ESPN: “No Intention Of Bringing Back” James

Immediately after Craig James announced last December that he had decided to run for statewide political office in Texas, SbB reported via multiple sources that James was not likely to return as an ESPN college football announcer for the 2012 season.

Craig James out at ESPN: Guns UP

In a brief statement to SbB today, ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz essentially eliminated the prospect of James returning to the network.

ESPN’s Krulewitz: “We have no intention of bringing Craig James back in the future.”

Thus ends the second tenure of James at ESPN, which began in 2003. James, whose ESPN contract expires before the 2012 football season, also worked for ESPN in the early ’90s following his NFL playing career.

Today’s ESPN announcement comes as the network prepares to defend itself against a defamation lawsuit filed by Mike Leach against the network last November. The lawsuit also targets James and Dallas-based public relations firm Spaeth Communications by name.

While ESPN, obviously, will not confirm that the now-official departure of James from the network was related to the Leach litigation, it isn’t unreasonable to think that it may have been a factor.

That isn’t necessarily a given though, considering that Leach’s lawsuit, filed against ESPN and James on Nov. 24, 2010, did not deter ESPN from having James work the 2011 season for the network.

Krulewitz also told SbB today that any comments recently made by James on the U.S. Senate campaign trail in Texas, including his recent comments addressing gays, were unrelated to the timing of today’s statement. (Which was in response to a query lodged by SbB to ESPN three days ago - and unrelated to James’ comments about gays - regarding the future of James at the network.)

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Son’s Allowance Bought Craig James’ Conscience

While sitting in an unlocked media room adjacent to a Texas Tech practice field on December 19, 2009, Adam James sent his father, ESPN announcer Craig James, a series of text messages.

Craig James asked Texas Tech to fire Mike Leach on multiple occasions

The text messages, sent while practice was underway on a 66-degree day in Lubbock, included the following:

Hey, you’re going to like this.

Leach thinks it’s impossible for me to have a concussion and that I’m just being a pussy.

So for punishment he had me locked in a pitch black shed for the whole practice.

And they won’t let me out.

And if they catch me even so much as leaning against the wall they’re going to kick me off the team

After receiving the text messages, Craig James replied via text, “can you call me?

Adam James, who had been directed to the media room by head TTU trainer Steve Pincock, replied to his father, “no, just text.

The ESPN announcer then text his son the message, “call me when you can and think about what you will allow me to do.

Craig James asked Texas Tech to fire Mike Leach on multiple occasions

On March 13, 2010, during his sworn deposition, Adam James recalled his thoughts when he first text his father:

We have the same sense of humor and personality, and I thought — we thought it was funny. So I said ‘you’re going to like this.‘”

Adam James also said on March 13, 2010, that he had never spoken to Leach about the concussion he referenced in his texts to his father, nor did Leach or anyone else ever tell him he would be punished for “so much as leaning against the wall.”

On Dec. 19, 2009, after spending 90 minutes in the media room, Adam James eventually let himself out of the building as no one was outside to open the unlocked door.

After Craig James received the texts from his son on Dec. 19, 2009, he contacted then-Chairman of the Texas Tech Board of Regents, Larry Anders. Anders later recalled during a sworn deposition on March 23, 2010, how he was first introduced to the situation by the ESPN announcer:

.. there was a message on my wife’s cellphone from his (Craig James) wife Marilyn. That I needed to talk to Craig and it was a matter of life and death.

Anders, who had been set to attend a wedding event, contacted the ESPN announcer who told him his son had been “shut in an electrical closetwhile “humiliated” with “extreme profanity” by Leach. Also during the call, which came on the same day Craig James had received the Dec. 19 texts from his son, Anders said the ESPN announcer demanded Leach apologize and “recommended” the coach be fired.

Craig James asked Texas Tech to fire Mike Leach on multiple occasions

During his sworn depositon on April 13, 2010, current Texas Tech Board of Regents Chairman Jerry Turner, who was Vice Chairman at the time, reported what Anders told him of his exchange with Craig James on the same day the ESPN announcer received text messages from his son at TTU practice:

Larry said that based on his conversation with Craig James, Craig James wanted Mike Leach fired. I said to Larry, ‘I don’t believe that.’

Obviously I was wrong, Craig James did want Mike Leach fired.

Craig James also called Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance to report what his son had told him. Later, Hance recalled the conversation with the ESPN announcer during his March 11, 2010, sworn deposition:

He (Craig James) wanted an apology and he wanted him (Mike Leach) fired and I said, “‘Craig, if you fire him do you think he will apologize? Both things are not going to happen.’”

When asked at the same deposition if he thought a Leach apology to James could’ve saved the coach’s job, the Chancellor of Texas Tech said, “no.

On the same day Adam James sent text messages to Craig James while Texas Tech practice was underway the son of the ESPN announcer also shot cellphone video of an “electrical closet.”

The space, which appeared well-lit in the video and included footage in which two chairs were visible, was located next to the media room where TTU Trainer Steve Pincock had ordered Adam James to stay for the remaining moments of practice.

Public relations firm Spaeth Communications founder Merrie Spaeth later indicated to SbB that, “immediately after the second (cellphone) video was shot (on Dec. 19), Craig James contacted Spaeth to advise him.

The next day, Dec. 20, 2009, Texas Tech investigator Charlotte Bingham interviewed Adam James in response to the complaint from the James family about Leach to Texas Tech administrators.

Craig James asked Texas Tech to fire Mike Leach on multiple occasions

On Dec. 23, 2009, Bingham provided a report of her fact finding to Hance, Anders, Turner, TTU President Guy Bailey and Athletic Director Gerald Myers. During her March 5, 2010, deposition, Bingham noted of her report about the James family complaint:

I informed President Bailey, Chancellor Hance, Larry Anders, Jerry Turner and Gerald Myers that Mike Leach had not required Adam James to stand in an electrical closet.

Adam James told me that he went into the electrical closet and that he stood in the electrical closet for approximately five minutes.

Bingham noted in her investigation that the son of the ESPN announcer had stayed in the media room for “one and a half hours“, with the door to the building “opened every 15 or 20 minutes” so TTU trainers could check on Adam James.

Bingham later said that TTU President Bailey’s Chief of Staff, Grace Hernandez, reported during the same Dec. 23, 2009, meeting that her own investigation had determined that Adam “never had to stand in an electrical closet.”

When asked during a deposition if he had heard that Adam James had “napped” during his 90-minute stay in the media room on Dec. 19, 2009, Texas Tech Chancellor Hance replied, “I’d heard that.

Bingham also reported of Adam James during the same interview:

He stated that Coach Leach was verbally abusive to players, hated by the entire team and had made it living hell on the receivers.

Bingham also interviewed Craig James on Dec. 20, 2009 as part of the official internal Texas Tech investiation and later said that the ESPN announcer had made a”threat of litigation” against the school to her “and that (litigation against Texas Tech by the James family) would be a can of worms and it would not be pretty.”

The same day Bingham and Hernandez presented their findings of fact to Texas Tech officials, Craig James sent an email to TTU Chancellor Hance reporting that the claims of his son had now been “verified” and that, “if any organization or person did what Mike Leach did, they would be fired. Which is exactly what we expect to happen to Mike (Leach).

Craig James asked Texas Tech to fire Mike Leach on multiple occasions

Current Texas Tech Board of Regents Chairman Turner also received the email from the ESPN announcer and supplied this reaction to Hance:

I interpret his (Craig James) email as a threat he will go public if we don’t take the action he requested.

The next communication Turner received from James - via Hance - confirmed exactly that.

On Dec. 26, 2009, Hance received an email from Craig James that he forwarded to Turner, then-Board of Regents Chairman Anders and Texas Tech President Guy Bailey that included the following:

Bottom line: Tech is absolutely exposed as a university with each hour that passes. The team, the staff, and increasingly others at the school know that a substantial charge has been made, and we understand it has been verified by your own investigative team.

Kent, I ask you and the board members this: Have each of you seen the shed and electrical closet Adam was confined to? I’d recommend each of you visit the Places … walk in them and turn the lights off. NOW, imagine standing there for three hours in the cold without being allowed to sit down or lean against.

This story will become public at some point and you can count on the fact that some television cameras will show this picture.

During his March 13, 2010, deposition, Craig James was asked, “When you wrote this email of 12/26 you did not believe Adam had been confined to the electrical closet for a total of three hours, fair?”

Craig James replied, “Yes.

On Dec. 27, 2009, TTU President Guy Bailey drafted a letter addressed to Mike Leach that included a private reprimand and $60,000 fine. The final line of the letter read:

This concludes the inquiry into allegations made by Adam James and his parents. If other information about other incidents emerges, we will investigate them and take appropriate action as warranted.

Instead of the letter being delivered, on the same day TTU investigator Bingham left a voicemail with Leach’s attorney that stated, “if there’s not just some incredible objection, Mike needs to sign the letter — that he sign the letter that he was presented with (earlier) — and return it to (TTU attorney’s office) or return it to the president (Guy Bailey) and then he needs to work on some sort of apology.

No deadline of when the coach was required to fulfill the request was given by Bingham - or anyone at TTU - to Leach or his attorney.

In the same voicemail to Leach’s attorney, Bingham referenced “outside pressure” from Craig James as a reason Texas Tech was looking to resolve the James family complaint as soon as possible.

Craig James asked Texas Tech to fire Mike Leach on multiple occasions

The next day Texas Tech announced that Leach had been suspended.

90 minutes after Texas Tech released a statement reporting that Leach’s suspension was in response to a complaint by the family of an unnamed Texas Tech football player, ESPN reporter Joe Schad broke the news that Adam James was the player in question.

Schad next provided the following details of the treatment of Adam James at the hands of the newly-suspended Texas Tech football coach:

A source close to the James family 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.”

A source told The Associated Press that James said Leach told him if he came out, he would be kicked off the team.

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.”

The claims by the anonymous “source close to the James family” were not noted in the ESPN report as being alleged, though the same claims had already been debunked by Texas Tech’s own internal investigation as part of the aformentioned report by Charlotte Bingham and Grace Hernandez to Texas Tech administrators seven days earlier.

Three months later, on March 13, 2010, deposition testimony by Adam James revealed that the claims that had previously - and repeatedly - been presented by ESPN as the primary facts that led to Leach’s Texas Tech ouster were actually completely incorrect.

After ESPN broke the news that Adam James was the player who had initiated the complaint - via his ESPN announcer father’s public relations firm - Spaeth Communications released a statement to the media that included, “The entire James family is supportive of the University and looks forward to a resolution of the matter.

Less than 48 hours later, Mike Leach was fired.

Craig James asked Texas Tech to fire Mike Leach on multiple occasions

After Leach’s firing, Craig James said of the media publicity that immediately preceded the coach’s ouster:

Anyone who thinks we were asked to go through this, think again. We had to do it.

This (Leach firing) is all a result of what happened to Adam a couple weeks ago.

There’s not a mom and dad in this country who wouldn’t have done what we did if they knew what we knew about our son.

This isn’t something that we asked for. We continue to be a victim of something.

Less than a week after Leach was fired, ESPN’s highest-rated daily TV talkshow, PARDON THE INTERRUPTION with co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, addressed the subject of Leach’s firing and his future job prospects. As part of the debate, Tony Kornheiser said:

I think he will have to convince a college president he won’t lock a kid up in a tool shed or put him in a cage.

It was arrogance and stupidity and behaving like you are above the law at all times.

He didn’t get fired for coaching.

Five months later while speaking to a church gathering in Dallas, ESPN’s Craig James stated:

My son was being treated in an unfair, unimaginable, and unthinkable manner. We filed a complaint with the university; private, hoping to quietly protect Adam to stop the insanity that was being done to him. Not once, but twice.

The lies, the accusations, the death threats, police sitting outside our home. The bounty on our lives. The insanity that comes from someone’s actions, are crazy.

Adam and my footprints, and what we’ve done in life when we hit the wall we can look around and our character, our honesty and our integrity are in place.

Now the other side of the equation, the party (Mike Leach) that’s accusing, I wonder what their beach looks like?

I have felt strongly that we have been in a spirtual war for the past four months. Our faith, our christian family has sustained us.

It’s important to lead a godly life.

Adam James suited up for his final home game as a Texas Tech Red Raider on Nov. 12, 2011, against Oklahoma State.

Before the game, James participated in Senior Day festivities with family members.

Texas Tech later lost the game 66-6 after trailing 49-0 at halftime.

His father skipped the game.

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‘Craig James gave Joe Schad Adam’s cell number’

The new Mike Leach book, Swing Your Sword, is out.

Mike Leach New Book: Swing Your Sword

In the book, Leach retells the events of his legally-challenged ouster at Texas Tech in late 2009 - and provides stunning new documents and details that verify a professional public relations campaign paid for and orchestrated by ESPN’s Craig James against the all-time winningest coach in Tech football history.

If you followed the story as it initially unfolded, you may be aware of at least some of the actions of Texas Tech officials during the regrettable episode. Actions that left Leach no choice but to seek legal remedy soon to culminate at the Texas Supreme Court.

If you were reading SbB at the time, it wasn’t unreasonable to suspect that Craig James and his professional public relations representative, Spaeth Communications founder Merrie Spaeth, may have had a role in shaping ESPN’s coverage of the story.

But now, thanks to Texas Tech’s status as a state-funded institution, emails obtained through open records requests by Leach and his attorneys show a concerted effort by Craig James and paid agents of the ESPN analyst to materially impact ESPN’s editorial approach to Leach’s untimely departure from Texas Tech.

Leach reports in his new book that even before a complaint against Leach was lodged by Craig James regarding the coach’s alleged mistreatment of his son - former Texas Tech football player Adam James - Craig James had hired Spaeth. (It was Spaeth who hatched the infamous Swift Boat public relations campaign that helped turn public opinion against John Kerry’s during the 2004 presidential election campaign.)

Here is one such email included in Swing Your Sword in which Spaeth Communications employee Rebecca Shaw asks Craig James in an emailif we want to forward the players’ names and numbers exclusively to [ESPN reporter] Joe [Schad].”:

From: Rebecca Shaw
Sent: Monday, December 28, 2009 11:30 PM
To: James, Craig Subject: RE: ESPN 6:29 PM

Craig - Merrie’s position - and I agree - is that the story has been put to bed tonight. Let’s take a look at the coverage first thing in the morning and make a decision then if we want to forward the players’ names and numbers exclusively to [ESPN’s] Joe [Schad], whether we want to include the AP reporter, or if we want to hold off a day to see if the university makes a statement. I’ll be up early checking the coverage. Merrie’s good with the statement that I drafted for you for ESPN. Would you like it circulated to Kevin and Jim or do you want to noodle on it awhile?

Rebecca Shaw Executive Vice President Spaeth Communications, Inc.

In addition to the emails, Leach reports in the following Swing Your Sword excerpt that Craig James went so far as to personally provide the cellphone number of his son, Adam James, to ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad: Read more…

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…

Craig James PR Firm Blogged Using ‘Pseudonyms’

On Jan. 10 I reported that Craig James hired Dallas-based public relations firm Spaeth Communications before he went public to complain about Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach’s treatment of his son Adam.

Adam James Video From Spaeth Communication

That followed a Jan. 8 piece I wrote about the James-hired p.r. firm, which was the architect of the “Swiftboat” public relations campaign launched against 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry.

Melinda Alvarado of FOX 34 in Lubbock and Katie Bauer of NBC’s KCBD-TV in Lubbock report Craig James testified under oath on Saturday about Spaeth’s role in, based on James’ comments in his deposition, what appears to be a concerted public relations campaign designed to discredit Leach.

Read more…

James Hired Swift Boat Firm Before Going Public

Last Friday I reported the same firm that oversaw the p.r. campaign of the Swift Boat veterans against John Kerry in 2004 was also advising Craig James in his public complaint to the Texas Tech administration about the disciplinary methods of Red Raiders football coach Mike Leach.

Merrie Spaeth Swift Boat Veterans Craig James Mike Leach

 (In hiring Swift Boat pr firm, ESPN’s James gave clue of fear over backlash)

Today I talked to the Founder of Spaeth Communications Merrie Spaeth about the company’s specific role with the James family.

Spaeth told me that she was initially contacted by Craig James before he went public with his complaints about Leach after a third party recommended the firm to the ESPN announcer.

I’m pretty sure his first call was on Dec. 19. He reached out to us,” Spaeth said.

Spaeth said that James wanted her company to, “help (James family) with the first burst of attention.”

Our first role with them was to think through what to say publicly. We advised him on the drafting of the family’s first statement that was distributed to reporters,” Spaeth said.

Spaeth also provided previously unreported details about the Adam James cellphone video. She said that James actually shot two videos during his separate confiments at Texas Tech practices and, “showed them to his parents.” Those videos were part of the impetus for Craig James taking the complaint against Leach public. Immediately after the second video was shot, Craig James contacted Spaeth to advise him.

Spaeth said the public release of the Adam James cellphone video was based on prior statements by Leach: “We came to a consensus that the video should be released to the public after Leach said some things that were at odds with adam’s story.

She did not say who had the initial idea to release the video to the media, only that it was a consensus-driven decision by her and the James family.

About the second video uploaded to Youtube and distributed to media outlets that showed Leach shouting at Adam James during a Tech practice, Spaeth said, “I have not seen it and don’t know about it.

Spaeth also clarified her role with James in the wake of his recent public announcement that he’s considering running for U.S. Senate.

Read more…