurrier said that no coach should spend longer than ten years at any single job. The story of Leach adds evidence in favor of his theory.
How’s this being received by Tech fans? Not well.
When Leach firing was announced in Lubbock courtroom, someone yelled, “Well you’re going to have a bunch of empty seats in that stadium!”
They will, even if they get their likely leading candidate and former Leach assistant Art Briles to replace Leach. Briles is currently coaching at Baylor, but he’s coaching at Baylor, so yeah: he’s available.
Will he get paid the $800K he’s owed if he were the coach? Likely, since by contract he’s technically employed for ten business days past the date of termination.
Who are the likely replacements? Not Ruffin McNeil, the close friend of Leach and interim head coach for the bowl game. Art Briles of Baylor and June Jones of SMU are both likely candidates on the face of things as they’re both spread coaches already working in the state of Texas. Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, a former Leach assistant, is also possible, though he came out and supported Leach publicly during the James scandal.
And what for Leach? Television, if anyone has a sense of humor and some daring in the sports programming department. Future coaching spots are inevitable, though no obvious openings beckon thanks to hiring season being all but over.
Shouldn’t adults have been able to work this out? Yes, but that’s if there were any adults involved in this.
With Mike Leach out at Texas Tech, there are a hundred different questions to ask, but here are the most obvious: Who’s taking over at Texas Tech, and where will Leach land on the college football landscape? As to the first question, here’s an early frontrunner:
A person close to situation tells the Houston Chronicle that Baylor coach Art Briles is the leading candidate to replace Mike Leach at Tech.
Briles coached under Leach for four years at Texas Tech, starting in 1999, before taking the head coaching position at Houston, which eventually led him back to the Big 12, heading up a suddenly-rejuvenated Baylor program. Now, with Leach out at Texas Tech, it seems another cycle of change has been set in motion. And the coaching carousel continues…
Texas Tech has fired head coach Mike Leach following this week’s controversy over his alleged mistreatment of wide receiver Adam James.
The firing has been confirmed by Leach's attorney, Ted Liggett, who was given a termination letter by Texas Tech before Wednesday's court hearing for an injunction against the university, which would allow Leach to coach the team's bowl game. The letter read that Leach was "terminated with cause effective immediately."
To discuss the Mike Leach firing with Texas Tech fans, or to just watch them unleash their anger on the internet, head to our Red Raiders blog, Double T Nation.
Mike Leach's attorney gave a Lubbock television station an exclusive tour of the two rooms Adam James was asked to stand in by Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. Please note that if you want an attorney who wears a tie and spiffs up for the camera, your name is not Mike Leach, and rumpled Ted Liggett is not the attorney you're looking for, buddy.
(HT: Double T Nation's ongoing coverage.) The attorney will not say the "S-H-E-D" word, but he also cannot dodge the strange practice of sequestering an injured player, something no one on either side has disputed. Leach's former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen chimed in on the matter via email, though, and had harsh words for the accuser, Adam James.
"I was opposed to doing so in (the) belief he was not a D1 football player," Holgorsen writes in his e-mail. "Coach Leach overrode my opinion and Adam became a Red Raider. During the rest of my time at Texas Tech I was Adam's position coach where I always remained critical of Adam's ability to play at this level due to being lazy in not only the classroom but also in the offseason and during practice."Coach Leach was the one who kept saying he believed Adam would eventually contribute. Adam's teammates believed he was selfish and were constantly getting on him for lack of effort as they sensed entitlement on his part due to his father being a very good football player.
Oh, this is getting more fun by the minute.
Amid the news that Mike Leach filed an injunction against Texas Tech and that a court date has been set for Wednesday morning are whispers that the school may just go ahead and fire him before this thing even reaches the court. According to Chris Brown, editor of Smart Football, if the university opts to fire him without cause, it'll cost 'em.
FYI if Tech fires Leach w/o cause they owe him $400k for every remaining contract year, deliverable as a lump sum. 4 yrs left, so $1.6m
Today on ESPN, analyst Craig James gave a brief interview on his son's allegations of abuse against Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. Fittingly, James spoke from what appeared to be a closet draped in old burlap:
According to ESPN's Joe Schad (so, take this with about a deer lick of salt), the Mike Leach-Texas Tech imbroglio may not even come down to a court hearing -- because the university may be firing him for cause no matter what happens:
People close to the situation tell Schad, reporting on the network's Outside the Lines show this afternoon, that the university is prepared to fire the suspended head coach with cause in the next 48 hours.
That time frame is very intriguing, though, as Leach is due an $800,000 "completion bonus" if he's the head coach after Dec. 31 of this year; that 48-hour time frame mentioned by Schad would have the coach fired before the bonus was due, thus saving the university -- at least temporarily -- just under $1 million.
Remember the endless contract fights Leach and the University got into last winter? It's not out of the realm of possibility to assume Leach has a long list of enemies in the athletic department (and that list would begin with Gerald Myers, Texas Tech's AD, with whom Leach already has a contentious relationship), no matter how successful he's been on the field.
Via San Antonio’s KSAT News, we’re told that a hearing on Mike Leach’s injunction against Texas Tech is set for 8:30 CST Wednesday morning. Which begs the question: If Leach’s legal wranglings are successful and his suspension is ended by the courts … what’s to stop Texas Tech from just firing him?
Mike Leach has filed a motion for a temporary injunction against Texas Tech's suspension that, if approved, would allow him to coach in Texas Tech's January 2nd bowl game against Michigan State. SBNation.com has obtained a copy of the injunction request, which you can download in .PDF format here, or you can scroll down to read it in our Flash player.
Within the complaint, we find the letter from the University to coach Leach that first informed him of the suspension:
In response to that claim and the subsequent controversy, Leach's representation contends the following:
"Mike Leach has been accused by a 'player and his parents' of mistreating one of the players at Texas Tech. There has been absolutely no evidence presented that Mike Leach committed any act which harmed or caused any risk to his player or that he otherwise violated any university rules or standards. Craig James, an ESPN analyst and rumored potential political candidate, has apparently fueled this controvery to retaliate against Mike Leach for his displeasure with the extent of his son's role on Texas Tech University's football team."
Without any explanation about what Mike Leach did wrong, without even naming the individual(s) who have accused Mike Leach of wrongdoing, and with absolutely no process regarding the allegations, it is unjust and unconscionable for Defandant (Texas Tech) to suspend Mike Leach so as to prevent him from coaching his team just days before the Alamo Bowl. There is no legal grounds for the suspension, and no provision in Mike Leach's contract authorizing it.
And then in Leach's affidavit, the Texas Tech coach makes a personal statement to the court:
On December 28th, I was notified that I was suspended from all duties as Head Football Coach effective immediately. I was provided any reason except that 'Texas Tech recently received a complaint from a player and his parents regarding [my] treatment of him after his injury.' The letter did not indicate what I had allegedly done wrong, nor did it reference any rules or standards that I allegedly violated. It did not even identify the players or parents who accused me of mistreatment. There has been absolutely no evidence presented to me that I committed any act which violated any university rules or standards. I have never and would never intentionally harm a player. I am committed to the University of Texas Tech and the well being of my football players. I have been forced into this situation without being afforded any process. Not being able to coach immediately will cause irreperable harm because preparation for the game is ongoing and it will be over on January 2, 2009. Every minute of preparation is critical to be ready for the game.
We'd heard rumblings that Mike Leach intended to fight this suspension and these allegations, and indeed, his dissent is now a matter of public record. You can read the full document below.
Ted Liggett, the attorney for beleaguered Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, just destroyed all before him on ESPN with his lawyerness. Not only did he talk at a pace that you could hear slowly strangling the life out of the broadcast and the ADD-stricken producers, he simply refused to answer a third of the questions, parried away another third as ridiculous, and rewrote the remainder in lawyerly terms that fit his case. For ten minutes he assumed control of ESPN and ground it to a snail’s pace in a performance best described as somewhere between “Lionel Hutzian” and “Matlock-ish.” Two things are clear: lawyers don’t appear on television often because most of them don’t talk quickly enough, and Mike Leach isn’t going down at Texas Tech without a gnarly, shameless fight.
While news out of Lubbock has slowed to a trickle since last night's allegations and this morning's retort from Leach's lawyer and a host of ex-players, the rest of us are left to wonder what, exactly, we're talking about here. Is it a story of an abusive coach, or a whiny player? While the photo below doesn't necessarily provide a definitive answer, it helps clarify where Leach sent Adam James.
Was it a shed, an equipment room, the press box, an electrical closet...some dark hole in the backwoods of Lubbock, Texas? According to our Texas Tech blog, Double T Nation, it was the white structure in the background of this Texas Tech practice, to be exact:
So, what do you think? I guess if you were forced to stay in there for three hours, it would be pretty frustrating. But all things considered, that seems rather tame compared with the dramatic tales of Leach sending James to the "darkest, tighest spot" he could find.
Over at SB Nation’s Texas Tech blog, Double T Nation, they’re all over this story, including an article they found this morning which reached out to former Texas Tech players for their perspective. From the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:
Several former Red Raiders vehemently defended Leach on Monday after he was indefinitely suspended by the university for his alleged mistreatment of an injured player. Leach’s punishment came in response to a complaint made by sophomore receiver Adam James and his family, along with the results of an internal investigation that Tech administrators said is ongoing. […]
[Former player, Glenn] January said the shed in which James spent practice on Dec. 17 might have been the most appropriate place to deal with his concussion, because it kept him out of the sunlight. January said he and his teammates on the offensive line often retreated to the same shed during practices to rest and escape the heat.
"It’s not like it’s some dungeon," he said.
To which Double T Nation responded:
There’s a few things to take away from some of these former players: 1) Loper doesn’t come out and simply confirm what some of may think about Adam, but he certainly takes the stance Adam may not be the sort that is cut out to play college football; 2) the darkest place in all of humanity is starting to sound like a place out of the sun light and not a dungeon or some sort of threatening place, but a place where players would convene to get out of the sun.
So while yesterday’s account of the events left Leach looking like a cretin, it seems his players remember a different coach. Again from the Avalanche, another ex-Red Raider, currently in the NFL, says he never saw Coach Leach put any player in harm’s way:
"The whole time I was there, and as well as I know coach Leach, he would never do anything to publicly humiliate or endanger someone’s well-being, and he would never do anything unprofessional," Loper said. "… I never saw him show any kind of favoritism or any kind of hate toward any singular person."
Perhaps the public’s been rushing to judgment on this one? The description we heard sounded like the work of a callous, reckless bully. But then, there’s two sides to every story. To wit, Leach’s lawyer explains the coach’s side of things:
Ted Liggett, Leach’s attorney, said James “was placed in an equipment room as it was much cooler and darker” than the practice field “after a doctor had examined him and returned him to the field.”
Liggett said that on that day, a trainer was posted outside the room and that James was provided ice. Liggett said that James was secluded for one to two hours. Liggett said that on another occasion, James was placed in a “press room with air-conditioning and a stationary bike he could use.” Liggett also said Leach placed James in those environments because “Mike tries to keep the players that are unable to practice as close as he can.”
While the initial news yesterday made this sound like a sort of doomsday scenario for Leach, now it seems like perhaps Leach is being painted in an unfair light. The perceived brutality toward James—and insensitivity to concussions—now seems overblown. The player wasn’t locked in an electrical closet or some otherwise hellish chamber from our nightmares.
Would this be a big deal if Adam James wasn’t the son of a famous ESPN Broadcaster? Maybe not. None of this exonerates Leach at the moment, but as opposed to yesterday’s swift condemnations, suddenly there’s a shadow of doubt as to whether any of this merits attention.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal has a very detailed update on the Leach situation, including an early read on the line of defense Leach and his defenders will use against Adam James’ allegations that his “seclusion” in a closet was improper or constituted an incident of abuse.
Leach also told officials James was a slacker and his father was always calling and acting like a Little League dad.
Attacking the attacker? Precisely what a pirate would do. Did you know the Lubbock paper was called the Avalanche-Journal? And that it’s a thousand times harder than whatever your paper is named? (Chronicle? Journal? Pleeeeeease.)
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has been accused of directing a trainer to confine Adam James, son of ESPN analyst Craig James, to an equipment room for three hours and, days later, told a trainer to place James in an electrical closet. While the legal back-and-forth begins and each side digs in, Nebraska blog Corn Nation ponders whether this is a case of Leach being an abusive coach or if this is all part of the “wussification of America.”
I think the devil is in the details. Leach’s attorney confirms much of the details of the situation, but says the circumstances will exonerate Leach in the end. How dark was the room he was placed in, how confined was James, and what was the message Leach was trying to send? Leach has a history of unorthodox handling of players; in March, Leach sent wide receiver Edward Britton out to study hall at midfield on a 30 degree day snowy day.
No matter what actually happens, I think it’s unlikely that Mike Leach will ever coach at Texas Tech again. The relationship between Leach and Tech’s administration were strained last winter during contract negotiations. How do these two sides reconcile after all this? I just don’t see it; if that was going to happen, this would have been resolved before it all exploded nationally.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech blog Double T Nation doesn’t know where to begin on the issue but has a feeling that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
I’m imagining something like the following. Adam suffers a mild concussion and is held out of practice. Adam returned to practice wearing sun glasses told Leach that he had to wear sunglasses under doctors orders and Leach probably felt that this was a bit much, perhaps Adam didn’t have the requisite respect for Leach that Leach thought he deserved. Leach then directs that Adam go into a closet and sit there and think about his actions. The James family hears about the incident and then demands that Leach apologize for his actions. Leach, being somewhat of a smart-ass, probably responded something to the effect that Leach he was helping the situation as Adam needed the darkness so as to not hurt his concussion. Leach then probably asked that someone make sure that Adam actually stayed in the closet during the team practice. I think it’s been reported that there was a “guard” present, but I seriously doubt there was an armed guard blocking Adam from leaving the confined space.
Mike Leach’s job may be in jeopardy over his recent suspension. I am told he is due an $800,000 bonus on Dec. 31 if in good standing.
Yeah, take note: locking the concussed son of an ESPN analyst in a dark room will do that to your “good standing”, Coach.
Via SI’s Richard Deitsch, the inevitable fallout begins on the ESPN side: Craig James will not be calling the Michigan State-Texas Tech Alamo Bowl, which at this point is sort of a shame from a dramatic standpoint, in the wake of his son Adam's accusations of abuse against Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach.
Now that we know that the identity of the player Mike leach allegedly harassed and mistreated is Adam James, son of Craig James, more and more details are beginning to emerge. Specifically, just what exactly James supposedly had to endure per Leach's orders.
A source close to the family told ESPN's Joe Schad that James sustained a concussion on Dec. 16, was examined on Dec. 17 and told not to practice due to a concussion and an elevated heart rate. The source said Leach called a trainer and directed him to move James "to the darkest place, to clean out the equipment and to make sure that he could not sit or lean. He was confined for three hours."
According to the source, Leach told the trainer, two days later, to "put [James] in the darkest, tightest spot. It was in an electrical closet, again, with a guard posted outside."
Leach's attorney, Ted Liggett, is doing his best to get out ahead of this, and has already said that "James 'was placed in an equipment room as it was much cooler and darker' than the practice field 'after a doctor had examined him and returned him to the field.'"
Liggett said that on that day, a trainer was posted outside the room and that James was provided ice. Liggett said that James was secluded for one to two hours. Liggett said that on another occassion, James was placed in a "press room with air conditioning and a stationary bike he coud use."
Liggett also said Leach placed James in those environments was because "Mike tries to keep the players that are unable to practice as close as he can."
Liggett added that he will "soon begin" the steps necessary to overturn the school's suspension, allowing Leach to coach the Alamo Bowl.
Two of college football's weirdest personalities are on a legal collision course, as ESPN confirms the player accusing Mike Leach of abuse is Adam James, wide receiver for the Red Raiders and son of Craig James (yes, that Craig James):
A source close to the James family told Schad that Leach directed a trainer to confine him to an equipment room for three hours and, days later, told a trainer to place James in an electrical closet. An attorney for Leach said that while James was secluded twice, the circumstances were not as portrayed by the James family.
OK, so Leach locked an injured player in a room ... but not in a bad way? That clears everything right up, doesn't it?
One of my favorite pieces of sports writing was Michael Lewis' 2005 profile of Mike Leach for the New York Times Magazine. It's a fascinating portrait of a fascinating figure. People like Mike Leach--complex, thoughtful, funny and weird--are who make sports fun. But most of all, more than any characteristics that made him a great subject for a 10,000 word magazine profile, you got the feeling that the man was, in some way, at least, a truly special mind. Against landscape littered with banal coaches and coaching styles, he seemed brilliant.
But maybe he's just another bully.
That little rant (seen in full here) seemed out of character, sure, but it was just good-humored enough to be considered okay. Maybe he'd just had a rough day, and that's why he sounded like every other a--hole coach that's ever mistaken a podium for a pulpit. With his inventive offense and charming pirate pep talks, he'd earned the benefit of the doubt.
But this? If the allegations are true, Mike Leach is about to suffer a serious hit to his reputation, and it'll most likely cost him his job. And if true, it probably should. At a time when the media's already on high alert about bullying college football coaches, he's gone and locked a player in a closet. Oh, and the reason? Apparently, it was because the player was reluctant to return prematurely after he'd suffered a concussion. Literally, the only thing that has the media on higher alert than coaching abuse is coaches pressuring players to downplay concussions.
And the player in question is reportedly the son of ESPN announcer Craig James? Is this like, an elabroate, Pete Carroll-type practical joke? The only way this could be more disastrous for Leach would be if he'd ordered the player into the closet because of a concussion AND issues with his sexuality. I mean, jeez. Maybe he was just trying to get fired? It makes no sense.
For now, it's still too early to condemn Leach or call for his job, but it certainly looks bad.
Mike Leach was suspended indefinitely by Texas Tech Monday afternoon after a "complaint from a player and his parents regarding ... Leach's treatment of the athlete after an injury." While the investigation is still ongoing, ESPN's Joe Schad is reporting that Leach mistreated a player who was suffering from a concussion.
Mike Leach is alleged to have isolated a player in a dark closet for not practicing with a concussion
Mike Leach, head football coach at Texas Tech, has been
forced to walk the plank suspended by the school following a complaint made by a student-athlete and his parents. More specifically, according to Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel, "The school is investigating a complaint from a player and his parents regarding Leach’s treatment of the athlete after an injury."
Leach will not coach in Saturday's Alamo Bowl against Michigan State; those duties will be handled by defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil, who will be the Interim Head Coach.
The school has released an official statement:
Texas Tech University recently received a complaint from a player and his parents regarding Red Raider Head Football Coach Mike Leach’s treatment of the athlete after an injury.
At Texas Tech all such complaints are considered as serious matters, and as a result, an investigation of the incident is underway. Until the investigation is complete, Texas Tech University is suspending coach Leach from all duties as Head Football Coach effective immediately. The investigation into this matter will continue in a thorough and fair manner.
Coach Ruffin McNeill will assume duties as Interim Head Coach and will coach the team during the Alamo Bowl.
The decision to take these actions was made in consultation with the Texas Tech University president, and the Texas Tech University System chancellor, and Board of Regents chairman and vice chairman.
Because this is a personnel matter no further comment will be forthcoming.
More Texas Tech news and analysis at SB Nation's Double-T Nation.
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