Mike Leach, Ted Liggett

Mike Leach files libel, slander suit against ESPN, PR firm


Already in the midst of a lawsuit against his former employer, ex-Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach has set his legal sights squarely on the World Wide leader and a public relations firm infamous for the “swift boat” political ads that were used in an attempt to discredit then-presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.

According to the Associated Press, Leach has filed suit against ESPN Inc. and Spaeth Communications, claiming that the two companies are guilty of libel and slander against the coach while engaging in “willful defamation” of the plaintiff.  The lawsuit stems from ESPN’s coverage of the firing of Leach, in which he was accused of mistreating Red Raiders wide receiver Adam James, son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James.

The suit alleges “ESPN published and failed to retract false and damaging statements based on information it obtained in large part from Craig James… who ESPN knew to be hostile to Leach.”

Rumors abounded back in late December, around the time of Leach’s firing, that Craig James had gone to the school’s administration and demanded Leach be fired for alleged mistreatment of his son; the elder James acknowledged that he and his wife took their complaints to the Tech administration but denied demanding Leach be fired.

In early January, shortly after his dismissal, Leach accused Craig James of “us[ing] his position at ESPN to try to coerce me into allowing Adam to play more”, and making “it clear that he had a business relationship with our chancellor or certainly was in conversation about such things.”

Per the lawsuit, the case “also concerns the false, misleading and defamatory campaign against Leach by Spaeth Communications, a public relations firm hired by Craig James for the purpose of creating public opinion hostile to Leach.”

As deftly noted by SportsByBrooks.com, Spaeth was behind the release of a cell phone video that showed Adam James “locked” in an “electrical/broom closet” while recovering from a concussion.

Leach’s lawsuit is seeking “punitive damages as allowed by law”, as well as a permanent injunction “enjoining Defendants from making statements that Plaintiff mistreated a player diagnosed with a concussion and he placed that player at risk of additional injury, and that Plaintiff Leach’s termination was solely Leach’s fault.”

We have yet to see the entire lawsuit, but there’s a part of us that is hopeful it contains a passage on a permanent injunction “enjoining Defendants from putting Craig James on my television screen during the broadcasting of a college football game or any show related to college football.  Ever.”

Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil to return for Texas A&M on Oct. 24

Associated Press
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As if this day wasn’t busy enough, Ole Miss announced late Monday evening star-crossed offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil‘s suspension has been capped at seven games, meaning he’ll miss Saturday’s trip to Memphis but return in time for Texas A&M visit to The Grove on Oct. 24.

From the university:

The University initially withheld Tunsil from competition at the start of the season as both the NCAA and the University examined several alleged improper benefits.  During the course of the process, it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle.  In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles.  He later corrected his account and since apologized. 

As part of his reinstatement conditions, the NCAA imposed a seven-game suspension, ordered Tunsil to pay the value of the extra benefits to a charity, perform community service, and he will also make the vehicle down payment.

Said Tunsil: “I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program. This was a learning experience, and I’m looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself. The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else. I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together.”

The news is, obviously, great for Tunsil and head coach Hugh Freeze personally, as well as the entire Ole Miss football program. It’s also a nice plus for NFL scouts, as it means Tunsil’s first live action of 2015 will come against possible future No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett.

Hope he’s been practicing.

Report: Steve Spurrier set to retire

Steve Spurrier

Say it ain’t so, Steve.

According to a report from Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated Monday evening, Steve Spurrier is set to retire.

Spurrier, 70, is a legend the likes college football has never seen before and never will again.

He was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida, then returned to his alma mater and turned the program into a juggernaut, leading the Gators to 122-27-1 record from 1990-01 and a national championship in 1996. After a stint with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Spurrier landed at South Carolina, where since 2005 he’s racked up a school record 86 wins.

But those wins slowed down of late. After an SEC East championship in 2010 and three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13, the Gamecocks fell to 7-6 in 2014, and are off to a 2-4 mark this fall. With the possibility of losses to nemeses old and new like Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson ahead, Spurrier, it appears, would rather fade away quietly to the putting green.

Perhaps no two sentences summarize Spurrier, then and now, more precisely than this:

Combined with his three years at Duke, Spurrier closes up shop with a 228-89-2 mark, and a bust in the coaches’ wing of the Hall of Fame waiting for him.