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Merrie Spaeth speaks out on Mike Leach, Craig James, swiftboating, and darkened sheds

Jan 11, 2010, 11:00 AM EDT

Isn’t it fun being a Texas Tech football fan these days? (“Serenity now!”). As the Mike Leach debacle grinds its way to court, the PR sorceress who helped Leach’s accuser, Craig James, sink the former coach is now speaking out. Mary Spaeth, head of Spaeth Communications and the PR arm for the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry in 2004, told Sports by Brooks late Sunday that her organization indeed worked with the James family in connection wit the Leach allegations. And, she said, James contacted her before he went public about Leach.
James’ son, Adam, was the player at the center of misconduct charges leveled against Leach, leading to the coach’s dismissal. Craig James is a football analyst for ESPN.

Spaeth told me that she was initially contacted by Craig James before he went public with his complaints about Leach after a third party recommended the firm to the ESPN announcer.

“I’m pretty sure his first call was on Dec. 19. He reached out to us,” Spaeth said.

Spaeth said that James wanted her company to, “help (James family) with the first burst of attention.”

“Our first role with them was to think through what to say publicly. We advised him on the drafting of the family’s first statement that was distributed to reporters,” Spaeth said.

Spaeth, however, did not mention whose idea it was to release the infamous electrical shed cell phone video, which Adam James shot of himself in the shed where he was banished by Texas Tech coaches. There is actually another video; the second showing Leach cursing out James in practice. But Spaeth said she hasn’t seen the second one.

She claimed James’ recent proclamation that he intended to explore the possibility of political career was, “news to me,” adding, “we’d be the last people to represent James. We’re already representing Michael Williams (for the possible Senate seat).”

Spaeth was co-Chair of Williams’ most recent re-election campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission in 2008.

As for the future, Spaeth said she was still advising the James family but that “it’s been quiet for the past five to six days.” Spaeth said, “I don’t know where the litigation is going,” and that she wasn’t working on anything specific for James at the moment.

Wow, does anyone, like me, think that there is a lot more to this story? It’s hard to picture Craig James enlisting a big gun like Spaeth Communications just to help draft the family’s initial statement. You don’t hire Mary Spaeth to help you decide what color tie to wear for TV. You hire her for big-picture stuff.
Meanwhile, a Facebook group called Team Leach, whose stated mission is to “search for the truth (behind Leach’s firing) and pursue that goal through positive means and in a professional manner,” has grown to more than 60,000 members. This story isn’t going away soon.
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James Hired Swift Boat Firm Before Going Public [SportsbyBrooks]
Team Leach [Facebook]

  1. Go Figure! - Jan 11, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    Great job NBC….keep digging! Spaeth Communications has a connection to Jim Sowell, the Texas Tech booster who sent the leaked e-mails to the Tech Adminstrators during contract negotions last year. This story is MUCH deeper and goes back MUCH farther than Decemeber! Keep on diggin’….PLEASE!!!

  2. JJ Manheimer - Jan 11, 2010 at 8:24 PM

    Patterns don’t change very often in life. Coach Leach is a superior coach and builder of player character (pattern) but every so often when you get big ego parents that have entitled their son and spoiled him (pattern) you get this kind of mess. James doesn’t care that by getting Coach Leach fired he hurt many student athletes and their families because all he sees is his son which feeds his ego. Tell Daddy James that he has hurt the university very badly and that he should teach his son to take responsibility for himself, that is of course if daddy doesn’t intend to sit in on his son’s first evaluation in his first job.

  3. Stufrogg - Jan 11, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    First of all folks, let’s get the facts straight, and if you don’t believe me…do the research on Team Leach Facebook Group to see the real evidence, not what you hear on BSPN.
    Facts: 1. The trainer decided where to take James, and specifically told him NOT to go into the electrical closet.
    2. Coach Leach never specifically instructed for him to go anywhere specific, he only said, to take him to a dark place (if you see the context, Leach only wanted him out of his sight with his punk ass sunglasses, so that he could continue to coach practice) The trainer’s story supported Leach, until 4 hours before the Alamobowl, when (probably with his job threatened) he changed his story in a sworn affidavit (which if you read closely, still favors Leach, but you wouldn’t have known it by listening to the BSPN assholes in the booth that night)
    3. There was never any “being locked in a closet”. If you are still listening to ESPN about this…stop it!! They have been reporting LIES, since day 1. And they have given C.James a big microphone to in which to fabricate his story.
    4. TTU wanted to fire Leach after last year (when he went 11-1), based mainly on pressure from boosters, this is proven in leaked emails. This has been mainly an EGO issue, and the Administration did not want to pay him his contract. (note: his contract amount was about medium, in comparison to the amount of revenue the program was bringing in. It was a fair price…unlike Pat Knight,(the basketball coach) who has never proved himself, and makes as much as Texas Coach Rick Barnes..hmmm…
    They didn’t like him because he was “different”, He wasn’t a “good ‘ole boy”. He didn’t play college ball, He is a lawyer and an intellectual that is a football coach. They resented him for coming up the ranks in an untraditional path.
    5. Big Question: since Bobby Knight was there, that I know of, he has hit a player in the face, and has publicly thrown a temper tantrum at the Central Market salad bar throwing food at the same Chancellor that fired Leach. Did he ever get fired??? Leach has never had any accusation until now. And there was never an investigation at all.
    6. Adamelia James is very irrelevant to the football team. He is a third string reciever who only plays around 4-5 plays a game. The only way he will ever make it to the NFL will be as a waterboy.
    7. Craig James did this mainly as a publicity stunt so that he could gain name recognition for running for senate.
    8. Mike Leach’s program had the highest graduation rates than ANY OTHER PROGRAM IN THE COUNTRY.
    9. I could keep going on, and on, and on…but you get the point.
    GET THE FACTS!!

  4. Jeff - Jan 12, 2010 at 12:19 AM

    If the PR people are talking and doing interviews there is damage control going on. I find it very odd that Craig James called a Regent instead of the AD. Heck, I find it odd that Adam James did not contact the AD. Craig James contacted the PR firm on the same day that the Regent got the ball rolling at TTU, http://www.redraiders.com/2010/01/10/hance-here%e2%80%99s-why-leach-was-fired/ . Is it not strange that TTU took a statement from Craig James? I can see taking a statement from Adam James but Craig??? Is it not strange that in the rush to release affidavits TTU has not released the primary complaint in affidavit form? Strange things are afloat in Lubbock! Don’t drink the kool-aid.

  5. Jeff - Jan 12, 2010 at 12:26 AM

    Stufrogg,
    TTU has the highest football grad rate of D1 public schools. I think they are like 7 or 8 when compared to all schools both public and private. I don’t know that Craig James did this because of his Senate run, only he knows that.

  6. Norman - Jan 12, 2010 at 4:41 AM

    In this sorry mess, the losers are our young people who
    attend this institution of “higher learning.” Leach may
    have made a bad decision in how to discipline an errant
    child, but is it any different than the in-house suspension
    used in schools across this country? The Tech Administrators, in my opinion, were wrong in firing Leach. As in all business
    adventures $ rules the day.

  7. Doc - Jan 12, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Adam showed up at practice in street clothes a big no no even if you are not practicing. He knew not to do this but did it anyway. Was putting Adam in a shed the best thing to do? Maybe not, but Coach Leach just wanted him out of the way. Adam, instead of being a man and owning up to his error decided to make this about Coach Leach. The University saw this as a way to get Leach out and save a bunch of money. How much is Tubberville getting? Do the math.

  8. lmchimere - Jan 12, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    Anyone with a lick of sense can see the collusion among Craig James and the administration to get rid of Mike Leach. The university violated its own contract by immediately suspending him rather than following the ten-day suspension clause. Why? In order to save 800,000K. Craig James played the pious father with his comments that he “had prayed about this” and any parent would have done the same. NO ONE is buy this rubbish, Craig! Did GOD tell you to contact Spaeth communications so you could get the perfect spin on this? You were able to leverage because of your ties to ESPN who completely skewed the story–ESPN (for fear of a lawsuit) has backed off its reporting. Now ESPN says a “player” not Adam James, son of Craig James, and the “reporters” no longer state that it was player abuse or that he was “locked in a shed.” Now it is the “alleged” mistreatment. Nice way to cover your ass, ESPN, but the damage is already done. The list of misdeeds continues when one considers the leaked emails between boosters and the administration who plotted a year in advance Leach’s termination. The hastily drafted affidavits of Pincock and Phys are inconclusive despite the pressure the TT admin. put on them to have them available in time to be released for the Alamo Bowl. (What convenient timing!) However, neither affidavit condemns Leach and Pincock’s affidavit is even contradictory. Governor Perry has his good friend, Kent Hance, the Chancellor of TTU, as a GOP crony so he is backing Hance for the moment. However, 60K Team Leach members are demanding accountability and transparency (like the original complaint of James which has never been made public). These citizens will continue to work to find the truth and for the resignation of those guilty of wrong doing and collusion. BEWARE PERRY, it’s an election year and the stink from this mess is just beginning to be uncovered.

  9. Mike - Jan 12, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    I am the first cousin to Mike Leach and would like to say a few words about who he is. First of all he comes from a good strong Mormon family with very good values. It would be against everything he believes in to harm or mistreat people or players in any way. He has a very good family and is a great father. I have been a football coach myself in England where I live and have coached players about the same age as the Tech team. I have dealt myself with players whos attitudes cause a distraction to the rest of the team. I never had to put a player in a dark room myself because I never dealt with player with a concussion but while I played for the team I coached I got a concussion in training and the light was causing me a lot of discomfort and I went to the training room myself to get out of the light. While in the hospital later on that day the Dr put me in a private room with the lights out because he knew it would help relieve the pain. For a few days after that I continued to stay in dark places due to the pain the light causes. I also do the same when I suffer from migraine headaches. I am not trying to be one sided because he is my cousin but I fully agree with his decission to put the kid in a dark room. As far as the swearing and dislike of the kids attitude I would not exspect a coach to treat me any different if I was a problem. At my High School in Northern California I played for a coach who was far more harsh with dicipline and had us run up a very steep hill 10 times or more while carrying a heavy hitting bag in 100+ heat. I could have only prayed for the chance to sit in a closet after the first trip up the hill.
    As far as some of the Tech players attitudes towards Mike I have seen and experianced myself how a group of young people will side with one of their own in times where there is a problem with a coach. They also like to believe that they are the ones winning games because they dont understand how tough it is to be a coach. I did not understand how difficult the job was until I coached.
    From my point of view the firing is all about the contract and that after 10 years teaching his offence to more people then just Tech the school felt that they could continue their success with another coach willing to run the same kind of program.

  10. Phil - Jan 12, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    Having a cell phone at practice is against team rules. So how did Adam James record the “electriocla closet” that he went into against the trainer’s orders?
    What clothes was he wearing in the alleged confinement? Looked like street clothes to me. All injured players are required to be in workout clothes as well.
    Everyone accusing Team Leach of sticking up for a coach who abuses players, ask yourself one question. If someone in this argument is lying, what if it was the initial reports by young Adam James? What would the big picture look like then?

  11. Roy - Jan 12, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    Scott in Ga.
    This is old news and you’re way late in the game.. Go to Facebook – “Team Leach” to get the real scooby.

  12. TTU Momma - Jan 12, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    Parent, teacher, coach, boss…at some time in one’s life, one of these people is going to discipline/admonish/punish you. Generations of people learn to ‘grow up’ during many of these times. Am I advocating abuse? Not at all…did I like getting yelled at by a parent when I was wrong…nope – but…I WAS WRONG. Did I like the feeling that if I didn’t stop bad behavior, I might get a smack in the mouth? Nope – but it wasn’t fear that kept me in line – it was good old respect for those in charge.
    Apparently Mr. Craig James does not realize the HARM he brings on HIS OWN SON by not providing him with one of life’s most valuable lessons – take your strikes, be humble, and learn from it…those who perpetuate the cocky attitude in the face of discipline become the spoiled, obnoxious people that the rest of us cannot stand to be around in other avenues of life. Coach Leach harmed this young kid? Not as much as the boy’s own parents have done by behaving as they did.