PULLMAN – His confidence never wavering, his tone slightly irritated, Washington State coach Mike Leach again on Monday denied any and all claims of abuse made by former receiver Marquess Wilson.
Wilson, WSU’s all-time leading receiver, alleged in a letter sent to news outlets Saturday that he was leaving the team due to “physical, emotional and verbal” abuse by the coaching staff.
During his regular Monday press conference, Leach held his ground. And then some.
“They’re all categorically denied,” Leach said. “There’s no truth about it all and none’s been suggested, either.”
Maybe some of his actions could have been misinterpreted?
“No, no, no,” Leach said. “Next question.”
And the announcement Sunday by WSU president Elson Floyd that the school, as well as the Pac-12, will investigate Wilson’s claims?
“I don’t know anything about it. I haven’t talked to anybody about it. Not concerned about it,” Leach said. “The biggest place it’s a distraction is in here. So far our team’s done a tremendous job ignoring anybody that doesn’t want to be here, going out and playing as hard as they can.”
When asked a question by a Moscow-Pullman Daily News reporter who happened to witness the workout when Wilson walked out on Nov. 4 – the reason he was suspended by Leach last week – Leach grew testier.
“We don’t have anything to hide around here,” Leach said. “And quite frankly, you in particular should know we don’t have anything to hide around here. You were the one sitting up there in the library. You saw it as good as anybody. You can write the story better than I can. You were up there the whole time. Plus, you were at an elevated view of the whole thing. There you go. As a matter of fact, you’re going to be one of the first guys I’m going to direct these people toward.”
WSU athletic director Bill Moos said on his weekly radio show Monday morning that he hopes the Pac-12 will conclude its investigation before the end of the week, and again voiced support for Leach and his coaching methods.
“If we’re not getting their attention and effort, we’ll get their attention and effort,” Moos said, adding that tough players are the product of tough coaches. “I’m all for it.”
Leach continued: “Basically, I just think (Floyd) wants to dispel all the falsehood that surrounds it, which I have no problem with that.
“Sitting right here I have an eyewitness that witnessed the entire workout that (Wilson) spent 15 minutes in and objected to and left. I mean, 65 people went through the workout and he left after 15 minutes. Nobody went after him. I think it says more about him than it does anybody or anything else. And the great thing is, I’ve got an eyewitness.”
Wilson’s stepfather, Richard Miranda, who sent Wilson’s statement to reporters on Saturday, told the Seattle Times that coaches were “physical, putting their hands on players” during halftime of WSU’s 49-6 loss to Utah on Nov. 3.
WSU center Elliott Bosch recalled the locker-room scene thusly: “Basically, (outside linebackers) coach (Paul) Volero came up and he had the o-line and d-line come up, and he was just trying to get us fired up, and he grabbed some guys by the chest-plate and he wanted to take a look in their eyes and see if they really wanted to be here, if they were here for the right reasons, if they wanted to win. And that’s all he was doing.”
Leach added that it was “typical locker-room stuff,” and that “I can tell you with certainty that nothing inappropriate happened in there.”
Bosch said he hasn’t seen “any sort of physical abuse, at all.”
Senior linebacker Travis Long said he didn’t want to comment on Wilson’s statement. And quarterback Jeff Tuel, who is close friends with Wilson, said he’ll be there for him without allowing it to be a distraction.
“A friend is a friend,” Tuel said. “You’re going to be there for a guy no matter what he needs. If a guy needs someone to talk to, I’m going to talk to him. … Marquess is one of my good friends and I’ve got the guy’s back, and I’ll wish him the best. And that has nothing to do with how I’m going to prepare for the upcoming weeks of football.”
Who’ll be the QB?
Tuel left Saturday’s 44-36 loss to UCLA with an apparent injury to his collarbone area, though the senior quarterback isn’t permitted to discuss the matter per Leach’s policy.
“I’m not in a sling,” Tuel said coyly.
He was able to practice on Sunday night, though Leach said he doesn’t know yet if Tuel or sophomore Connor Halliday will start Saturday’s game at Arizona State.