AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — College football analyst Craig James has been granted time away from ESPN while he considers running for the U.S. Senate in Texas, ESPN said Friday.

James requested that he not work his scheduled bowl game on Tuesday so he can concentrate on his decision, ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz told The Associated Press. The news fuels speculation that he is close to entering the Republican primary already crowded with candidates who have spent months raising money and gathering endorsements. James would be running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

A message left with James was not immediately returned.

James was a star tailback at Southern Methodist University from 1979-1982 and later played for the New England Patriots of the NFL.

He appears on weekly game broadcasts for ESPN. He also was embroiled in Texas Tech University’s decision to fire popular football coach Mike Leach in 2009 over allegations the coach mistreated James’ son, a Red Raiders player, after he sustained a concussion.

James, 50, has been flirting with entering politics for more than a year. He has been a board member of the influential Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin, and recently founded Texans for a Better America to promote conservative policies

The deadline to file as a candidate is Monday.

Other candidates include Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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