ESPN’s James Called Tech Coaches During Games

During an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network Wednesday, an attorney for Mike Leach provided more striking revelations about the behavior of Craig James while directly under the auspices of ESPN.

(Leach lawyer for ESPN suit: James called TT coaches from ESPN booth)

Lead Leach attorney Steve Heninger reported to Finebaum that “well before” James ever lodged a complaint to Texas Tech about Leach’s alleged mistreatment of his son, Red Raider football player Adam James, the former ESPN announcer, “was calling (Texas Tech) coaches from the booth during games and telling them to put Adam in and let him play.”


Excerpt of Heninger’s comments to Finebaum Wednesday:

Heninger:

“He was calling (Texas Tech) coaches from the booth during games and telling them to put Adam in and let him play. Disrupting games. Then at night he was leaving voicemails that he was upset that Adam wasn’t … (Finebaum interrupts)”

Finebaum:

“So Craig James from the ESPN broadcast booth was calling Texas Tech coaches? Is that correct?”

Heninger:

“On some occasions, that’s right. I think he called three or four games that year, that Tech had … the coaches were worried and went to Leach with the problem, (they said) ‘what do we do? This is the ESPN guy telling us that we need to be playing Adam more’

“In fact, Mike met with Adam and said, ‘we’ve got these voicemails Adam (from father Craig), do you want your teammates to hear these voicemails? To hear that your dad is calling the coaching staff trying to get you more playing time? How do you think that’s going to play with your teammates?’

“Adam asked him (Leach) not to play the tapes and he didn’t. And this was all well before the controversy about an electrical closet that never happened. That’s the backdrop of this whole thing.”

During the 2009 college football season, James worked at least three Texas Tech games for ESPN, including Tech’s Sept. 26 game against Houston, Oct. 17 game against Nebraska and Nov. 14 game against Oklahoma State. James was also originally scheduled to work ESPN’s telecast of Texas Tech’s meeting with Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl on New Year’s Eve - but was pulled off the broadcast after his complaint helped create Leach’s ouster at the school.

As reported by SbB on Jan. 16, 2010, Leach’s lawsuit against Texas Tech alleges that Craig James called then-Texas Tech Director of Football Operations Tommy McVay and then-Tech assistant coach Lincoln Riley on the same day in 2009 about his son, “stating, in effect, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing. Adam James is the best player at the wide receiver position. If you’ve got the balls to call me back, and I don’t think you do, call me back.’

In his deposition for the Leach lawsuit against Texas Tech, Craig James testified the following on March 13, 2011:

Paul Dobrowski: Did you call (Tech assistant coach) Lincoln Riley at that time (2009)?
Craig James: Yes.
PD: What did you say?
CJ: Left a message for him to call me.
PD: What did you say on the message?
CJ: “Give me a call. I would like to talk to you.”
PD: Why did you call him?
CJ: The same reason, to find out what Adam had done, what we could do to keep him on track here and not go into the tank.
PD: And did you leave a message to the effect that, “if you have the balls and I don’t think you do, call me back?
CJ: I may have. I may have.
PD: Well, when you say you may have, that indicates to me that that kind of rings a bell or sounds familiar.
CJ: I could have. I could have.
PD: Okay. As you sit here today, do you believe that you left that kind of a message?
CJ: I believe I could have, yes.

Later during the 2009 season in which Craig James made the complaints referred to by Heninger yesterday, the ESPN announcer accused Leach of mistreating his son after an alleged injury. That accusation led to Leach’s firing by Texas Tech.

Heninger also told Finebaum Wednesday that as soon as the Texas Supreme Court renders a verdict in Leach’s appeal for a jury trial against Texas Tech in his wrongful termination lawsuit against the school, he will pursue his defamation lawsuit against ESPN.

A lawsuit which prominently documents James’ specific, behind-the-scenes role - which included providing son Adam’s cellphone number to ESPN reporter Joe Schad - in ESPN’s on-air coverage of the coach’s ouster at Texas Tech.

Follow Brooks on Twitter or join him on Facebook for real-time updates