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.

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Pics: Trent Richardson Seen Gambling At Casino

Early Friday morning longtime Alabama media personality Paul Finebaum appeared on FOX 6 in Birmingham to set the scene in New Orleans on the weekend before LSU and Alabama meet on Monday at the SuperDome.

Trent Richardson at Harrahs Casino in New Orleans Jan. 7, 2012

(Trent Richardson at New Orleans Casino Saturday night)

During his visit with FOX 6 news anchor Janice Rogers, Finebaum reported that Alabama and LSU football players were spending their off-field time visiting Bourbon Street and patronizing Harrah’s Casino.

We saw reams of Alabama and LSU players, they had a midnight curfew, and, surprise suprise they split their time between Bourbon Street, and I know fans of LSU and Alabama are going to be thrilled to hear this, Bourbon Street and Harrah’s Casino.

About a quarter ’til twelve we went in there (Harrah’s Casino), I saw mainly LSU players, one very prominent one I might add but I’ll keep his name out of it. I hope he’s an adult although I think he is based on his alleged criminal activity of a few months ago.

I was a little surprised to see football players gambling, in a legal casino I might add, but it still surprised me. I guess I’m getting old.

Rogers then asked Finebaum, “I did hear that the curfews were midnight. Maybe one (team) had a one o’clock curfew, will that not start tightening up now today?


Finebaum replied:

Yes, it’s interesting I saw Trent Richardson out on, I think it was Bourbon Street, and he ran into one of his coaches and they were talking and, Trent really is a very nice kid, and he said, ‘coach I hate to do this but I’ve got curfew in ten minutes, I’ve got to run.’

Speaking of Richardson, the Alabama star running back was seen the evening after Finebaum’s comments at Harrah’s Casino around 11pm local time.

Trent Richardson at Harrahs Casino in New Orleans Jan. 7, 2012

(Trent Richardson at New Orleans Casino Saturday night) 

Richardson was also photographed visiting the New Orleans gambling parlor Saturday night around 11:30pm local time.

Trent Richardson at Harrahs Casino in New Orleans Jan. 7, 2012

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

Main Media Stage: Story Behind Updyke’s ‘Attack’

On February 18, Harvey Updyke was released from a Lee County jail after being charged with poisoning Auburn’s University’s venerable Toomer’s oak trees.


Only one TV news outlet was tipped off to Updyke’s quiet release from custody that day, CBS 8 in Montgomery.  It was that station, which is based outside the Auburn over-the-air viewing market, that procured the footage of Updyke making an obscene gesture as he left an Auburn-area jail.

Yesterday, CBS 8 was also the first media outlet tipped off to an alleged attack on Updyke at an Auburn-area gas station. Read more…

Timing Of Toomer News Release Raises Questions

Since the bizarre news broke about the Toomer’s Corner Oaks being poisoned at Auburn University, I’ve been inundated with conspiracy theorists who believe that the school leaked the news Wednesday in an attempt to deflect media coverage from a story I broke here earlier the same day.

Auburn Toomer's Oaks News Timeline

(AU released news before cops had chance to nab already-located suspect)

My first reaction to the suggestion, like anyone in their right mind who isn’t a fan of certain Red Elephant, was that there’s no way Auburn would do such a thing.

I immediately set out to establish facts of the situation that would disprove such a theory.

Two days and thousands of media reports later, I still haven’t found a timeline provided by Auburn or law enforcement that definitively rules out that Auburn may have leaked the story to deflect same-day coverage of the NCAA’s Louisiana-based investigation of the Auburn football program.

Wednesday at 1:30pm ET I was first to confirm that NCAA investigators had interviewed four individuals about Auburn football recruiting tactics. Later that afternoon, Auburn University posted this message that, in part, read:

Auburn University today confirmed that an herbicide commonly used to kill trees was deliberately applied in lethal amounts to the soil around the Toomer’s Corner live oaks on campus, and there is little chance to save the trees.

The City of Auburn Police Division is investigating the situation, and the application of this herbicide, known as Spike 80DF, or tebuthiuron, is also governed by state agricultural laws and the Environmental Protection Agency..

So why did Auburn choose to release the news at that time? Especially since we now know that a full-blown investigation by Auburn Police to find Harvey Updyke located the suspect “more than a week” before the Auburn press release. From the BIRMINGHAM NEWS:

Auburn Police tracked down Updyke more than a week ago, according to court documents.

Col. Melvin Owens, executive director of security and public safety at Auburn University, stated that a professor of turfgrass management received a suspicious telephone voice message on Feb. 7.

The caller claimed to have knowledge of the poisoning of the trees, according to the affidavit.

The voice on the message was consistent with the voice that had called a radio talk show on Jan. 28, according to the affidavit. The talk show has been identified at the Paul Finebaum radio talk show.

Auburn Police obtained a search warrant for telephone records involving the suspicious call and made a “covert” telephone call to the telephone number on the records they obtained, according to the search warrant. The voice of the subject who answered the telephone “was consistent with the voices heard on the telephone calls to the radio show and to Auburn University,” according to the affidavit.

Auburn Police developed Updyke as a suspect, according to the affidavit. “Mr. Updyke provides a rights-advised oral statement admitting to making the telephone call to the radio show admitting to poisoning the trees and to the professor at Auburn University claiming knowledge of the poisoning, but he later denied to police actually poisoning the trees.”

Why would Auburn Police devote significant resources to such a manhunt if it hadn’t yet been determined that the Toomer’s Oaks had been poisoned?

Or perhaps the investigation by Auburn Police was indeed prompted by lab results that indicated the Toomer’s Oaks were poisoned. But if that’s the case, and Auburn Police had found Updyke, why was the news of the Oaks released by Auburn before Updyke was apprehended?

Why wouldn’t Auburn University wait for Auburn Police to arrest suspect Updyke before breaking the bad news?

All of this points to exactly when Auburn University knew the Oaks had been poisoned and were in grave condition. And that’s where the information provided by the school gets very fuzzy.

The soil sample testing was actually done at Mississippi State.

From the Auburn website on Wednesday:

As a precaution, soil samples were taken the next day and sent to the Alabama State Pesticide Residue Laboratory on campus for analysis. Due to a small fire that occurred in the Alabama lab in December, the tests were sent to the lab at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss., to expedite results.

The Auburn statements on its website contain no dates or timelines as to when the testing took place and/or when the school knew the results.

Though a Mississippi State school press release gives a clue: Read more…

NCAA-Tainted “Girl” Cast In AU Recruiting Gasp?

Friday afternoon longtime ESPN college football recruiting expert Tom Luginbill appeared on the Paul Finebaum Show to make predictions about where he thought some of the top college football recruits in the nation would be inking letters of intent on national signing day Wednesday.

Natalie Nunn appears in Auburn on biggest recruiting weekend of the year

(As signing day nears, Auburn import biz suddenly brisk)

One of the prized recruits discussed was the top offensive lineman prospect in the country, Cyrus Kouandjio. Last month Kouandjio reportedly had USC, New Mexico, Iowa, Miami and Alabama as his top five choices. (Brother Arie Kouandjio is an offensive lineman with the Crimson Tide.) Recently, Miami was replaced on that list by Auburn.

So on Finebaum’s show today, what school did Luginbill predict Cyrus Kouandjio will attend? Luginbill:

Luginbill: “I think Cyrus Kouandjio is going to surprise the world and … sign with Auburn.”

Finebaum: “REALLY?”

Luginbill: “That would be a significant surprise for many. You’ve got Auburn, Iowa, Alabama and New Mexico in his top four, obviously his brother is a freshman at Alabama … but don’t be surprised if that happens.”

Luginbill’s prediction is a bold one, considering a seemingly undecided Kouandjio is taking his official visit to Auburn, which wasn’t scheduled until a couple weeks ago, this weekend.

Joining the five-star offensive lineman prospect in Auburn this weekend for their official Auburn recruiting visits will be four-star offensive lineman Antonio Richardson, four-star defensive end LaMichael Fanning, four-star defensive lineman Gabe Wright and three-star David Reeves.

In other words, besides the Iron Bowl and a possible bowl game, this will be the biggest weekend of 2011 for Auburn football.

Natalie Nunn appears in Auburn on biggest recruiting weekend of the year

(Auburn has a nightclub? Yea, me neither)

Speaking of big weekends in Auburn, have you heard about the female reality show star who just happens to be parachuting into town at exactly the same time? Read more…

Auburn: “Worst Team Ever in a Major Conference”

Yet to be fitted for my college basketball-watching shoes this season, but after listening to College Basketball RPI guru Jerry Palm today on Finebaum (mp3), I’m fixin’ to pull out the shoehorn.

Auburn Basketball

(war DAYUM eagle)

When asked by Finebaum to analyze the SEC West, Palm, who has tracked back to antiquity the NCAA hoops RPI ranking system so critical to the Big Dance, struck as significant - and historic! - chord as I’ve heard this season.

Palm to Finebaum:

“When you look at the (SEC) West, that’s an unmitigated disaster. There isn’t one good team in the West … Mississippi is remotely competent, but if that division was a league unto itself it would rank below the Ivy League in the College RPI rankings.”

Ranked below the Ivy League? Hard to imagine it can get any worse than that.

Unless you’re Auburn, that is.

Palm:

“Auburn might be the worst team ever in a major conference. Or at least in the last generation in a major conference, not just the SEC.”

When discussing Alabama’s remote chances of snagging an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, Finbaum asked Palm, “so when you beat a team like Auburn, even on the road, does it do you any good or are you better off not even playing?

Palm:

“You can’t help it because they’re in your league. As good as Auburn is in football, the team is that bad in basketball. They’re the worst major conference team in a generation. This is my 19th year that I’ve been tracking the RPI and when you look at the big six conferences, Auburn has a chance to be the worst team in the RPI probably by 40 or 50 spots over the last 20 years from a major conference. That’s how bad they are. They are dreadful. The numbers don’t lie.” 

Palm went on to say that if the NCAA tournament began today, five SEC East teams would make March Madness while exactly zero SEC West teams would be so privileged.

South Carolina is the only team in the SEC East according to Palm that might not be invited to the Big Dance. Though Palm said of the Gamecocks, “they might be good enough to win the SEC West but the problem is they’re the sixth best team in the (SEC) East.

So when Palm talks about Auburn vying for the title of worst college basketball team in major conference history, who are the Tigers up against?

Read more…

Tim Brando Update: “I Don’t Work For ESPN, Pal”

During one of his regular, delightful appearances on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, Tim Brando related fond memories of his days working at ESPN.

Tim Brando

.. Okay.

Maybe not. Read more…

“Gagged” By Auburn, Pat Dye’s “Show Is Over”

For nearly two decades former Auburn football coach and athletic director Pat Dye has made regularly scheduled appearances on the nationally-syndicated Paul Finebaum Show.

But as the Iron Bowl approached last week, Dye did not appear for his weekly sponsored segment with former Alabama Coach Gene Stallings. Of that absence, Finebaum said, “He’s been on this show for 17 years. This is the first no-show in history.

Paul Finebaum Pat Dye

The timing of Dye’s “no-show” may have not been coincidental, considering the former Auburn coach confirmed yesterday to Finebaum that he has been instructed by Auburn school officials not to talk about the controversy involving the recruitment of Cam Newton. An exchange from Monday’s show between Dye and Finebaum:

Finbaum: “Who at Auburn has told him (Cam Newton) he can’t talk and why not? … Have you (Dye) been gagged as well?

Dye: “Yeah.

Why is Dye under a gag order? Good question. Though Dye is not formerly under the full-time employ of the school, the former Auburn Athletic Director maintains close ties to the football program and athletic department and was reportedly instrumental in Gene Chizik securing the school’s head football coaching job at Auburn in 2008.

Last year the BIRMINGHAM NEWS reported that Dye spoke to the Auburn football team - at Chizik invitation. Excerpt:

Auburn practiced in Jordan-Hare Stadium — on Pat Dye Field — after Dye spoke about some Auburn traditions. Running backs coach Curtis Luper was impressed. “He’s been around to the office a bunch,” Luper said. “I’m locked into every single word he says because there’s so much wisdom in his words. He’s experienced a lot.”

That’s right, the playing surface at venerable Jordan-Hare stadium is also named after Dye. The coach is also a frequent speaker at Auburn booster and alumni functions.

All that didn’t deter Birmingham-based radio show host Finebaum from pressing Dye on why he was a “no-show” for the program last week. The former coach maintained that he had planned to appear on the show but that he never received a call from the program’s producer.

That led to this testy exchange: Read more…

A&M Regent Stallings: TX To Pac-10 ‘Is Accurate’

Former longtime college football coach and current Texas A&M Board of Regents member Gene Stallings guested on the syndicated Paul Finebaum radio show Friday afternoon.

Gene Stallings Texas A&M Regent Thinks Texas Is Gone To The Pac-10

Stallings reportedly is one of the individuals serving on the A&M board who wants the school to consider SEC conference affiliation. His comments today to Finebaum, though guarded, did confirm his interest in that prospect.

During the interview Stallings said, “it may be to our (A&M) advantage” to join the SEC but the former Alabama coach also didn’t rule out any conference affiliation for the school. When asked by Finebaum if he’d talked to anyone affiliated with the SEC about A&M joining the conference, Stallings said, “I’ve talked to one or two.

Stalling noted that the A&M Board of Regents had not met recently and that he did not know the desires of some of other board members - including the chairman.

When trying to get a feel for just how hard Stallings will push for A&M’s entry into the SEC, his comments about the school’s relationship with Texas were much more telling. Read more…

Urban Meyer: I’m Not Going To Notre Dame. Ever.

Imagine for a moment that you are the CEO of a major corporation - the leader in its industry (widgets, likely). You live in a subtropical climate, close to two major bodies of water and attendant beaches. You have the adulation of your employees and your community. You make millions of dollars per year in salary. Hot wife, good kids, the world is truly your playground.

Urban Meyer Touchdown Jesus

(Hey you - yeah, you. Shut up.)

Now imagine that an older, once-proud company in the Rust Belt came calling, asking you to take it over. It used to be an industry leader many decades ago but is now a shell of its former self. It’s been run into the ground by poor management despite its brand recognition. Think of, say, Chrysler. You’d have to take a pay cut, live in a crappy part of the country, and your employers would be bitter, hateful people who would blame you the first moment something went wrong. You’d tell them to shove it and you know it. Just like Urban Meyer did to Notre Dame.

Read more…