And, in both cases, the former Red Raider head coach alternately denied mistreating one of his players to railing against the university, the player — Adam James — and the James family — ESPN analyst Craig James in particular.
As for the alleged abuse of Adam James — initial reports stated that Leach had ordered the receiver confined to a dark, cramped room/electrical closet — Leach said it simply didn’t happen. According to the coach, he had ordered James to be taken “out of the light” as he had been diagnosed with a mild concussion. More specifically, Leach stated he was unaware where James was taken as he “was busy coaching practice.”
Leach then lashed out at what he described as falsehoods being distributed by the media in general and ESPN in particular.
“There have been several things that have been brought to my attention on the ticker that’s just false,” Leach said according to the Times, 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.”
Steve Pincock, Tech’s head athletic trainer, backed up Leach’s claims, saying in a statement that “Adam was never locked in any facility, and was never placed in an electrical closet or tight space, or instructed to do so.”
“Adam showed up to practice in street clothes, no team gear, and dark sunglasses,” Pincock said, according to the statement. “Adam walked about 40 to 50 yards, very slowly and with a non-caring attitude.”
Pincock said Leach then asked that James be moved to a location “where sunlight could not bother him as he was wearing sunglasses.”
“I instructed Adam to stay in the garage and out of the sun, so the light would not worsen his condition,” Pincock said in the statement. “While in the garage, Adam was walking around, eating ice, sitting on the ground, and, at one point, sleeping; at no point was there any enforcement to make Adam stand up.”
At least part of the public perception is that Leach mistreated a player who was diagnosed with a concussion. According to Tech team physician Dr. Michael Phy, and based on his understanding of the situation, “no additional risks or harm were imposed on Adam by what he was asked to do.”
So, you have two people who are either current employees of the school or are employed by the school — Pincock and Phy — who come out with statements of support for the former head coach? Interesting.
Anyway, during both of the interviews, Leach claims it wasn’t his treatment of James that led to this situation. Instead, it was an overbearing father and a lazy and entitled son who prompted this entire sordid affair.
In particular, Leach blasted Craig James for the way he hovered over the program, calling both Leach and his assistants in an attempt to get more playing time for his son. He also made damning statements about the ESPN analyst attempting to use his position of “power” to force his son into additional playing time.
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. “But the thing about it is as the coach, I watch every inch of film. I’m deferring to the judgment of 12 people as we look at the film on who should play and who should play when and then we make our decision based on that. I don’t feel like it’s fair to the other players and I don’t think it’s the right way to do business to allow influence and position to dictate when you play a young man.”
Leach said that Craig James called the assistant coach Lincoln Riley so often to lobby for playing time that they had a meeting with Adam James. They played him two of the messages and asked, “How would you feel if we went in there to the meeting room and we stuck speakers up and we played these two messages for the team?”
Leach added: “After that we didn’t get any more phone calls from Craig, but he did proceed to call administrators.”
Leach said that Craig James felt his son was not getting a fair shot and threatened to call the administration about it.
“He made it clear that he had a business relationship with our chancellor or certainly was in conversation about such things,” Leach said. “He made it clear that he was announcing this game or that. He always felt like we were leaving the best receiver on the team on the bench. It’s inconceivable that we’d ever want to do that or consider doing it.”
Again, this is making both sides look bad. Really bad.
But, the more information that sees the light of day, the more it becomes blatantly obvious that the person on the receiving end of the most hits — and the blackest of eyes — is Craig James himself. And, by extension, his employer.
In essence, an analyst at the dominant sports network in the world got a head coach fired. How he can continue as one of the lead analysts for the World Wide Leader is beyond me.
Then again, when you have a monopoly on sports information, you can pretty much do whatever you want, can’t ya?