The following excerpt from my forthcoming book "Swing Your Sword" details what really was going on behind the scenes with Texas Tech and shows through the emails below just how orchestrated an effort this was by the group of folks I came up against. The excerpt begins at the end of December 2009. That month, as we began practices for the Alamo Bowl, Adam James was diagnosed with a concussion. Craig James had called Texas Tech's chairman of the board of regents with some allegations about how we treated his son and demanded I be fired. Tech had assigned an investigator, Charlotte Bingham, to look into what James claimed. She found out from her investigation that the story Craig James had told was inaccurate. But despite that fact, Tech suspended me for the bowl game and barred me from speaking to my team. I sought an injunction to coach my team in the game. On December 31, I also was going to qualify for an $800,000 bonus from Tech as part of the contract we had signed. But they fired me the day before that.
- Mike Leach
On the morning of December 30, at a pre-hearing meeting in the court's chambers, my attorney, Ted Liggett, informed Tech officials that we intended to proceed with the hearing. At that point, the Tech representatives handed my counsel a letter of termination effective December 30, 2009. Tech then released a "Statement from Texas Tech on Termination of Football Coach Mike Leach" in which Tech admitted that the termination was due to my filing the restraining order against Texas Tech.
I found it interesting that Tech publicly stated that the investigation was ongoing, despite the fact that the head of the investigation, Charlotte Bingham, had been out of the country on vacation since the morning of December 27. Yet, during her absence, they had both suspended and fired me. Also, on the day of my firing, former regent Windy Sitton confirmed that my termination had nothing to do with the Adam James situation, but resulted from the ill will generated by the 2009 contract negotiations.
She wrote an email to Jerry Turner that we obtained:
"Jerry, I know his firing has been in the works since the Chancellor and the AD were outmaneuvered by Leach. That is our problem.
"The problem rests with the arrogance of the Chancellor and the ineptness of the AD. Everyone sees through this injustice to Mike Leach and Texas Tech. The Sitton family has given scholarships and have had multiple seats since 1976. We will not renew our options [on] our 12 seats or for that matter our PSLs for Basketball. This whole thing smells, and we do not want to be a part of this blight on Texas Tech."
Later, when Turner was asked in his deposition if he was aware of any former regent who said the firing was a result of ill will left over from the 2009 contract negotiations, he denied having any such knowledge. As part of their conspiracy to hide their true reason for firing me, Bingham, Anders, Turner, Hance, Bailey, and Myers began the process of changing the investigation report on the James incident. According to Bingham's deposition, Hance directed Bingham to change her investigation report because it was too "mild" and "too milk toast." (sic)
We also discovered that at some time before Craig James had made any complaints about the treatment of his son, he'd hired Spaeth Communications, a public relations firm. Tech representatives worked with Spaeth Communications in an effort to get Pincock and the team physician to change their stories. As Merrie Spaeth, the president of Spaeth Communications, put it in an email exchange with Sally Post, Tech's director of communications and broadcast media, the doctor needed to "recant" part of his statement.12 Meanwhile, Hance made statements along the lines of, "If you sue your boss, you are going to get fired." Turner admitted in four emails he sent to Anders on January 4 that I was fired for the restraining order against Texas Tech.
From the moment Tech suspended me to the time my firing was announced, there was a flood of media reports revealing all these "details" about things I'd supposedly done. ESPN's Joe Schad was just spewing this stuff that Craig James and Spaeth Communications were feeding him: "Alleged electrical closet" ... "Alleged electrical closet" ... "YouTube video of Adam James in the alleged electrical closet is available” ... "I'm told the alleged electrical closet is approximately 4 x 10 feet."13
Then "SportsCenter" showed Adam’s YouTube video from the electrical closet. Too bad they never said Adam went in that electrical closet after he was specifically told not to go in there.
Merrie Spaeth distributed the video. We obtained documents where Spaeth and people at Tech were talking about the best way to distribute it so it would be as inflammatory as possible.14 There was an email saying Spaeth had people use online pseudonyms to smear me in the comments at the bottom of news stories, on blogs, and in message boards.15 Kent Hance had been a lobbyist.
He used every weapon available in his campaign against me. Spaeth Communications was specifically hired by Craig James and used by Tech to smear my reputation. It's alarming, but not all that surprising, considering how some administrators at Texas Tech operated. There were emails where Sally Post was taking cues from Merrie Spaeth. The emails suggest that it was not an "investigation" at all but more of an effort to sell me down the river.16 They knew the facts weren't on their side so they used Spaeth Communications to spread misinformation and try to turn public opinion. In those emails, Spaeth talks about writing up the new statements by the trainer and the doctor. Then, Tech would say sign 'em or else. This while Pincock, the trainer, is seeing the national coach of the year get the axe. It's not hard to imagine what was going through his mind. I think he’s an honest guy, but I suspect he was very conflicted. He had to be afraid for his job and his family. So Pincock signed off on their statement, which omitted pertinent details so it would appear more favorable to Tech.
On top of that, you had all these analysts, who were colleagues of Craig James, weighing in on ESPN. They had no knowledge of the facts. Obviously, they weren't even concerned about the facts. They just took everything that Craig James, through Spaeth Communications, was feeding them, and kept repeating it over and over, during every pre-game show, every halftime show, every post-game show, and during "SportsCenter." This went on for days.
There were a number of exchanges between my agents and ESPN. But ESPN was more interested in presenting the fantastical story by Spaeth Communications. They weren't just showing one side of the story, they were perpetuating falsehoods.
There were statements out there from Adam James's two position coaches, Dana Holgorsen and Lincoln Riley. There was a statement from the strength coach, Bennie Wylie. There were statements from three of James's teammates -- players that had been successful in the program and had witnessed Adam's behavior, as well as mine. CBSSports.com and other media outlets chose to run those statements. ESPN, which also had them, chose not to. When one of my agents asked Joe Schad, the ESPN reporter, why they neglected to report those statements, he said he didn't see how they were relevant to the story. But when Craig James gave Schad Adam's cell number so he could hand the phone over to his roommate Chris Perry, a back-up lineman whom we'd suspended twice, his statement was considered relevant.17
It was worse than hypocrisy. It was malicious.18
-- Mike Leach is the winningest football coach in Texas Tech history. In 2000, he inherited a program that had one of the lowest graduation rates in college football. He transformed the program into one that had the highest graduation rate of any public institution in major college football. In 2008, Leach was named National Coach of the Year. His book "Swing Your Sword" is available on Amazon.com.
12. The following email exchange is in regard to the January 2, 2010 Dallas Morning News article by Kate Hairopoulos entitled "Statements contradict Adam James' version of events at Texas Tech" published. The statement by physician Michael Phy follows the exchange.
From: Spaeth, Merrie
To: Post, Sally
Sent: Friday, January 01, 2010 7:57 PM
Subject: FW: Latest story posted on DMN
Sally - I assume you and the Chancellor have seen these. We will not make any comment until we talk to you and you let me know what the university has done.
The doctor: other than the 'mild' - concussion. (There is no such thing.) it's not really in dispute. The issue isn’t whether the other treatment harmed Adam ... But he needs to confirm the diagnosis, recant “mild” and talk about the need for rest etc.
The trainer: this is a rather dramatically different account than Adam’s and from what we understand he provided to the university. How to handle?
The Chisum statement is really irrelevant ...
Statement from Texas Tech team physician Michael Phy, dated Dec. 25:
I saw Adam James as a patient on December 17th. At that visit I diagnosed him with a mild concussion. I made recommendations regarding level of activity and treatment. These were shared with Adam and the athletic training staff and are documented in Adam’s medical record. I was not aware of any incident until I was contacted by (Tech representative) Charlotte Bingham. She provided details of a complaint, and I completed a short phone interview and answered questions for her. According to the information given to me, no additional risks or harm were imposed on Adam by what he was asked to do.
13. Email from Rebecca Shaw to Craig James regarding Spaeth press releases in Adam James matter.
From: Rebecca Shaw
To: James, Craig
Sent: Monday, December 28, 2009 11:30 PM
Subject: RE: ESPN 6:29 PM
Craig - Merrie's position - and I agree - is that the story has been put to bed tonight.
Let's take a look at the coverage first thing in the morning and make a decision then if we want to forward the players' names and numbers exclusively to Joe, whether we want to include the AP reporter, or if we want to hold off a day to see if the university makes a statement. I’ll be up early checking the coverage. Merrie's good with the statement that I drafted for you for ESPN. Would you like it circulated to Kevin and Jim or do you want to noodle on it awhile?
Executive Vice President
Spaeth Communications, Inc.
14. Emails from Marrie Spaeth, Brooke Robbins, and Rebecca Shaw regarding best practices for popularizing online video.
From: Merrie Spaeth
To: Brooke Robbins, Rebecca Shaw Cc: Maggie Moran, Katie Hiatt, Emily Turner
Sent: Thursday, December 31, 2009 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: You Tube Concussions
Can you send me the link? And how can we link it to the awful comments in lubbock?
From: Brooke Robbins
To: Rebecca Shaw
Cc: Maggie Moran
Cc: Katie Hiatt
Cc: Emily Turner
Subject: Re: You Tube Concussions
Sent: Dec 31, 2009 2:37 PM
When I Created the You Tube account, I put in the following key words: concussion, James, Leach, Coach Leach, Mike Leach, Adam James, Craig James, sport concussions, Texas Tech sports ... And a few more.
When people google any of the words ... Our you tube will EVENTUALLY come up. It takes a while for search engines to find these new things.
What could expedite the process is if a few of YOU have the time and desire to go onto some of the blogs and say things like ... "Hey I came across this new you tube ... Then paste in the link ... That really has great info on concussions ... "That’s one grass roots way of generating hits ... We can also just keep hitting it ourselves. But remember ... Anyone can research ip addresses and it’s all too easy to determine that all the hits are coming from just a few computers.
LOL ... LSL knows all about that’ Happy New Year!
On Dec 31, 2009, at 11:25 AM, Rebecca Shaw wrote:
> Nice job. This has great information in it. Unfortunately, it’s only
> had 2 hits. Does anyone have any ideas about how to get more
> visibility? Do we need to send it out on PR Newswire?
> Rebecca Shaw
> Executive Vice President
> Spaeth Communications, Inc.
15. Email from Merrie Spaeth regarding the use of pseudonyms when commenting on Mike Leach and Craig James in blogs.
From: Merrie Spaeth
To: Brooke Robbins
Cc: Katie Hiatt, Rebecca Shaw, Brooke Robbins
Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 2:53 PM
Subject: RE: my thoughts
Brooke of course, if you felt you could log on with a pseudoname (sic) onto the blogs and share these thoughts, it would be wonderful....
From: Brooke Robbins
To: Merrie Spaeth
Cc: Katie Hiatt; Rebecca Shaw; Brooke Robbins
Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 1:50 PM
Subject: Re: my thoughts
DAVID STANLEY brought down SMU ... not Craig James. Yes, James played at SMU during that time and may or may not have participated in the incentive payments.
FYI ... David Stanley had a drug problem and was blackmailing for more and more money. When they finally stopped and said, do what you have to do ... that’s when David Stanley blew the whistle.
Let’s get focus off James as a part of that old mess.
16. See note 12.
17. The following email is in regard to backlash against Texas Tech after Leach's initial suspension. The reference in the email to the "story below" refers to an article by Adam Zuvanich published in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on December 29, 2009, in which former Texas Tech players Daniel Loper, Cody Campbell, Graham Harrell, Eric Morris, and Glenn January (who is quoted as saying, "[Leach] doesn't deviate from the [NCAA] rule book at all and wouldn't do anything to put a player in harm") come to the support of Leach.
From: Kevin Brannon
To: Rebecca Shaw; Katie Hiatt
Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 8:32 AM
Subject: FW: my thoughts
Merrie asked that I send this to both of you.
From: Kevin Brannon
To: Merrie Spaeth
Sent: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 7:53 AM
Subject: my thoughts
After an initial burst of postings by Leach haters, we’re getting killed on the blogs. Here are two emails from friends whose judgment I trust:
#1 Actually, my initial reaction was that Leach is a psycho. But, the Facebook/ Twitterverse hates Craig James (prima donna, tanked SMU by taking cash, cars, etc to play, etc). He now has 100% name ID in West Texas and they are not happy.
#2 I think it reaks (sic) of foul play. Political. Some didn’t like the contract renegotiations, etc ... so now they are catering to the James family. I am not so young that I don’t remember James bringing down SMU 25 years ago.
Combined with the story below, this underscores the need for those players (who are willing to support Adam) to be activated as soon as possible this morning.
18. Emails from Brooke Robbins and Merrie Spaeth regarding best practices for spreading information on concussions via YouTube in relation to the Adam James matter.
From: Brooke Robbins
To: Merrie Spaeth
Cc: Rebecca Shaw; Katie Hiatt; Kevin Brannon
Sent: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 2:13 PM
Subject: Re: URGENT FW: Concussion
Leach was just fired. Does this impact the you tube piece?
On Dec 30, 2009, at 8:24 AM, Merrie Spaeth wrote:
Brooke - we have the go ahead. I envision this as the simplest of interview(s) with you and doctors, etc., posted on YouTube. We need to get something up today. I envision all of these would go something like this:
"I'm Brooke Robbins, an independent journalist. We've all heard the news about Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach and the player who had a concussion. The Coach is saying it was "only" a "mild" concussion. Over the past year or so, there have been a number of high profile stories about player concussions. We’re going to ask some leading doctors, sports medicine experts and trainers - what’s the proper treatment for a concussion? Can you "fake" a concussion, the way coach Leach charges, just how serious is a concussion? If you have a child who plays football, or you’re just a concerned parent or citizen, let’s look into this together ... "
And then ask anyone you can get your hands on this morning: - should concussions be taken seriously?
- what are the signs of a concussion?
- can you “fake” a concussion? (and how could a coach on the field just tell by looking at a player ... )
- what's the proper treatment? (e.g. rest, etc ... )
... and I know there have been some high profile examples ... Liz says that an NFL player committed suicide this year because of a series of concussions left him damaged …
'Trick Shot Titus' Strikes Again