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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Texas Tech coach suspended--some questions

Texas Tech has suspended football coach Mike Leach for its bowl game, because of Leach's alleged treatment of a player (receiver Adam James, the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James) who had suffered a concussion and was unable to practice. The James family alleges that Leach ordered the player to sit in an equipment closet or equipment bin (reports conflict) and was told that if he came out, he would be kicked off the team. Leach's attorney insists that Leach had James sit in a cooler, darker area than the practice field because it would be better for the player, given his sensitivity to light. The school has begun an internal investigation.

Two questions, not really going to the substance of anything.

First, is it me, or are we beginning to hear more complaints about, and challenges to, barbaric coaching methods? Are players (themselves or through their parents) beginning to stand up to what often can best be described as hazing, if not outright brutality by the adults in charge? Are players less fearful of complaining, knowing that the school might somewhat have their back? And are schools beginning to take player complaints seriously, perhaps out of fear of liability? Kansas' Mark Mangino lost his job amid reports of being verbally and physically abusive towards players. There was the initial story of South Florida Coach Jim Leavitt slapping a player (reported by the player's father), although that story quickly petered out. And now this. Maybe it's just a blip, but maybe it marks a sea change in the relative power relationships in college sports.

Second, an interesting twist in the Texas Tech story is that Craig James no longer will work the game for ESPN, because there now is a personal issue between James and the school that implicates his objectivity in announcing. But why was he scheduled to work the game in the first place? Didn't James already have a personal issue with Texas Tech simply because his son plays on the team? Was he really expected to be objective in a game his son (or his son's team) is playing in? I know sports broadcasters are not held to similar ethical standards as news journalists. But if ESPN is aware enough to make a change when there is a unique conflict (as now), why not when there is a unique affinity (as when a close family member is in the game)?


Your use of the word barbaric is too strong, don't you think Prof. Wasserman? Yes, indeed, there have been alot of reports about coaching abuse as of late. This is due to several factors including: 1) The ability to instantly expose and/or destroy these ego-maniacal, out-of-control, overpaid, narcissistic and god-like dictators via the internet, and it has indeed shifted a power balance to student-athletes and their parents, fans, or enemies 2) Money--there has to be a reason associated with money--see if you can figure that one out on your own. As far as James announcing, I like ESPN's decision: avoid the appearance of bias when there is a conflict. Many announcers (Simms, Griese, and others) work games with their sons or daughters on the field or court, but whas there been an actual public conflict with the team or school at the same time?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/29/2009 9:59 AM  

Agreed, the Internet has a lot to do with it. Because these complaints will get out there instantly and become a big deal, there's little threat that what you have to say will fall on deaf ears.

I don't like having James commentating that game in the first place. Lou Holtz also did a few ECU games this season, where his son Skip coaches. Maybe they think that's an interesting enough connection to draw in a few more viewers, but I'd rather have an impartial crew. If you went to a school, played at a school or have family on a team, you shouldn't work that game.

Blogger Mike McCall -- 12/29/2009 12:16 PM  

I was not questioning ESPN's decision to pull James off the game because of the new conflict. I was questioning ESPN's decision to have him on the game in the first place.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 12/29/2009 8:48 PM  

ESPN holds itself to almost no standards of journalistic integrity in almost all cases. This is not a new idea for them. And they have been far from objective in their reporting of this story, as James has been given prime time interviews to talk about the story as an employee of ESPN. The lawyers for Coach Leach were clearly given no such opportunity. Operating with extreme bias is well within ESPN's standard oporating procedure.

Anonymous Corey -- 12/29/2009 8:50 PM  

Because it's definitely the Coaches fault. There has to be more to the story here.

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