Leach lashes out at Tech, James family


For the first time since being fired by Texas Tech, Mike Leach has spoken out about his dismissal as he conducted interviews with both the New York Times and ESPN to ring in the new year.

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?

Report: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury ‘just a sprain’

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It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his LEFT (throwing) hand.  It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach, al.com, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”

Until then, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are engaged in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp.  That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

John Calipari takes page out of Nick Saban’s playbook by warning of (rat) poison

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One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”

Ok then.

At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.

It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.

Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

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Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.

After cutting four sports, Eastern Michigan says axing football is not “even an option”

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Prior to the arrival of current head coach Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan football was annually one of the programs people wondered about at the FBS level due to low attendance, bad records and a gray field being one of the few notable aspects about the program. After all, the Eagles have won just one MAC title in the decades they’ve been in the league and went to only their second ever bowl game back in 2016.

While the fortunes of the team have become more positive in recent seasons, the topic of cutting football altogether or dropping down to the FCS ranks was brought up again in Ypsilanti this week after the school made the decision to cut four sports from the athletic department for budgetary reasons. While some might think EMU could continue slashing and eventually reach the football team, it appears that is thankfully not on the table.

“Football is not being cut,” said athletic director Scott Wetherbee, according to MLive.com. “No. 1, because I had a directive from our board of regents and the president, and we all agree we want to stay in the Mid-American Conference and we want to be a FBS Division I football team.

“It wasn’t even an option to look at that.”

That should settle that.

Wetherbee went on to said that the school receives several million dollars from just being a member of the MAC and having a football team is certainly a key part in remaining in the league. Money is a touchy subject around the university when it comes to athletics as just last year Eastern Michigan students campaigned against a $35 million football facility.

Despite the opposition and the most recent budget cuts though, it seems the school’s leadership is firmly behind Creighton and the Eagles remaining a part of life at EMU.