Texas Tech acted swiftly and appropriately in December when it suspended and eventually fired former head football coach Mike Leach for mistreating a player with a concussion, a Texas Tech official told a congressional panel Monday.
Charlotte Bingham, a university attorney who spearheaded the investigation into the allegations, testified in New York City before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee about the university’s reaction to complaints by the player’s father, ESPN analyst Craig James.
“The one message (I conveyed to the committee) was that TT recognized the issue and reacted promptly to it,” Bingham said. “I think the fact we responded to it in 24 hours was a very significant response. The other thing I took away from (the hearings) is that Texas Tech is very much doing the right things.”
Bingham was among a group of doctors, experts and former professional players that went before the panel to elaborate on the various threats posed by head injuries — long a fixture in the sport, but often ignored.
Lawmakers have begun to pay close attention to the health risks of football, and Monday’s was the latest in a string of congressional forums taking aim at a sports culture that, lawmakers say, downplays the seriousness of traumatic head injuries.
All the facts are still being disputed in a Lubbock court, but Leach was fired after ordering receiver Adam James to spend a practice in a dark equipment shed after he had complained of a concussion.
Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Boston University and a renowned expert on concussions, submitted written testimony both to Monday’s forum and as an expert witness in Tech’s defense against Leach’s lawsuit.
He referred to Leach’s treatment of James in recent court filings as “inappropriate” and “unconscionable.”
Leach has denied any wrongdoing and his legal battle is ongoing.
But committee member Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., called into question the silence of James’ fellow players, trainers and assistant coaches.
Rep. Sanchez attributed this silence to the broader culture that doesn’t take head injuries seriously enough.
Or — as Sanchez’s fellow committee member, Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., told members of an NFL medical committee who attended the hearing — it’s “an infected system that needs to be cleaned up.”
The hearing only encouraged Bingham. She said Tech’s practices and policies are perfectly in step with those suggested by the room full of experts.
“I can say I was really reassured by what I heard, that Texas Tech responded appropriately and recognized a serious issue,” she said. “What I was very pleased about was to see Tech Tech, in fact, has in place policies and procedures that do account for the seriousness of these injuries.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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