Reports: Leach says he didn’t mistreat player
LUBBOCK, Texas – Fired Texas Tech coach Mike Leach says he did not mistreat a player after a concussion.
Leach spoke to The New York Times and ESPN about his firing. He was dismissed Wednesday, two days after his suspension.
The school was investigating his treatment of Adam James. The sophomore receiver said Leach twice confined him to a small, dark place after his concussion diagnosis. Leach told the Times on Thursday night and ESPN on Friday that James was lazy and acted as if entitled to special treatment.
James’ father is ESPN analyst Craig James. Leach contends Craig James tried to leverage his position as a way to get more playing time for his son.
Text messages by The Associated Press were not immediately returned by Leach. Nor was a phone message to Leach’s attorney, Ted Liggett.
Leach told the Times he ordered that James be taken “out of the light” and did not know specifically where he went. He also said “He was never locked anywhere. At no point was he locked anywhere.”
The school fired Leach shortly before the two sides were to appear in court for a hearing on the coach’s suspension. The hearing became moot once a termination letter was handed to him by an attorney with the university, Liggett said. He said a lawsuit would be forthcoming.
Texas Tech (8-4) plays Michigan State (6-6) in the Alamo Bowl on Saturday.
“All the controversy has taken away from the players,” McNeill said. “I’m ready for the game to get here.”
In the wake of the firing, Leach’s former staff say they want to remain with the Red Raiders and have been careful not to publicly take sides.
In interviews with the Times and ESPN, 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 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,” Leach told the Times. “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.”
When Craig James was asked about those claims, he called them “absurd,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said.
James later released a statement.
“Coach Leach has made damaging and untrue comments, about my actions, about my son, and about a business relationship – which does not exist – between me and the leadership of the University,” James said.
“He’s simply trying to shift attention from his own actions and from the findings of a University investigation which we believe was fair and thorough. As we have said over and over, our concern was about the safety and well being of our son and of all the other fine young men on the team. Any parent who found their son in this situation would step forward.”
Leach also told the Times that the release of a series of e-mail messages obtained by The Dallas Morning News proved that the university did not want him around. In one, a booster recommended to Tech administrators, “You should sign a contract that would not cost us too much to fire him.”
“It’s shocking to me that there’s people working together that were trying to get me fired last year after an 11-1 regular season,” Leach told the newspaper.
Lincoln Riley, Texas Tech’s acting offensive coordinator, wrote and sent a letter harshly critical of Adam James letter to university officials Dec. 26, two days before Leach was suspended indefinitely. Riley wrote that James is the type of person who makes “excuses or blames people for things that go wrong in his life.”
He declined to comment on the letter Thursday.
Riley, a former walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech who Leach made a student coach, flatly said “no” when asked if Leach ever put a player in danger. He declined to say whether he thought Leach got a fair shake.
Riley was among several current Texas Tech coaches and former players who wrote letters defending Leach last week to school administrators. The letters were obtained by CBSSports.com.