Ex-coach Leach sues ESPN for libel, slander

LUBBOCK, Texas — Former coach Mike Leach sued ESPN Inc. and a public relations firm on Wednesday, accusing them of libel and slander after he was fired by Texas Tech amid accusations that he mistreated a player suffering from a concussion.

The suit filed in Texas district court claims the network's coverage of Leach's firing last year was "willful and negligent defamation" and that it failed to "retract false and damaging statements" it made from "misinformation" provided to ESPN by Craig James, the father of the Texas Tech player.

Josh Krulewitz, spokesman for the network based in Bristol, Conn., said officials had not seen the suit and declined comment.

Leach attorney Ted Liggett said the former coach wants "to set the record" straight.

"Mike Leach is adamant," Liggett said. "Mike Leach wants his name cleared. His reputation has taken a severe hit and been tarnished."

The university fired Leach on Dec. 30, two days after suspending him amid allegations he mistreated Adam James. Leach has denied the claim.

Adam James has said his coach twice ordered him to stand for hours while confined in a dark place during practice. Wednesday, Liggett claimed that Adam James under oath said he thought it was "humorous" what Leach told him to do and that he didn't think Leach should have been fired.

The suit, which seeks undisclosed damages and retractions from ESPN and the PR firm, was filed now because the statute of limitations on slander and libel is one year.

"On a daily basis we're still seeing stories across the country" with accounts Leach claims are counter to the truth, Liggett said. "Mike Leach is looking forward to getting back into coaching; he's said that on several occasions."

Leach was fired a few days before Texas Tech beat Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl. Craig James was slated to be a broadcaster but was replaced by Mike Patrick, according to the suit.

Patrick described Adam James to "an audience of millions," saying, "There is Adam James, who is the young man who was actually punished for having a concussion," the lawsuit claims. Patrick's comments left the impression that "Leach punished a player for having a concussion."

Craig James is also a defendant in the lawsuit Leach filed against Texas Tech when he was fired.

NEBRASKA: The No. 16 Cornhuskers will be without senior wide receiver and kick returner Niles Paul as they try to win the Big 12 North title. Coach Bo Pelini said Paul hurt a foot at practice Tuesday and will miss Friday's game against Colorado.

OREGON: The school said allegations of impropriety surrounding running back LaMichael James and a vehicle he had been driving are unfounded. The university issued a statement saying it was determined that James' use of the vehicle "did not constitute a violation of NCAA legislation." Questions arose after an anonymous tip that James was driving a sports utility vehicle that he borrowed from a friend.

UCLA: Offensive coordinator Norm Chow's two-year contract extension finally was approved by the University of California Board of Regents. The school announced that Chow's deal was approved late last week.

Ex-coach Leach sues ESPN for libel, slander 11/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 7:47pm]

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