Mike Leach denies charge, Washington State players say claim of abuse hasn't affected them on field
Washington State center Elliott Bosch said an assistant coach "was just trying to get us fired up" during a halftime scene in the Cougars' loss at Utah. Receiver Marquess Wilson, who quit the day after the loss at Utah, accused WSU coaches of "physical, emotional and verbal abuse."
Seattle Times staff reporter
Details continued to emerge Monday of a halftime locker-room scene in Washington State's game at Utah on Nov. 3 that apparently is part of the basis for charges of abuse in the WSU football program.
At a regular Monday news conference, coach Mike Leach repeated a denial of the allegations and players minimized the impact that departed wide receiver Marquess Wilson's charges are having on them.
Meanwhile, athletic director Bill Moos spent Monday afternoon finalizing an internal team to investigate Wilson's charges of "physical, emotional and verbal abuse" under Leach, and Moos said the Pac-12's separate investigation will be run by Ron Barker, associate commissioner for governance and enforcement.
Wilson, who left the team last week, levied the charges in a letter to "Cougar Nation" hours before WSU played UCLA on Saturday night. His stepfather, Richard Miranda, told The Times that at halftime of the Utah game "some coaches were physical, putting their hands on players, pushing them into lockers."
Monday, center Elliott Bosch described a scene involving assistant coach Paul Volero.
"Coach Volero came up, he had the O-line and the D-line come up, he was just trying to get us fired up," Bosch said. "He grabbed some guys by the chestplate. He wanted to take a look in their eyes and see if they really wanted to be here, if they were here for the right reasons, if they wanted to win. That's all he was doing."
Last Monday, Leach described that scene as "intense and face-to-face, but it wasn't some physical ruckus."
In Utah, Bosch was part of an offensive line assessed by Leach to have given an effort that "bordered on cowardice."
Bosch said Monday, "They're trying to change the culture. They're pushing us very hard, like a good football staff should."
Moos said he investigated the incident and said, "I came away from it feeling that there was no intentional grabbing a player and throwing him around. It was more of a motivational, slap on the pads, the breastplate of the pads, that kind of thing. In my day, that was not uncommon."
Wilson's stepfather also mentioned the grueling Sunday practice the next night, recalling maneuvers linemen were instructed to do in a sand pit used for conditioning.
That night, WSU sent out an advisory that there would be no Sunday night practice, but later, the conditioning drills took place, witnessed by a reporter from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.
Answering a question from that reporter Monday, Leach said, "We don't have anything to hide around here. Quite frankly, you in particular know we don't have anything to hide, right? You were in an elevated view of the whole thing.
"As a matter of fact, you're going to be one of the first people I'm going to direct these people (investigators) toward ... the great thing is, I've got an eyewitness."
Leach repeated that Wilson's loss was "addition by subtraction, and probably long overdue."
Bosch and quarterback Jeff Tuel dismissed the notion that the Wilson incident has had a dramatic impact on the Cougars (2-8), who lost their seventh consecutive game Saturday night.
"I tell you guys, it's not a distraction," said Tuel. "We gotta move forward. We're not worrying about any of that. We're not going out on the field and going, 'Oh, man, Marquess wrote a letter ... ' It's not happening, it's not reality."
Moos said he would appoint "two to four of my upper-tier administrators" to investigate Wilson's charges, and added it's "very important" the probe be done quickly.
"Ideally, we'd like to have it wrapped up by the end of the week," said Moos. "If there is any evidence of wrongdoing, we want to address it immediately, but it also sits as a distraction, and distractions don't play in favor of being successful in the field of competition. We want to be thorough, but I think also timely."
He conceded Barker's investigation "might take a little longer."
Leach's tenure at Texas Tech ended in 2009 after he was fired for the alleged mistreatment of a player. He contended the school dismissed him to avoid a large payment due shortly after the firing.
On another front, Moos said he expects a vote to be taken Friday by the WSU Board of Regents on a proposed $61 million football-operations building at the west end of Martin Stadium. He called the Wilson-related events and the need for the facility "two different topics."
"I imagine the regents will want to discuss the program itself," said Moos. "(But) I don't think there's any connection."
Moos hopes to have work begin on the facility just after the season ends, with a goal of having the exterior complete by the start of next season, and the project finished in 2014.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org