Mike Leach - incredibly successful coach who became out of control or a victim of “buyer’s regret” and a portrayed in such a fashion so his employer could avoid shelling out mega dollars they never wanted to pay? It’s hard to tell because of one major the sub-plot.
At the heart of the Mike Leach story is Adam James, one of the Red Raider players and son of ESPN football analyst Craig James. Is there any way that the media can be fair when “one of their own” is so directly involved in a story of such magnitude? In what’s termed “full disclosure,” let me state that I have been the subject of unfair treatment by the media (stories for another blog, possibly in the near future), so my opinion is definitely biased.
When the story first broke regarding Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach being suspended for cruel and inhumane punishment to the younger James, the coverage was completely one-sided. Sure, ESPN posted Leach’s career and bowl records, but these were unavoidable facts.
As far as the anti-Leach side of the story, ESPN had interviews with Craig James, Texas Tech’s chancellor and a quote from one Red Raider player, as derogatory as I’ve ever heard from a player regarding his coach. There were statements from Leach’s attorney as well. And, finally, an interview with the coach - which would have added much more to all of this had it been done at the same time as the others. People totally unfamiliar with the story would have been appalled with what they initially heard, i.e. prior to hearing the coach’s side.
In addition, ESPN gives Colin Cowherd a platform to open fire on any and all topics, using sarcasm as his main means of supporting whatever it is he so staunchly believes. Apparently, there are an incredible number of people who love to hear someone so controversial, possibly because they’d love to do it themselves but lack the courage/have the brains not to make a such an ass of themselves. Cowherd decided rant about what a bad guy Mike Leach is. Cowherd’s favorite form of exercise is jumping to conclusions and when he heard his colleague’s kid was “abused” (I have no idea whether or not Cowherd & James have ever met), he felt it was necessary to fill his time slot with a totally prejudiced view of the situation.
It’s strange that someone so cynical as Cowherd, who said there were just some things that an employee couldn’t do (although intentionally blowing up a website that annoyed him, like he himself did - for which he received no punishment, other than the station implementing a zero tolerance policy from here on out - wasn’t one of them) never made mention of the fact that the timing of Texas Tech’s suspension (at that time, Leach had not yet been fired) was quite suspicious. That he signed a 5-year, 12.7 million contract and was due a bonus of $800K if he was the coach on December 31, just a few days away.
Normally, this would be a tidbit someone with his derisive personality would swoop in on. Add to the fact that Craig James was a major star of SMU football teams that got the university the only death penalty ever dealt a school because of the numerous egregious NCAA violations (including large cash payments to players) committed by the Mustang program (although James was never accused of any wrongdoing). Does this matter in this current case? Probably not, but when evidence such as this favors the media’s case, it somehow seems to be reported.
ESPN absolutely loved Mike Leach because of his “quotability,” as the media does with anyone who makes statements like Leach did (when things were going well). It makes their jobs so much easier. These same statements probably didn’t go over too well in Lubbock, as Leach often came off as cocky and sarcastic, an attitude that doesn’t go over well in West Texas (I imagine Cowherd’s numbers aren’t real high there).
Because Leach took the Red Raiders to 10 bowl games (winning five, or half the total number of bowl victories in the university’s history) - and, undoubtedly, because he had a great lawyer, aka a wheeler-dealer, TTU was forced into giving him a “competitive” contract. His name kept popping up for other jobs (a clever trick a lawyer, agent or even the coach himself uses to get a raise) and the Texas Tech fans would have revolted had the administration let such a winner leave - TTU had beaten the Longhorns the year before, for goodness sakes! Its location, coupled with being in a league it realistically can never win, doesn’t make it a plum of a job.
Is Leach simply a wise guy who alienated the administration (a fight he was doomed to lose) - and, quite possibly, let his exalted stature in the community, i.e. his ego, get in the way of how he should have dealt with Adam James? Or was James just a spoiled brat, someone who leaned on his dad’s celebrity (and even might have been the son of an overbearing parent who was one of those high maintenance types, i.e. wanted more playing time, more balls thrown his son’s way, thought the coaching staff was hurting his son’s professional chances, etc.), had horrible work habits and was a player who polarized the team?
It’s probably something we may never know. My question is:
“Would the coverage of this case have been the same had the player in question not have been the offspring of a rather high profile employee of the station covering it?”