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Mike Leach addresses WSU football fight allegations

No arrests have been made in a recent Pullman fight that sent one person to the hospital with a broken jaw, but police confirmed that some Cougars football players were present at scene and were being questioned.

Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times and I asked Leach about the fight and subsequent investigation during his teleconference on Friday. Leach gave complete and thorough answers to our questions, and so I wanted to share the full transcript of what he said to preserve the context and nuance. Loh and I compared our own transcripts of the conversation to ensure accuracy, and because sometimes it’s hard to hear everything during a teleconference.

The full conversation is below.

(How much of a distraction were the fight allegations?)

Well it’s definitely been a distraction. You know, it’s been a distraction. And I think it’s somewhat overblown. What you have is a massive party that, you know, had stuff going on all night and the room erupted. And yeah, there were football players involved because they were there. My disappointment is that they didn’t leave. That they didn’t leave when the first thing happened fights started. The thing that irritates me is that they reported the fact there were a couple football players there. Sometimes the media tries to stuff football, the words “football player” as many times in a sentence as it possibly can, and that’s clearly not fair because they’re a unique minority at this party. But anyways, as the room erupts and, you know, were they pushing and shoving also, yeah they were. Well then we had special maneuvers for our team.

So Monday, our running session, we had the whole team do particular maneuvers to illustrate the fact that we don’t get involved in fights and we leave when the first one happens, and we don’t care who does any of that. And whether it’s any of our guys or not we still leave. And then the late thing, we get back and when they came back late in the afternoon (unintelligible) we did more maneuvers to focus on concentrating and understanding that we leave that situation. And so does that mean Monday’s workout was over? No, Monday’s workout was not over. Monday’s workout was made up on Wednesday, which is typically an off-day, but there was no off-day because we had to waste our time addressing this stupid fight. And so, as far as the specific details and football’s involvement, it’s quite overblown and seeing how many times we can write sentences with a football player in it and still sound like a sentence. A lot of overstuffed sentences with “football” written in it. It certainly wasn’t a fair reflection of what happened that night.

(Is the situation still under investigation?)

Well, we deal with it internally. We don’t share that. We don’t share that because, and I assume there’s still some investigations going on, but no we handled it internally and if anything further comes out we’ll handle that too. I think also there definitely needs to be some serious scrutiny on any parties that created an environment where there was excessive underage drinking that (unintelligible) out of control and out of hand, where people start fighting. Because there were several skirmishes that went on before any football players were involved. And so, our football players have to be smart enough to levae, but by the same token I think the bigger question isn’t did a football player punch somebody, I think the bigger question is what was going on that cultivated and created (unintelligible) where underage drinking where things escalated irresponsibly and fights were going on all night. From my standpoint I want our guys to get the hell out of there when that happens but the bigger question is who set it up, why it was set up and why things got out of hand. So I would look at the underage drinking part, too, and who allowed the party.

(Do you anticipate having anyone leave the team as a result of the incident?)

Not now, I don’t. No.

(Could the ongoing investigation mean players and coaches are interviewed while at camp in Lewiston?)

I hope not. I hope not. We’ll do whatever’s warranted, I just don’t want anything that’s unwarranted. I mean, nobody does a better job of addressing, taking care of players and using team discipline than our staff. That’s pretty well documented. That whole thing is pretty well documented that we take care of this business and one thing I get a kick out of, we kick a guy off for drugs, because you only get one shot around here. Football-wise, we don’t do any of this three strikes stuff. You go down the road and, oh, they have a drug problem. Yeah, you guys will have 10 guys on your team using drugs because you’re messing around with three strikes, probation and all this other crap.

We don’t have any because if we catch you, you’re gone. So I think it’s pretty well documented that our team has good discipline or if something unfolds that we consider to be addressed or somebody needs to be dismissed, we’ll handle it. But, we’re not going to just air it in the media. One, it’d be irresponsible because, you know, you take the first couple stories that were published in the media, which were ridiculously inaccurate reflections of the events that night, well then there’s a portion of innocent people that are just getting condemned. And basically it’s just this verbal human sacrifice thing, which is insane. Maybe there may be a point where the transfer of information is a little more trustworthy, but really it never has been, and it’s not right now. It’s like playing gossip in a kindergarten class, somebody tells somebody a secret and you pass it around the room and when the last person says what they heard, it’s entirely different from where it started.

(What is the accurate story that you have heard from the police and your own investigation?)

I just told you. I already told you? a party, a bunch of people, most of them not football players, skirmishes throughout the night, the room erupted, football players were in the room when the room erupted.

(Is there anything you’d like corrected or you noticed was particularly incorrect in the initial stories?)

Too many to address, which is again why we handled it internally. We evaluate the facts; we don’t leave it to the outside to evaluate the facts. We evaluate the facts with the help of law enforcement.

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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