Special Comment on the Wilson Report

Hello Followers.  Hope you’ve had a great week.

Today’s post is one of the more difficult ones I’ve had to write during my time on the blog.  But, in light of the information included in the report submitted by Bill Moos to President Floyd two days ago, I feel compelled to offer a few thoughts which I’m sure will be controversial.

Read on.

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Followers, whenever controversy breaks, being a blogger is no easy task.  After all, the WSU Football Blog is a fan blog. And because of that, we always encourage each other to fire away with opinions or thoughts whenever they come to light. 

That said, writing for a blog that has a significant readership (and 500-2000 readers a day is significant in my book) is not devoid of personal and/or social responsibility.  Because we have the potential for thousands to read us on any given day, we always have to be careful not to unduly hurt the people and agents of Washington State University, our diverse readership, or ourselves.

And so it is with a fair amount of trepidation that I pursue the following commentary about the Marquess Wilson report.  However, in light of some of the issues presented in the report, I feel compelled to offer an honest assessment of how I would view these issues and events were I not a diehard fan of Washington State University Football.   So, here we go.

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For starters, I wish to acknowledge the most basic facts at hand.  First, the evidence suggests that Mike Leach DID NOT ABUSE his players.

This is no small fact for WSU or for Leach given the fraudulent abuse allegations which led to Leach’s ouster at Texas Tech.  Let me say this again:  The facts are conclusive that Mike Leach was NOT involved in abusing any person or agent associated with Washington State University.  

The second fact that came from the report is that Marquess Wilson withdrew the claims of abuse stated in the press release issued prior to the UCLA game.  This admission also is significant because it shows, as many of us suspected, that the emotions surrounding Wilson’s decision to leave the program got the best of him and his family.

Both of these central facts are keenly reflected in the thesis advanced by our friends at CougCenter this week.  Their point:  No one was going to win this thing from the beginning, no one won in the end, and because of that, its high time to put the whole thing to bed.

Although I applaud the message, balance, and restraint offered by the Cougcenter authors, I cannot support the entirety of their view when I consider key aspects of the report from a perspective other than a WSU alumnus or fan….

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Notwithstanding the vital importance of the facts highlighted above—facts which I have purposefully placed in bold  to highlight their critical importance—when I read the admission that football/strength and conditioning staff used water to spray players during sandpit exercises, well, my heart sank.

I mean, not only was that news beyond what I expected, it struck a chord in me that I try to avoid at all costs when writing on this blog:  My role as a faculty member at a major research university.

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Followers, if I heard that an employee of my university, be it a faculty member, a staff member, or a member of the Athletic Department sprayed water on student athletes as punishment (or as a means of instilling discipline or “toughness”), I would immediately look to talk to the Provost as well as the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, and I would be far from alone.  And frankly, I wouldn’t be demanding additional investigation on the matter, I would be asking for the dismissal of the person or persons who were involved in spraying that water.  The reason:  All universities have very stern policies regarding student hazing—and those policies are in place for student-to-student conduct. 

Simply put, there is NO TOLERANCE in any public university for university sponsored agents or employees to be involved with hazing students in ANY capacity.  And truly, it is very difficult to make an argument that spraying water on kids is an established “best practice” for enhancing the capacity of students to play BCS-level football.  It just reeks of hazing.

Beyond focusing on the actual perpetrators of water-spraying behaviors, I would also ask the Faculty Senate and/or university administration to investigate the conditions in which the perpetrators’ superiors allowed them to remain in good standing with the university following those incidents. 

In other words, if an Assistant Coach (be it a position coach, a graduate assistant, a trainer, or a strength coach) hazed a student without the prior knowledge or consent of the person in charge (e.g., the head coach), my expectation would be that, upon learning about the actions and behaviors in question, the person in charge would immediately take severe disciplinary action upon the perpetrator.  Absent such action, I would assume (a) Lack of institutional control within the department or program; and/or (b) That the person-in-charge was complicit with the hazing behaviors.

Toward that end, there is nothing in Mr. Moos’ letter to President Floyd or elsewhere in the media that suggests that there was any disciplinary action imposed by Mike Leach upon the coaches and/or trainers involved in hazing/spraying water on players.  What’s more, in every press conference which followed those allegations, Leach was explicit in dismissing all allegations of abuse or impropriety within the football program—of which the strength and conditioning staff are a part.    And as importantly, he never suggested that there were any incidents or persons which required corrective action.  In fact, he snidely dismissed those questions whenever members of the press asked them.

Instead, it appears that it was Mr. Moos that intervened on behalf of players and the university to promote acceptable disciplinary behavior and conditioning practices.  And for that, Moos is to be lauded not only for supporting the well-being of his student athletes, but for also taking the bull by the horns and having the buck stop, at least temporarily, with him.

Mike Leach, however, does not appear to have taken such actions upon himself, nor did he stand up publicly for his AD in correcting those behaviors.  And because of that, he appears to have—at least implicitly—condoned those behaviors which I fervently believe to represenative of hazing.

And so, to be clear:  To the extent to which those incidents happened at my university, and to the extent that the person in charge of that program did not take immediate corrective action regarding the persons in question (e.g. by removing them or suspending them), then I would want that coach disciplined if not fired.

After all, there is no way that I would keep my job if I sprayed water on students as a way of improving their motivation and condition to perform academic work, and you can bet that I would lose my position of leadership if such events happened under my watch as Chair…

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Lens #2.  The Eyes of a Parent

Just so you know, when it comes to coaching my own kid or watching him play sports, I am not “one of those parents.”  But let me tell you, I’m pretty close.  I mean, I’m intense.  I’m demanding.  And oftentimes, I push my kid WAY beyond the limits of what he thinks he can do re: conditioning before football starts in the fall or during winter breaks during basketball season. 

And so, while I am not “one of those parents,” I think that I am close enough to the “hard core” label that I would never be described as “soft” or “overly protectionist.”

But, if my kid called me up and told me that he was sprayed in the face with a hose during conditioning drills, I would be beyond angry.  What’s more, you can bet that Mrs. Sutra would be on the next plane to wherever to let the AD hear it before she went straight to the press. 

To be clear, every parent is bound to have different interpretations of what types of behaviors and/or types of discipline are safe, acceptable, or over-the-line.  I’m just saying that if it was my kid, I would be demanding considerable accountability from the man in charge.  In other words, absent the immediate firing of the folks who were handling the hoses which sprayed my kid—as well as any other school officials/coaches who sat back and watched it–I would want the coach to be fired, or at the very least, fined.

Finally, if all of these events were happening at a school that my son was being recruited by—say the University of Oregon—I would not want my kid to play for that coach.  Plain and simple.  That offer would no longer be on the table for him.

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Ultimately, this whole thing is one giant mess.  And I don’t know that there is a right answer for how to proceed. 

To be clear:  Mike Leach himself did not abuse anybody himself, nor is there ANY indication that he directed others to administer inappropriate acts of discipline.

In addition, I hope you all know that I do not hate Mike Leach.  In fact, I think it would be nothing but devastating to our program to lose him, and I think he offers us by far the best chance of anyone I can think of to restore WSU to winning football.

But if we put the exact same situation or series of events in front of me—in a context in which I have no investment as a fan or Cougar diehard—the facts in question would be more than just disturbing: They would invite a swift and strong corrective course of action. This course of action would involve the firing of any and all coaches involved in the water spraying and, at minimum, a censoring of the main man in charge.

All for now. Go Cougs.

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