DALLAS — No matter what you may think of Mike Leach or famous fathers or an athletic department that has employed not one but two high-profile coaches who won games, graduated players and still generated controversy, the facts in the latest circus at Texas Tech appear to be this:
Adam James, son of ESPN broadcaster and former Southern Methodist University star Craig James, was diagnosed with a concussion.
His coach mocked the prescribed treatment.
And in an era when professional and college athletic programs are finally being held accountable for both the short- and long-term effects of concussions, Leach’s actions were telling and arrogant, leading to a well-deserved suspension.
Don’t get caught up in the alleged details. The “shed” that James was confined to during practice was something between Cool Hand Luke’s box and a place where the university keeps sportswriters. If it were a luxury box, it wouldn’t matter.
In specifically outlining for trainers what should be done, Leach clearly showed his disdain for the diagnosis and/or for James.
Coaches have no business getting involved in medical matters, particularly those involving the head. Concussions may be the most under-reported of all injuries, which makes them all the more dangerous. When a coach makes a point of singling out players who seek treatment, he sends a message team-wide.
The message we’re hearing now from former Tech players who have been in contact with coaches and current players is that James is “soft,” a nearly slanderous accusation in college football and one utterly beside the point.
Are some players simply not cut out for the rigors of NCAA Division I football? No question.
Do players occasionally fake injuries? Absolutely.
Are coaches frustrated by it? Without a doubt.
But this wasn’t an ankle sprain or an upset stomach. This was a head injury. Two relatively mild concussions in a short span of time in young people can result in something called “second impact syndrome,” which is fatal.
Mike Leach is a smart guy. Well-read. Varied interests. He should know about such things. He should also know they’re not to be mocked.