LUBBOCK, Texas — Fired Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said the father of the player he was accused of mistreating after a concussion meddled more than any parent he's ever come across.
Leach also denied he mistreated Adam James when he spoke Friday to The Associated Press about his firing.
Dismissed Wednesday, two days after being suspended by Texas Tech, Leach said it was indisputable that James' father, ESPN analyst and former NFL player Craig James, lobbied frequently to get his son more playing time.
Leach said Craig James meddled "more than any parent I've dealt with my entire career."
"I can understand a father being a fan of his son, rooting for his son, being supportive of his son. But at some point coaches have to be allowed to coach. At some point the wisdom of all the people watching the film, going to all the practices has to be respected."
Leach added: "Just because you have influence, power and a microphone in front of you doesn't mean that your son should have any more right to play than the other guys."
The school suspended Leach while it was investigating Adam James' allegations that the coach twice had him confined to a small, dark place after being diagnosed with a concussion.
Leach said James, a sophomore receiver, was "never" locked anywhere, by him or by team trainers.
When asked about claims that he meddled Craig James called them "absurd," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said.
James then released a statement.
"Coach Leach has made damaging and untrue comments, about my actions, about my son, and about a business relationship – which does not exist – between me and the leadership of the University," James said.
"He's simply trying to shift attention from his own actions and from the findings of a University investigation which we believe was fair and thorough. As we have said over and over, our concern was about the safety and well being of our son and of all the other fine young men on the team. Any parent who found their son in this situation would step forward."
Leach curtly dismissed James' statement.
"I don't care what he thinks," Leach said. "I know what the truth is, have from the beginning, and it doesn't matter what he thinks."
Leach said he suspects the $800,000 bonus he was to have received Thursday was the reason he was fired.
"It's either power or control, or they didn't want to pay," he said.
Leach said there are "too many unholy alliances" at Tech, including the relationship between James and a few administrators. Those groups could have begun aiming to remove him before negotiations on a contract extension began late last year.
Leach pointed to e-mail messages obtained by The AP as proof that the university did not want him around. In one, a booster recommended to Tech administrators, "You should sign a contract that would not cost us too much to fire him."
A representative of Leach's provided statements to the AP that appear to counter some of Adam James' allegations. The team doctor who examined him said "no additional risks or harm were imposed on Adam by what he was asked to do," while two others – the team's trainer and the director of sports medicine at the school – said neither space the player was put in was locked.
The coaching staff never singled Adam James out to reduce his playing time, Leach said.
"It's not even logical," he said.