I have very little insight on the Mike Leach-Marquess Wilson flap at Washington State University, but I still have a pretty good idea of how it will turn out.
Cougar head football coach Leach should survive the dual investigations launched after standout wide receiver Wilson quit the team earlier this month, accusing the coaching staff of “physical, emotional and verbal abuse.”
And if the Cougs upend Washington in Friday’s Apple Cup, athletic administrators in Pullman may forget they’ve even heard of Marquess Wilson.
Simply put, WSU has too much money and prestige invested in Leach to fire the maverick former Texas Tech coach after only one season in the Palouse. Particularly since Wilson’s charges have yet to be publicly substantiated.
Barring a smoking gun emerging from the internal and Pac-12 Conference investigations, the only way Leach won’t be back next season, in my view, is if he refuses to accept even a mild rebuke from the school administration over his scorched-earth method of player assessments in the media.
Leach has been outspoken in his criticism of many of the Cougars nearly from the outset of the season.
What he appears to be saying in many of those comments is “I’m not Paul Wulff (his predecessor as WSU coach)” and “I don’t want many of Paul Wulff’s recruits.”
Driving off another coach’s recruits in order to bring in more of your own troops may not be particularly admirable, but it’s far from uncommon in college sports.
Leach was very successful at Texas Tech with an unorthodox style and persona that brought a lot of attention — including a profile on television’s “60 Minutes” — to the program.
Given a few years to settle in, he could very well attain the same buzz at Washington State.
There is, however, a fairly distinct line between being outspoken and subjecting players to ridicule and scorn. One would hope that WSU officials can convey the message that Leach has crossed it on at least a couple of occasions this season.
Saying your players performed in a zombie-like state is both funny and acceptable. Publicly asserting that the team’s play bordered on cowardice or marching a group of college student-athletes into a post-game press conference to explain their sub-par performances is not.
A high school coach who attempted either of the latter two ploys would almost certainly be hitting the unemployment line within 48 hours of the season’s conclusion.
I’ve dealt with several prep coaches (some of whom are still active) who offer blunt criticism, sometimes to a fault. None of them, to my knowledge, has ever attempted to subject a player to public humiliation in the media.
It would be counter-productive for a high school coach to do so, because players can quit the team without fear of losing athletic scholarships.
Leach’s tactics don’t seem much wiser, since they could cost him potential recruits. Either way, the performance of the team would tend to suffer.
Following an early season high school boys basketball game in the Twin Harbors area a few years ago, the losing team’s coaches emerged from the locker room discussing the disappointing performance of one of the team’s starters.
“He’s useless!” the head coach blurted out, perhaps not seeing me waiting in the nearby corridor.
One of his assistants did notice my presence, however, and calmly (and unnecessarily) added, “That’s off the record.”
That story had an interesting postscript. The player in question developed so rapidly later in the season that he not only earned his team’s Most Improved Player award but probably would been similarly recognized had his league offered such an honor.
It’s hard to imagine that his progress would have been even been more dramatic had his coach publicly thrown him under the bus earlier in the campaign.
Rick Anderson is The Daily World sports editor. He can be reached at (360) 537-3924 or via email at email@example.com.