Saturday will mark the eight-week milepost since Marquess Wilson, the disenfranchised wide receiver at Washington State, levied his charges of abuse against Mike Leach’s regime at WSU. By my count, there have been 35 working days since Nov. 10, the date of the allegations.
Since then, WSU issued findings from its internal report exonerating Leach.
As for the Pac-12 Conference’s concurrent, but separate, investigation: Nothing.
I hear release of the report is imminent. But then, I heard the same thing more than two weeks ago, several days before Christmas.
Here’s what I know:
— The Pac-12 farmed out the essence of its probe to the law firm Bond Schoeneck and King, a Kansas City-area practice.
— The Pac-12 investigation concentrated more heavily on players who had left the WSU program, unlike the Cougars’ probe.
— I heard one current player’s interview characterized as “very rigorous.”
— The Pac-12 report is expected to be more sizeable than WSU’s.
So there are a lot of blanks to be filled in. If I’m Leach and the Cougars, I’d like to see this come to some sort of resolution, and soon, because recruiting has just resumed after the holiday lull, and the unanswered question is bound to be an issue with some prospect.
You’d guess that the investigators would want to talk to some current players and staff. If there were loose ends or new leads and a need for followup interviews, perhaps the early holiday break for students interfered. Hard to say. But one would think this is a probe covering a relatively contained, finite set of circumstances, and it’s become an investigation taking its time.
Doomsayers can also make this argument: That the league has found so much wrongdoing, it’s taking awhile. Anything is possible.
Make no mistake, this is a big one for Leach. Remember, in a deposition related to his dismissal at Texas Tech three years ago, he admitted being irritated with player Adam James and directing a trainer to have the concussed James put in a darkened place and stand for the duration of practice (a claim that on a subsequent day, Leach had directed the player be confined to an electrical closet, was debunked).
So the coach has a lot at stake. More, he would contend, than is fair, in light of Wilson’s message to athletic director Bill Moos late the night of Nov. 10, which WSU has been interpreting as exculpatory for Leach. Wilson wrote, “With that letter, I wasn’t trying to accuse the coaches of hitting players or anything. I was just trying to put it in different terms, and now everything is getting misinterpreted and I didn’t mean it like that at all … I simply was trying to get my story across and get my name cleared instead of having it say I’m suspended for breaking team violations … That could mean like I did drugs or something … I was never trying to harm the university or the program with it.”
Seems to me it’s possible the Pac-12 investigators may be put in a difficult position — that of trying to define abuse. It’s common knowledge, for instance, that many conditioning measures across the country induce vomiting by athletes. Is that abuse? Bob Huggins, the West Virginia basketball coach, has a practice treadmill ramped up to a ridiculous speed as a punitive measure. Is that abuse?
Leach is known to be gratuitously profane, and Wilson’s letter alleged verbal abuse, but Leach’s invective might not meet a reasonable person’s threshold of abuse (whatever that is, and that’s the point).
What’s possible is that the Pac-12 is looking at the sand-pit maneuvers Leach uses for conditioning/punishment. The hosing of players is something I still don’t quite get, and the intent of that might be the crux of the investigation. If that is problematic, the Cougars will argue, as Moos pointed out in mid-December with the school’s release of its report, that the practice was discontinued during the season.
And no doubt the much-discussed halftime locker room at Utah is a focal point, and whether assistant coach Paul Volero got too physical with players in getting across his message.
Bottom line: What’s most important is an investigation that’s thorough and comprehensive. Fast has ceased to be a reachable goal.