House committee hears Leach case

Updated: May 24, 2010, 8:35 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- House Judiciary Committee member Linda Sanchez criticized the hiding of injuries in sports after hearing testimony Monday on Texas Tech's firing of coach Mike Leach.

Referring to the Texas Tech incident involving wide receiver Adam James that led to Leach's dismissal in December, Sanchez, D-Calif., said at a Manhattan forum that players, assistant coaches and trainers should not have been silent concerning James' concussion.

"It emphasizes the culture within sports of hiding injuries," she said.

Added NFL Players Association medical director Thom Mayer: "Where was the medical staff? What are the qualifications and what are we demanding of the medical staffs on the professional, NCAA, high school and youth levels?"

James was sent to a dark storage shed last December by Leach after the player said he couldn't practice because of a concussion. Leach didn't believe James had a concussion and, according to the school's associate vice chancellor, Charlotte Bingham, Leach told team trainers to tell the doctors "there'd be no more concussions at Texas Tech."

Bingham says the school was not aware of the situation until James' father, former NFL running back and ESPN college football analyst Craig James, spoke up.

"Players do have access to others to make complaints about it," she said at the forum.

"Athletes are discouraged from reporting injuries. That's a very serious component of strategizing someone who reports an injury. If we don't do something ... we still have people who think this is how it's supposed to be."

Leach was fired on Dec. 30, two days after he was suspended amid allegations of mistreatment of James. Leach has continually denied that he mistreated James and has stated publicly that the $800,000 bonus he was due on Dec. 31 is the reason for his firing. His lawsuit includes allegations of libel and slander and breach of contract. Leach had just completed the first year of a five-year, $12.7 million deal that came after months of negotiations. Since the lawsuit began, those have come under fire as a contentious precursor to Leach's firing.

Larry Anders, the chairman of the Board of Regents, filed his 48-page response on Monday afternoon, the most extensive response of any of the seven named clients in the suit, Anders' lawyer said.

"We think it's the first time somebody has really pieced together the sworn testimonies in the case that demonstrate the discrepancy between what the events were at the time, as recalled by the witnesses, versus what Leach is saying now," said Steven Rasch, Anders' lawyer from the Thompson & Knight firm in Dallas.

Anders' response states that despite being told explicitly by trainers that Adam James had suffered a concussion, Leach thought James was faking the injury, head trainer Steve Pincock said in a sworn testimony.

"Now, in this lawsuit, Mike Leach is trying to reconstruct the events to say that he did believe there was a concussion and what he did to Adam James was some sort of bizarre form of treatment for Adam James' light sensitivity," Rasch said. "We think the sworn testimony makes it very clear that Leach, by all the questions he asked and the statements he made, thought Adam James was faking it, he treated it as if he were faking it, he tried to punish and humiliate him by making him stand in a dark shed for several hours during football practice."

In a move to strengthen Pincock's testimony, the response also includes a previous statement by Leach in which the former Texas Tech coach agrees with a questioner who described Pincock as "honest and reliable."

The clients named in the suit are Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance, president Guy Bailey and athletic director Gerald Myers; vice chairman of the Board of Regents Jerry Turner; Bingham, Craig James, and Anders.

Each has filed previous responses to the court, but some did it in a joint capacity via the university's lawyers.

Information from ESPN.com's David Ubben and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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