The evidence continues to mount that Texas Tech school administrators, faced with a wrongful termination lawsuit from former football coach Mike Leach, are in the process of intimating that ESPN’s Craig James played a major role in the dismissal of the school’s most successful coach of all-time.
Saturday Matthew McGowan of the LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-JOURNAL reports that yesterday Leach attorney Paul Dobrowski told a “room full of reporters” that Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance stated under oath in his Thursday deposition that James, an ESPN national college football analyst, “personally wanted Leach fired.”
Hance’s statement about James comes after Texas Tech attorneys, in a written request to the Texas Attorney General on Jan. 26 to keep public school documents about the firing secret, reported, “Craig James threatened on Dec. 20 to sue the university if it did not investigate the actions of then-head football coach Mike Leach.”
Tech attorneys are trying to keep all records sealed within the university as it pertains to the Leach investigation, but in the process of trying to keep those secrets, university lawyers tipped off just how much influence Craig James was trying to exert over the Texas Tech football program - and Leach himself.
The reason Tech lawyers released the statement about James’ threatened lawsuit was an attempt to prove to the state’s attorney general that the school had no choice but to go forward with its subsequent actions against Leach. And that behind-the-scenes details of those actions needed to be sealed forever.
Sounds a lot like Tech school officials are doing what they can to place the blame for the Leach investigation and subsequent dismissal of the coach on James. That would perhaps take the heat off themselves for what was an extremely unpopular decision with fans and, more importantly, donors. (Donations to the school have reportedly plummeted since Leach was fired, causing cuts in Tech academic programs.)
Though from Craig James’ perspective, the worst may be yet to come.
While James has denied the written claim by Texas Tech attorneys to the Texas Attorney General that he threatened to sue the school (aren’t they on the same side?), he has yet to deny Chancellor Hance’s sworn statement that the ESPN college football analyst wanted Leach fired. (Though that may be forthcoming.)
What he wouldn’t be able to deny though is voicemails that he allegedly left to two Texas Tech assistant football coaches.
About those voicemails, I wrote on Jan. 16:
Leach’s lawsuit maintains that Craig James called Tech Director of Football Operations Tommy McVay in September, “to tell him, in effect, that you coaches are crazy and you’re screwing my kid.”
Leach’s lawsuit also alleges that James called then-Tech assistant coach Lincoln Riley the same day 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.’”
Leach attorneys Ted Liggett and Paul Dobrowski have not yet indicated if they have recordings of those phone calls from James. However in another area of the lawsuit, Dobrowski confirmed that he had a copy of a voicemail left by Tech attorney Charlotte Bingham to a Tech assistant footbal coach.
At the time I wrote the piece about the possible existence of the James voicemails, I said that if they did indeed exist, James might not be long for ESPN.
We now have the Tech Chancellor confirming under oath that James personally wanted Leach fired and Tech attorneys claiming to the state attorney general in writing that James threatened to sue the school if there was no investigation of Leach’s handling of his son.
Add in the claim that James complained via voicemail to Tech assistant football coaches about his son’s playing time, a claim that may be able to be confirmed via the existence of the messages, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that ESPN may soon be wavering in its commitment to James.
Saturday I exchanged emails with an ESPN representative in Bristol and was told that the network, “had no comment at this time.”