Just hours before Washington State took to the field to play the UCLA Bruins in Pullman, Wash., a public release of then-receiver Marquess Wilson's allegations of abuse by head coach Mike Leach and his staff was set afloat on the Internet.
In Wilson's official statement, he claimed he had left the team and that the "new regime of coaches" was responsible for "physical, emotional and verbal abuse being allowed in the locker room and on the field."
Wilson had been suspended by Leach for at least one game after he didn't fully participate in a team conditioning exercise. Interestingly, it appears only Wilson walked out on the drills.
Leach, according to the NewsTribune.com, "described Wilson’s departure as 'addition by subtraction'.”
The report also indicated that six players were made available to answer questions from the media and that "four said they have seen no physical abuse by coaches, and two declined comment."
After Leach was hired by Washington State for the 2012 season, a sand pit was built on the campus and was promptly nicknamed "Leach Beach." I talked to Leach in the spring about his unorthodox method of conditioning players, specifically about Leach Beach.
"A lot of people have trained in sand—Walter Payton used to run in river beds," Leach told me.
"We had trouble with ankle injuries at Tech, so about once a week, in the offseason, you'll do agilities in it, and change-of-direction drills in it."
The question now is: Are Leach's methods a good proactive approach to preventing injuries, or are they abuse? If you've ever run on the beach, you know it requires much more effort to run the same distance on sand than it does on a track. It is grueling. And to be fair, we don't even know exactly which drill Wilson walked away from that prompted his suspension.
The fact that this is the second allegation of abuse—directed at the same coach but while he was employed at two different schools—is worrisome for both the players and Washington State athletic director Bill Moos, who hired Leach.
Leach's ugly exit from Texas Tech was publicly played out, with both Leach and Texas Tech making disturbing allegations. Texas Tech maintained that Leach's treatment of Adam James—by isolating him in a dark room while he was reportedly concussed—was improper and his refusal to apologize over the incident warranted termination. James was the son of then-ESPN broadcaster Craig James.
Leach maintained that he was keeping James out of the sun and that the only reason why he was fired from the school was because he refused to apologize for the incident and that the school was trying to avoid paying Leach an $800,000 tenure bonus—Leach was dismissed one day before he was to receive that bonus.
Leach is the plaintiff in a lawsuit and as such, he has the burden of proof in a civil case. If Leach loses his lawsuit, then Moos hired a coach who couldn't prove his previous employer didn't have good cause to dismiss him.
That's not a good look for Washington State.
Then again, Wilson never specifically named Leach in his statement—he vaguely referred to his alleged abusers as the "new coaching staff" and "new regime of coaches."
But after what happened last Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, Leach may have more evidence to support his ongoing lawsuits with the school and ESPN.
Red Raiders head coach Tommy Tuberville was caught on camera in what appears to be having physical contact with a graduate assistant coach. Tuberville, when asked to explain the incident, said he was trying to get graduate assistant Kevin Oliver off the field.
"[Oliver is] out on the field, and we're trying to get him off," Tuberville said, according to this ESPN report.
The Big 12 has reprimanded Tuberville, but that's as far as it has gone. Oliver is technically a student at Texas Tech, so this brings up an interesting question:
Why did Texas Tech fire one coach (Leach) for failing to apologize to James after abuse allegations that involved no physical contact with a student but do nothing to a coach (Tuberville) that had clear physical contact with graduate student Oliver?
Remember, the conference—not the school—reprimanded Tuberville. Leach never apologized to James, but Tuberville has apologized to Oliver.
Saying you're sorry absolves abuse? Texas Tech is fine with that?
The fact that the incident was caught by the camera highlights what some could perceive as evidence of abuse by a coach. If there are no cameras taping practices and drills, abuse is hard to prove.
Marquess Wilson's allegations against Leach's staff are serious. If Wilson's abuse allegations are proved true, then this will end Leach's career and, probably, his legal actions against Texas Tech. And Wilson certainly is exploiting Leach's vulnerability—a chink in his armor, if you will—that makes this all the more gut-wrenching.
You want to give Wilson the benefit of the doubt, because if he just overreacted in a heated moment of frustration, he just threw away his potential NFL career.
Last season, Wilson had 82 catches for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. This season, he has 55 catches for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns—that translates to a lower production than in his previous year. Lower numbers playing under Leach's prolific Air Raid offense? How did that happen?
Maybe Wilson wasn't giving his 100 percent.
Maybe Leach thought he wasn't in shape and Wilson, like many of today's star athletes, thought he was above all of that conditioning stuff. Maybe he thought the team conditioning drills didn't apply to him.
Maybe Leach took it too far and hired too many bad-ass coaches. Leach's previous tenure at Texas Tech and its unresolved legal status certainly raises eyebrows and points to a disturbing trend.
If Wilson was trying to elicit sympathy by throwing a coaching staff under the bus because he knew it would re-raise questions, he should seriously consider finding another career other than playing football.
NFL scouts pay attention to this sort of stuff. No owner wants a player who undermines a coach and creates distractions on the team.
If Wilson's allegations turn out to be true, Mike Leach's career is now over and it's time for him to walk the plank.
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