Craig James in Texas GOP Senate race

AUSTIN, Texas -- Craig James is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Texas, he announced Monday.

After he officially threw his hat into the ring, ESPN announced that James, who had called college football games for the network, would not return to the airwaves.

"Craig has decided to run for the U.S. Senate," a spokesman said. "He will no longer work for ESPN."

James already was going to miss Tuesday night's ESPN telecast of the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. His replacement is Danny Kanell. He was scheduled to work two other bowl games as well; no replacement has been named.

James has been flirting with entering politics for more than a year. He has name recognition in Texas, having played football at Southern Methodist in the 1980s and as a commentator on ESPN.

However, SMU was eventually given the death penalty for violations which occurred while James was in school, though he was never directly implicated. He has denied any involvement.

He also was part of a controversy that eventually led to the firing of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach while James' son played for the Red Raiders. Leach is currently suing James and ESPN.

James' late entry into the Senate race puts him a in a primary field already crowded with well-known and wealthy candidates who are vying for Hutchison's seat. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz have spent months raising money and collecting endorsements from prominent Republicans.

James, 50, who lives in Celina, north of Dallas, has been a board member of the influential conservative think tank the Texas Policy Foundation in Austin and recently founded Texans for a Better America to promote conservative policies.

James has had a close relationship with Dallas real estate developer Sherwood Blount, one of the key boosters involved in the past pay-for-play scandal at SMU. Blount, who reportedly insisted SMU had a "payroll to meet" even after the school promised the payments would stop, was James' agent when he played in the NFL.

In his book "Gameday," James wrote: "I'm not going to sit here and tell you I never received a nickel during my playing days. But I can say with certainty that no benefits were ever extended to me from anyone associated with the SMU administration."

After college, James was drafted by the Washington Federals of the USFL and signed with the Patriots before the 1985 season. He retired from football in 1989.

As a businessman, James has been involved in ventures providing video content for the Internet as well as real estate holdings and development, according to the Texans for a Better America website.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.