Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Ethical Question for ESPN and Craig James

By now, you probably know that Texas Tech fired its head coach, Mike Leach, over allegations that he had ESPN analyst Craig James' son (a Tech WR) locked in a confined space for hours on end amidst questions of whether the younger James was really as concussed as he and a physician claimed.

This being a blog about off-the-field things, I won't really get into how much I think this will hurt Texas Tech (a lot, given Leach called the plays), or how this affects the matchup (definitely helps MSU). I want to focus on something that hasn't gotten a lot of play.

Craig James was scheduled to call the Alamo Bowl before all this mess broke. Not before it happened, mind you, not before an internal investigation began. Just before it broke. Of course, as soon as the news broke, ESPN pulled James from the broadcast.

Here's my question: Why in the blue hell was James scheduled to call this game at all? Your son's at the heart of an investigation you very well know could cost the coach his job (which it ultimately did). Your subsequent comments to the media show you obviously think Leach was abusive towards some of his players - your son for one - and that he needed to get canned for the protection of the rest of the men on the squad.

That is a stunning conflict of interest. For one, I don't think parents should call their kids' games. But ESPN obviously thinks that's OK. Set that aside for now though.

As a professional journalist, I can tell you that one of two things happened. Either James didn't tell his assignment editor that this was going on, before or after he got picked to work the game, or the editorial staff at ESPN didn't care.

Michigan State fans who watch the game from home deserve a neutral broadcast booth. Texas Tech fans deserve analysts who aren't out to get their coach. ESPN almost failed their audience and really lucked out that they didn't. Fans deserve more from the "worldwide leader".

I've e-mailed a copy of this post to ESPN's ombudsman, Don Ohlmeyer. If he responds to me or on his blog, I'll be sure to post that.

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