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Pac-12 investigation clears Leach, staff

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 8, 2013, 5:10 p.m.

The Pac-12 concluded its investigation of WSU football coach Mike Leach and suggested the school should play closer attention to the number of hours the team can practice each week.  (Tyler Tjomsland)
The Pac-12 concluded its investigation of WSU football coach Mike Leach and suggested the school should play closer attention to the number of hours the team can practice each week. (Tyler Tjomsland)

League says no evidence to suggest player abuse

PULLMAN – In a 34-page review more thorough than the internal investigation concluded by Washington State last month, the Pac-12 announced Tuesday that it did not find evidence to suggest WSU football coach Mike Leach or his assistants had abused players.

Both reviews were requested by WSU president Elson Floyd because of a letter sent by former receiver Marquess Wilson to media members on Nov. 10 in which he alleged that WSU’s coaches had abused players physically, emotionally and verbally.

But in a text message sent by Wilson to WSU athletic director Bill Moos later that evening, the former receiver softened his claims. That became the crux of the school’s final conclusion, released Dec. 13, which exonerated Leach and his staff.

WSU’s internal investigation didn’t include an interview with Wilson. The Pac-12’s review – much of which was outsourced to the Kansas City-based law firm of Bond, Schoenek and King –included several comments and explanations from Wilson, who told investigators he “wasn’t trying to accuse anybody of abuse” and conceded that “I definitely could have used a different word.”

The Pac-12’s final report indicated greater depth than that of the school’s – 20 interviews of coaches, players, parents of players, athletic department leaders and staff members – though Wilson and Leach are the only interview subjects mentioned by name.

While the review doesn’t admonish or reprimand Leach or his staff in any way, it does offer a trio of recommendations that Moos said the school will take under advisement: establish a “discipline workout/conditioning policy” to be approved by Moos, so that all players are aware of punishment standards; keep an eye on NCAA bylaws limiting practice hours; and continue to disallow the spraying of players with a water hose during conditioning drills, a practice already discontinued at Moos’ request.

“My support for Mike Leach and his methods and his plan have never wavered and are not wavering now by any means,” Moos said during a conference call. “And if anything, I’m even more enthused about the path we’re on.”

The Pac-12’s review also included an interview with head athletic trainer Bill Drake – though he is identified only as “an assistant athletic director who was formerly the head trainer for football” – who transitioned out of his role as the day-to-day football trainer during the season in order to oversee the entire athletic training department.

According to records obtained by The Spokesman-Review, Drake raised concerns in an Oct. 25 email about punishment workouts that he deemed “dangerously excessive.”

Drake told investigators about a disagreement between him and the head strength coach that revolved around whether two injured players should finish a workout or not, but he also said that he “never felt pressure” from the coaching staff to rush players back from injury and the review concludes that injured players were not told to participate before they should have been.

Moos again said that his only concern about the staff’s conditioning practices was the aforementioned use of a water hose to spray players in the sand pit.

The use of the sand pit itself was one of the focal points of the Pac-12’s review, though it concludes that “it does not appear as if there is any impropriety” concerning the use of the pit after conversations with players and staff.

In addition to Wilson’s claims, the sand pit and player injuries, the review also addresses concerns raised about the amount of hours spent practicing and working out. The primary sticking point in that regard may be punishment doled out for players who miss voluntary workouts – according to NCAA bylaws, a workout is not voluntary if players are disciplined for not attending, so any time spent disciplining said players counts toward the weekly limit – though the review concludes that there is insufficient evidence to suggest WSU ever exceeded the NCAA limit for hours practiced per week.

Moos indicated that WSU is likely to be financially responsible for the Pac-12’s legwork, though he wasn’t certain how the details would work out.

“I was pleased that the findings were consistent with those of the athletic department’s review,” Moos said. “I think this brings a close to the concerns and the process we went through under the direction of president Floyd.”