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Craig James was one of the famed members of SMU's Pony Express in the late 1970s and early 1980s. James was pretty much the model player and had always kept his nose clean while turning in stellar performance after stellar performance for the Mustangs.
But all of that success came crashing down after James departed SMU.
While James was never personally implicated in the massive pay-for-play scandal that led to SMU's death penalty, he was a star player at SMU during the height of the scandal. It's difficult to see how James wasn't part of or at least knew about the scandal going on around him at SMU.
James went on to a fairly brief USFL and NFL career, which was shortened by injury. James was selected as a Pro Bowler in 1986 as a member of the New England Patriots.
James returned to the Fort Worth area after retiring from football and became a radio announcer for SMU's reinstated football program. He began appearances with ESPN in the network's early years and has since landed full-time as an ESPN analyst.
James' son, Adam, was embroiled in a controversy at Texas Tech during the 2009 season, and Craig James' actions during that scandal, as well as his continued one-sided argument against non-AQ programs, are what land him on this list.
After allegedly being injured in a Dec. 16 practice, Adam James was supposedly told by a doctor not to return to practice due to a mild concussion. The next day, James contends that coach Mike Leach ordered him to stand in a garage next to the practice facility while the rest of the team practiced.
Texas Tech claims Leach was ordered to apologize in writing to James, but Leach (through his attorney) denies any such order existed, according to the Huffington Post. Texas Tech suspended Leach, but the coach sought a court injunction that would allow him to coach in Tech's upcoming bowl game.
Texas Tech's response was to fire Leach—and it fired him just one day prior to Leach receiving an $800,000 longevity bonus. Ouch.
The termination letter was handed to Leach as he was entering the courtroom to hear his motion to coach in Tech's bowl game, which was moot now that he had been fired. Double ouch.
So how does Craig James fit into this mess?
Leach claimed to the Associated Press (h/t Huffington Post) that Craig James constantly lobbied for more playing time for his son and was upset that Adam wasn't getting it. Leach claimed Adam was lazy and walked around with a sense of entitlement because of who his dad is.
The resulting dust-up between James and Leach lead to a defamation lawsuit against James. While ESPN has gleefully reported much of the controversy from the perspective of Texas Tech and Craig James, there has been shockingly little from Leach's side of the situation.
So much so that Leach decided to write a book in an attempt to air his story.
Sports Illustrated has published a number of excerpts from the book, and Leach's side of the story will clearly make for an interesting read.
In short, the elder James is accused of railroading Leach by personally contacting high-ranking administrators at Texas Tech, and James also allegedly used the public relations firm that represents him to put pressure on Tech and discredit Leach.
Leach has also gone on record as saying his biggest regret at Texas Tech was not cutting Adam James. It's also worth noting that ESPN reportedly suspended one of its best writers, Bruce Feldman, when it became known the Feldman contributed to Leach's book.
Curiously, an ESPN press release said that Feldman was never suspended but that Feldman had “resumed his duties.” Wait a tick. How can he resume his duties if he was never suspended?
Why would he need to resume if he never stopped? Is there any doubt who at ESPN was the loudest voice calling for Feldman to be suspended in the first place?
If even half of the stuff that has come out about Craig James in all of this is true, he doesn't look very good.
What's more, James has pretty much made his bread on being the ESPN guy who ridicules TCU, Boise State, Utah and the other BCS non-automatic qualifying programs.
Watching the weekly installment of the BCS rankings countdown show, you almost feel sorry for people like Jesse Palmer, who week in and week out are subjected to verbal attacks by James simply because they have arrived at the conclusion that after years and years of continued success, those teams deserve a shot.
Based on the way James handles himself on screen with his coworkers, it's not a stretch to see how much of what is in Mike Leach's book could be true.
It would probably be better for ESPN, not to mention the world of college football, if Craig James simply went away already.