Marquess Wilson, Washington State's leading receiver and former All-American, is walking away from the team, and his departure is causing quite the disturbance. Upon making his decision, the junior receiver issued a statement that can be read in its entirety at the Visalia Times Delta. In short, Wilson alleges abuse of the physical, mental and emotional sort against new head coach Mike Leach and his staff.
As folks are drawing up sides here, the correct approach would be to sit and watch. Hope for a legitimate investigation and explanation.
Wilson, a player who seemed destined for a solid NFL pick and who has plenty riding on this situation, can't afford to be truly wrong in this instance. Mike Leach, a guy whose already had his career marred by scandal and had a difficult time getting this second head coaching job in major college football; also cannot afford to be guilty of mistreating his players.
Both parties here have a lot to lose and neither can be made a liar, or their futures could take drastically different paths.
Already we're seeing lines drawn in the sand. As Bill Moos, Washington State's athletic director, told The News Tribune, he's looked into the incident and views it only as "tough love." Saying explicitly:
“Football’s a tough game,” said Moos, an offensive lineman at Washington State in the early 1970s and is a 1969 graduate of Olympia High School. “You need tough players. Tough players are the result of tough coaches, and we’ve got tough coaches.
“Some of these players have not been used to the discipline and some of the drills and things that we do to address discipline.”
“Mike Leach is old school,” Moos said, “and I’m OK with that. A little bit of old school isn’t all that bad.
“You’ve heard me say this before: I think young people today crave discipline, they just don’t know it.”
The spin parade has already started out of the Leach camp, both officially an unofficially. Of the six Cougars' football players to be made available to the media since Wilson's departure, four have parroted the "no abuse" line, while two declined comment, per The News Tribune.
Media types and Leach supporters are also firing up to support the controversial coach in much the same fashion as Moos, pinning it on Wilson's lack of toughness or his entitled attitude that made him not want to work hard enough.
Before we get into the vilifying of a young man who made some pretty strong accusations in order to save some quirky coach that people just happen to like, let's take a deep breath. Marquess Wilson is not some ignorant freshmen. He's a third-year ballplayer, a junior who has a bright future and a lot going for him.
Wilson didn't make a mistake with his statement. He made a calculated move to shed some light on his departure. This was not the Mike Williams-Doug Marrone incident from Syracuse in 2009, that was shrouded in secrecy at the time.
People get dismissed from football teams all the time. People quit football teams all the time. One thing most people do not do is raise a tremendous stink when they leave a football team. They don't get told to leave, or choose to leave, and then throw stones at their old squad in a willy, nilly fashion.
Think about how many players have left programs, on their own or been dismissed, without issuing a statement as scathing as Wilson's. The anti-Wilson hype machine will certainly get fired up. Leach backers are going to defend the head coach blindly, and their No. 1 way to do that is going to be slamming Marquess Wilson.
Let's all take a deep breath before we call either of these guys a liar.