Sports | Sports Columns

Mike Leach story highlights importance of journalism ethics

Oh, Mike Leach.

This guy seems like the most hated figure in football these days. Perhaps it’s for a good reason.

By now, I imagine we’ve all heard the story. Down in Texas, on the Texas Tech football team, there was a kid, Adam James, with a concussion. He spent time inside a dark room. (It’s already nearly impossible to retell the story without using loaded language.) There may never be a consensus on what he was told or if that dark place was locked. Then, somehow, reporters caught wind of James’ complaints and the internal investigation started at the university. A media storm ensued, resulting in somebody discovering that James had a semi-famous dad who did broadcasting for ESPN. Former football head coach Leach is now unemployed (although certainly not in dire straits), considered a scumbag, and the James family name is associated with entitlement, exemptions, and being a wuss.

That ended poorly, don’t you think? Would general public opinion of Leach be different if ESPN—the network with a serious conflict of interest in this story—hadn’t been involved? Would Leach have kept his job at Texas Tech?

I think it’s a definite possibility.

I looked to ESPN’s Ombudsman, Don Ohlmeyer, to explain the television coverage that the network gave the issue, from the breaking news report to the Alamo bowl coverage. I found that he and I saw exactly the same thing—emotions and personal relationships that created a barrier between the information and its audience. Issues with ESPN’s validity began far before the bowl game was played: The network apparently had no misgivings about letting dad Craig James do the commentary on his own son’s bowl game up until the moment that Adam made headlines in a bad way. Ohlmeyer backs me up on this one—if it is a nationally-televised game, it is completely inappropriate to have a relative doing the color commentary. It’s unfair to half the audience, it’s hardly unbiased, and it’s a situation that doesn’t lend itself to journalistic ethos.

The broadcast of the Alamo Bowl itself—the first time that the Texas Tech football team would be broadcast since the news of the James-Leach conflict broke—didn’t show any more thoughtful decisions or reporting. There were statements made by the announcers about Leach’s character that were not counterbalanced by any descriptions of Adam James’ behavior. It violates an investigative journalism principle: When it comes to reporting, it’s important to remember that context is everything. If you’re telling a story, you always need to start at the beginning. If you don’t start from the first indication of the problem, you can’t be sure you’ve covered all of the relevant information.

Maybe the resulting broadcast was intentionally biased as a show of support—after all, only a few days prior, ESPN had given Leach an open mic on television where he thrashed James’ character and reputation in front of millions of viewers. It’s not an example of reporting a balanced account of the situation, either, but at least it came straight from the horse’s mouth, no conjecturing or editorializing necessary.

Given, when Leach went on record mouthing off about the behavior of a kid on his team, little editorializing was necessary. When it comes to credibility and professionalism, Leach dug his own grave. There’s something to be said for defending yourself, but there’s also something to be said for saying “no comment.” And, in all reality, if you defend yourself by making potentially slanderous allegations against a kid half your age, you’re writing your own obituary. It’s a lesson that I like to think of as learning to act like a grown-up. There are certain things that society deems acceptable and just in the world, and embarrassing others as a defense mechanism is not one of them.

Learning how to act like an adult is very much an acquired virtue. For example, tact gets more valuable with age. Adam James is getting to learn about that—did he have to file his complaints right before a bowl game? Absolutely not. He jeopardized the team’s future success and the Alamo Bowl game for his fellow teammates, and I imagine that they won’t let him forget it. The media is teaching James the lessons that his family didn’t seem to teach him well enough, like what happens when you play with fire on national TV. It’s a traumatic way to learn, but being embarrassed because of your childish actions in front of an audience is a great way to remind yourself to start acting like an adult—a takeaway that ESPN, Leach, and James can all now boast to have internalized.

Lisa Lewis is a Barnard College senior majoring in Economics.

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Tim Stewart posted on

How is calling a 20 year old man lazy, potentially slanderous? Mike Leach defamed the James' character? How about when they gave Craig James and chancellor Hance exclusive interviews during peak viewing times; they butchered Leach's character! Mike Leach's interview was in the middle of the night! perhaps you should practice what you preach and let your audience know this!

Let me guess, your one if those writers that probably "assumes" that Mike Leach is actually guilty? Well I hope you have some evidence to back your position, because I am standing on a mountain of evidence that says he is innocent!

I challenge you to practice what you preach, do some investigative journalism, and come back and try again. Why don't you start at Crickett's bar in Lubbock where Adamelia James really got his concussion in a bar fight!

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Seeker_of_Truth posted on

Tim,
Have you tried to find out about the fight at Cricketts's Bar where Adam James got pummeled?

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bumbul posted on

I agree with Tim. This article is struggling to somehow make Leach the culprit if it is saying he "dug his own grave" for pointing out what had already been revealed by other sources about Adam James. And then to rationalize possibly one of the worst broadcasts I've ever seen by implying that five hours of pure unsubstantianted bashing of Leach was warranted for his bringing up James's attitude as a brief part of his time at the mike? This essay is a struggling, laughable, dimwitted failure in its very point about ethics.

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donnaismajili posted on

Really you should look at the facts before you go to print. This was a political move by Craig James, he hired a firm to help him break the story first, then announced that he was running for senator?????? HMMM Adam James was in no way harmed and several players have backed up the report that he was lazy and entitled. You are also wrong about how loved Mike Leach is, over 62K people have joined Team Leach for the truth. The truth is this was a move for political gain by many... Starting with the current Governor...... The good ol' boys

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lucyejane posted on

To be sure, this sordid affair was mishandled by all the principals involved, some understandably so, some not so much. The James Gang had their own biased agenda and acted evidently in character. Facts in evidence prove they should have given second sober thoughts to their part in this travesty. And father wanted to run for public offfice? Wow! The Texas Tech Administration arrogantly pursued their own personal vendetta and will never be forgiven for the shame they have brought to the University. And may pay. ESPN also acted as if they had all the truth behind them, and the right to spew their opinions freely. No way were they actually informed enough to pile on just because they are who they are. Talk about arrogance! They were losers too...credibility! And Coach Leach? The quirky genius? If truth be told, many with a pulpit to diss him did so out of their own need for their fifteen minutes. And a desire to bring down someone from a lofty position to which they can only aspire but know they will never attain. Put yourself in his shoes. I dare you to tell me you don't understand his situation!

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adminalum posted on

I vote that we remove the article and replace it with LucyeJane's post. That was very well stated.

I love my school. I graduated from there and even worked for the Chancellor (Montford) and Board of Regents while I was there. I am deeply saddened by the actions of this administration and the shame and ridicule that this has brought to us. What I find to be absolutely unnerving is the egomaniacle megalomaniacs that we call the administration treat the school like this is their personal club with which to play "good ol' boy games" with. If they need a little reminder.... Texas Tech belongs to the taxpayers of Texas, the Tech Alumni and staff... Not to a failed politician who speaks like an uneducated buffoon and a bunch of "highest bidder" kiss-ups to Gov. Perry.

Sadly, I got a call from a sweet Tech student tonight soliciting me for a contribution to Tech. She very carefully and intently stated that this was a call to update me on Tech ACADEMICS. I laughed and said, are you sure you don't want to talk about athletics...she declined. Unfortunately, I told her that I had no interest in giving any monetary support to Tech until they replaced the Chancellor and the BOR.

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Justice4Leach posted on

Check the facts! A man was brought out to a tree and hung without a trial. The reason for no trial was more than likely there was no proof, no case. Look at the facts. Innocent until PROVEN guilty? Ring a bell?

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bonhopper posted on

@lucyejane Couldn't have said it better myself.

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elaineireland posted on

Where have you been under a rock? You call yourself a reporter , then I suggest you get you facts right first !!!! you are a joke.

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elaineireland posted on

Do not agree with your letter! Sorry but you just have the wrong information. You really need to get your facts right before you report.

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barronsm43 posted on

OH, please. "Journalism" and "ethics" in the same sentence? Who do you think you are kidding? Journalism is all about show business, creation of stories from bits of misinformation, and big business. Don't try to paint it as an ethical business. It is not.

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richardmitchell posted on

All I hear about is Leach, Adam, Craig, Hance, Myers and ESPN. I don't hear anything about all the other players, their fans, students and supporters. Tech was a team that with a little luck could be playing for the Nation Title next year. Now they will have to settle for one of the minor bowl games, that is unless the NCAA finds rule violation on the part of TTU, ESPN and the James family, then TTU may be suspended from Bowl appearance. A real kick in the pants for players, fans, students and supporters.

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Sandra posted on

The basis for your argument/article is faulty. Beginning with "Then, somehow, reporters caught wind of James’ complaints and the internal investigation started at the university. A media storm ensued, resulting in somebody discovering that James had a semi-famous dad who did broadcasting for ESPN."

"somehow"? "caught wind"? James Craig hired a PR firm and announced on the network for which he works that it was HIS son and then began the lying and spinning.
"somebody discovering that James had a semi-famous dad who did broadcasting for ESPN" ???
Uh, like the dad, who did the broadcasting, went on the air to broadcast more about himself and his "kid" who by the way is legally an adult, not a child.
So lets review. The son of an on-air ESPN broadcaster, and the broadcaster father decided to go public with their personal complaints about the absence of favoritism shown to them, a couple of egocentric wealthy people who are used to favoritism and can't handle daily life without it.

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bungalowgal posted on

"Then, somehow, reporters caught wind of James’ complaints and the internal investigation started at the university." Are you kidding me? Uh, Daddy works for ESPN, Daddy hired a public relations firm to introduce the video of baby James in the "closet." That, and just about all of your facts are wrong. If you are considering a career in journalism and you are a senior in college then you should know to get your facts straight from a reliable source before publishing anything. Stay in school young lady! You are totally not ready for the real world.

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amandt posted on

It is clear by your article that you did not even make a serious attempt to research this story.

1) Fact one that you missed - Adam James is not "a kid". He is a 22 year old adult.
2) Fact two that you missed - Espn did not "accidentally discover" the story. Adam is the son of announcer Craig James, and Adam gave his parents Adam's version of events.
3) Fact three - Adam's version of events conflict with the sworn testimony of many witnesses.
4) Fact four - Legal affidavits filed by both members of the TTU administration and by Mike Leach's attorney all attest to the fact that Mike Leach did not order that Adam James be placed in a closet. James reported to practice without his uniform, sporting sun-glasses and a baseball cap. When told to remove them, he said he had a concussion and had to stay out of the light. Leach told the trainer to find a dark place for him to remain - in response to Adam Jame's comment that his doctor told him to avoid sunlight. Leach did not say where the dark place was. The trainer selected a location that was never locked. The trainer stayed nearby to confirm that if James needed medical care someone was there.
5) Letters obtained by REAL reporters show that a full year prior to this event, a booster club member wrote the Chancellor regarding contracts with Mike Leach, telling the Chancellor that he should rig the contract so that Leach had to sign it in a hurry or pass, and then arrange to fire him after he won the season, but before his bonus could be paid. Leach was fired exactly one day prior to the paying of the bonus.
6) Leach, in fact, did not make the public comments regarding the lack of cooperation by Adam James. Those comments came from fellow teammates, trainers, and other coaches. Leach did make the remarks to the TTU administration and in his court records. He did not make them public statements.
7) Mike Leach, like many coaches, did not treat adult men receiving large scholarships like they were little league boys playing children's ball. Professional NFL coaches don't either.
Adam James received a LARGE scholarship, which he did not need, to play football. He was expected to play football.
8) Perhaps "acting like an adult" would involve showing up in uniform, as the Team Rules indicated.
9) Perhaps 'acting like an adult" would involve not running to Mommy and Daddy and getting Daddy to hire a professional Public relations firm to create a false video.
10) Perhaps "acting like an adult" would involve handling it in some way other than having Daddy call the boss' boss' boss' boss.

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Noisy16 posted on

Lisa Lewis you had a great opportunity to tell an interesting point of view, but you slopped it up. If you are going to be a "journal teller" get your facts checked. No one appreciates a sloppy story.

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samathav posted on

Sloppy reporting, you need a fact checker!

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bobbiereinecker posted on

The only accuracy in this article is that you spelled all the names correctly. Other than that, you are clueless about this affair.

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Anonymous posted on

Hello Lisa Lewis:

As you see, my name is Bob S*****t. The background and reason for my comment here, has to do with my interest in this Mike Leach episode and having to due with my past thirty years of service as a senior employment dispute and contract mediator in the Human Resources Division at one of the largest Universities on the West Coast. Thanks for the article and the forum to discuss this Mike Leach affair. My associates that continue in their service in HR and I have followed this story since it's inception.

I must first say, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Although, I must also point out the obvious, and that is, in this day and age often the sunshine is blocked due to a plethora of disinformation. That occurs, either due to a person’s personal agenda, or from a lack of having access to assist them in finding the facts of a given matter. Plus, even when faced with a set of facts, many individuals are not adept at employing critical thinking skills in analyze the information ay hand.

I advise you to take a much much closer look at this Mike Leach affair.

It will be most helpful if you started with the basic known facts that are on record with the court in Lubbock, in place of the spin that each side has run through the media.

Now, and after reading your bio, I advise you to employ the critical thinking skills that you have undoubtedly acquired from your minor in Psychology, and first view a video that was broadcast on ESPN.

In conjunction with that video you should also take into consideration that which has been placed on record through sworn affidavits that are part of the court record of a very telling visual of what seems to have actually transpired in relationship to that of the claim that Adam James was placed in a locked electrical closet against his will.

I would include the ESPN Adam James cell phone video, but ESPN has conveniently removed that particular video from their files.

But I have included below the YouTube video, that to the best of my knowledge was posted on YouTube by the PR firm that Craig James employed to assist him in the handling of the affair. This video is the same that was used by ESPN and was given to ESPN by Craig James and/or Adam James, or a go between.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Spaethcom8181

And if you take the time, the following is the link to a PDF page of the sworn affidavit of the team trainer Steve Pincock. In the statement at point #9 you will notice the following statement in relationship to the "electrical closet" that is alleged to been used to "lock" Adam James within.

http://www.lubbockonline.com/pdfs/leachsuspension/pincock3.pdf

Begin Pincock's quote: "On December, 19 2009, we had practice at the stadium field. James came to practice but was still not allowed to participate due to his injury. He was dressed in appropriate attire. Leach again asked me to place James in the same shed he was in during the last practice. I was standing next to Leach and Zane Perry. Perry mentioned using the media interview room. I located James and Jordan and walked to the room. I noticed an electrical closet in the room, and walked inside. I commented on the noise in the room, and told him not to go in that room. All chairs and items that might be used for sitting were removed from the room, with the exception of two large tractor tires, and the student trainer was placed outside the room to check on James and to ensure that James was following instructions..."

So, from the actual sworn affidavit, the team trainer Pincock states that he ordered Adam James "...not to go in that room." No one placed Adam in an "electrical closet." It is apparent that Adam James went in the electrical closet on his own volition. And if you look closely at the video you will also notice two red chairs are also visible in the video that were supposedly removed according to the affidavit of Pincock.

So, the veracity of the story of what actually transpired related to this electrical closet is totally suspect on the face of the findings, as they say in court parlance.

Now for the complete "on the record" filings from the court proceedings"

Following you will find the complete court documents including pertinent exhibits of the Leach side of this affair.

Leach pleads to court for Temp Restraining Order 12/29/09:

http://lubbockonline.com/pdfs/leach122909.pdf

Leach amends to lawsuit 01/08/2010:

http://www.lubbockonline.com/pdfs/leachsuspension/01082010.pdf

Leach’s motion for expedited discovery 01/07/2010:

http://www.lubbockonline.com/pdfs/leachsuspension/01072010.pdf

Leach 3rd amended additional information 01/12/2010:

http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/kcbd/2006/station/Leach3Amended.pdf


And for balance, following you can avail yourself to the complete court documents filed by the TTU/ Texas Attorney General's side of this affair.

AG-TTU 2nd amended plea 01/15/2010

http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/kcbd/2006/station/2nd_Amended_Plea.pdf

AG-TTU Response 20100119

http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/kcbd/2006/station/Response.pdf


In conclusion: If nothing else, all of this may assist you in such basic knowledge as the exact timeline of the events in question. Plus, it does exhibit the amount of materials and documents for one to clearly convey in writing about, or discussing such a convoluted affair as this has become. So... let's just look at this as a learning experience.

Respectfully,

Bob S*****t.

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qwtomqwertom1256 posted on

Bob Griese called some games wonderfully with his son (Brian) playing quarterback at the University of Michigan. It added color which would not have been there, so ESPN having a family member work a game is not a conflict. Do you really consider sports commentators journalists? Announcing a game is entertainment.

People who believe everything they hear on TV are idiots. It was clear that when ESPN played "News Journalist" they were skewing the story which was wrong for ESPN to do. They should have stayed "sports announcers" and just told us the score and who carried the ball across the goal line. ESPN should not pretend they are CNN.

What about the $800,000 bonus. He gets fired one day before the $$$ was due. Too much of a coincidence for me to believe the school did not use this situation as (what they thought was) an easy out. If Leach did something improper, was there really enough time to determine what actually happened. Looks like Leach was railroaded.

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ReallyLisa posted on

This is the worst piece of journalism I have ever seen. You call yourself a reporter Lisa? You ought to be ashamed of this work. I've read you criticize other people in your own newspaper in your columns, I hope someone has the nerve to come out and tear your piece apart in the newspaper like it deserves. You really think that this kind of error filled reporting would fly in the real world? Come on Lisa, grow up and do a half decent job. Plus, are you really the right person to talk about conflict of interest?

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somethingsmellsinlubbock posted on

"This guy seems like the most hated figure in football these days."

I would save that comment for Hance, Meyers, the James' girls, or Bailey. Any chance you followed up on this story with truth and facts?

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