(CN) – Former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach claims ESPN and Spaeth Communications conspired to destroy his reputation. Leach’s defamation complaint stems from the highly publicized allegations about Leach’s treatment of Adam James, the son of ESPN commentator Craig James. Leach claims Craig James hired Spaeth “for the purpose of creating public opinion hostile to Leach.”
Neither Craig James nor his son are named as defendants in Leach’s defamation complaint in Lubbock County Court, Texas.
Leach claims Craig James repeatedly harassed Texas Tech coached and administrators after Adam James was demoted to the third team for his poor play and attitude.
The situation escalated when Adam James told coaches he couldn’t practice for the 2009 Alamo Bowl due to a mild concussion, according to the complaint.
Leach says he told trainers to take Adam James to a dark room and have him stand during practice, since people with concussions can be sensitive to light, and because his poor attitude was becoming detrimental to the team.
Leach claims Adam James was taken to a darkened media room during practice, was checked on by trainers every 15 minutes and was told to stay out of the room’s electrical closet.
Leach says that contrary to his orders, Adam James went into the closet, where he took pictures of himself and made a YouTube video. Craig James then falsely told Texas Tech officials that his son had been locked in the closet for three hours, according to the complaint.
“ESPN published its first ‘report’ of this incident on December 28, 2009,” the complaint states. “ESPN’s report differed drastically from the facts. Relying on a source ‘close to the family,’ ESPN reported that Adam James was locked in an electrical closet for a long period of time because he could not practice. Relying on that same source, ESPN Falsely reported that Leach ordered Adam James ‘locked’ in ‘the darkest place’ and forced to stand.”
On Dec. 20, 2009, Texas Tech attorney Charlotte Bingham investigated the incident. Leach claims Bingham interviewed Adam James, who told her that he was in the closet for 5 minutes and that he was not forced to stand during the entire practice.
“However, ESPN never reported those facts, nor retracted the false reports based on Craig James’ allegations of the ‘information’ provided by sources ‘close to the family,'” the complaint states.
“In connection with this false reporting, ESPN also included a defamatory headline in the ‘ticker’ which ran continuously across the bottom of its screen during broadcasts. This headline reported the allegation Leach had ordered Adam James ‘locked in an electrical closet.’ Representatives of Mike Leach, particularly Gary O’Hagen and Matt Baldwin, repeatedly called and emailed personnel at ESPN to provide them with correct information regarding the Adam James allegations, and ask ESPN to correct its reporting … ESPN ignored these efforts, and, instead, provided Craig James and others with broadcast air time with which to perpetuate their false accusations.”
Leach wants ESPN and Speath enjoined from making statements that he mistreated a player diagnosed with a concussion, that he placed that player at risk for additional injury, and that Leach’s firing was solely Leach’s fault. He also seeks punitive damages for defamation.
He is represented by Ted Liggett.
Leach, who was in bitter contact extension negotiations with Texas Tech at the time, claims the university used the cooked-up allegations to fire him. Leach has filed a separate lawsuit against Texas Tech.