PULLMAN — With the confidence of a man convinced of his innocence, Mike Leach told reporters during his end-of-season press conference Wednesday that former receiver Marquess Wilson has “basically recanted everything he’s said” in regard to the abuse allegations Wilson made against WSU coaches earlier this month.
The statements made by Wilson, who quit the team after nine games while alleging “physical, emotional and verbal abuse” by Leach’s staff, prompted a review of the football program by WSU and the Pac-12.
The results of those investigations are not yet final. But Leach was adamant that when they are, it will be good news for WSU and its coaches.
“The entire thing’s just been a total waste of time, other than for some of the media that’s over-embraced it because they’d rather cover that than actual football,” Leach said, adding that he hasn’t talked to Wilson personally.
“Just wait and you’ll read the review. Stay tuned, and when you all get bored talking about football, you can talk about that again.”
Wilson quit the team after walking out of a Nov. 4 conditioning session on WSU’s practice field. Six days later, hours before the Cougars’ Nov. 10 game against UCLA, Wilson released a statement condemning Leach and his staff for what he believed to be mistreatment of players.
The next day, WSU president Elson Floyd announced a review of the program by both the school and the conference.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a Q-and-A session posted on the Pac-12 website on Wednesday that the review is “in progress, so there’s no news to report as it’s still ongoing. We’re trying to do it as expeditiously but also as thoroughly as possible.”
Leach was asked Wednesday if the current generation of football players is more difficult to coach, due partially to their access to different avenues through which to voice concerns or complaints.
In a situation similar to Wilson’s, former Minnesota receiver A.J. Barker recently released a letter explaining why he was quitting while also claiming he was treated poorly by coach Jerry Kill.
Leach said that in his experience, the best players he’s coached were the ones who were harder on themselves than the coaches were.
And Leach reiterated that he isn’t changing anything.
“If a player doesn’t like the way something’s going, he can quit,” Leach said. “Why doesn’t he quit? If he doesn’t like football, then maybe he ought to quit, or go find him a team where they don’t coach very hard. Or go find him a team where lackadaisical effort is allowed. Nothing says they have to continue playing. Quit. Instead they want to whine and act like they’re mistreated.”
If football weren’t hard, Leach said, “they’d call it cuddling. That’s what they’d call it. Cuddling.”
No matter how many times his name might come up in connection with a coaching search somewhere else, Leach said he’s happy at WSU and doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.
Leach was reportedly in contact with North Carolina State last week before telling FootballScoop.com and CBS.com’s Bruce Feldman that he had no intention of leaving WSU.
“I’m not looking for another position and I’m happy here,” Leach said Wednesday. “It’s about as simple as that. There’s always dialogue that takes place but I’m happy here. I’m staying here. When I got here I planned to from the beginning — I planned to get to a place where you build it up and you turn it around. Not looking for just stop and start stuff.”
Leach also expects each of his assistant coaches to return next season, “as far as I know.”
Leach said there’s no update on quarterback Jeff Tuel’s application for a fifth year of eligibility. Tuel has been lifting with the team during offseason workouts, which began Monday. Leach said players will lift weights four days this week, then lift and run four days per week for the next two weeks. … WSU’s recruiting emphasis this season will focus on offensive and defensive linemen, Leach said, because “commitment-wise, that’s where we’re the lightest.” … Senior linebacker Travis Long, who suffered a serious knee injury against Arizona State and was on crutches during the Apple Cup, won’t be healthy in time for pre-NFL draft workouts, Leach said. But he still expects Long to get a shot next season with an NFL team.