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What happens when the Cougars don’t emphasize academics

In this week's two-part look inside the Washington State football program we explain how the Cougars keep up with their classwork during a busy season. Yesterday we examined how the Cougars keep their grades up. Today we explain what happens to those who fail to do so.
Last semester's grades weren't what Washington State coach Mike Leach was hoping for after a few years of steady improvement. But at least the Cougars weren't failing out.

The WSU coaching staff has a safety net in place to motivate any student who is in danger of failing to meet the NCAA's academic eligibility requirements.

"The biggest thing is it's all pretty simple – you want it more convenient to go to class than not," Leach said. "The quick answer is, really you can't make anybody do anything they don't want to do. But you can certainly make it more convenient to do one thing than another. So we try to ensure that it's more convenient to go to class than not."

First, the coaches make the players accountable to each other by splitting them up into two academic teams, introducing a sense of competition to their studies. The coaches also join the academic support staff in doing attendance and homework checks to make sure assignments and classes aren't falling through the cracks.

Should that fail, Leach makes them accountable to strength and conditioning coach Jason Loscalzo. Only about six total players have had to participate in one of the two "Tower of London" workouts with Loscalzo this semester, and it's easy to see why they would want to avoid the extra conditioning.

The players will meet Loscalzo for the workout and he runs them around campus. Past coaches who have done the workout for Leach have peppered the players with historical facts and questions.

"Sometimes there's props," Leach said. "Anything from ropes, to tires, to cinder blocks."

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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