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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

John Blanchette: Leach draws up some misdirection in defending players

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach chats with his players as they trail EWU during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, Sep 3, 2016, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. EWU won the game 45-42. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Never say Mike Leach doesn’t have open-field moves.

Within the space of 24 hours, the Washington State football coach and consultant-at-large on professional behaviors and cultural mores zigzagged from a get-off-my-lawn grump regarding the pervasive softness that ails both his team and America to social justice warrior.

His new cause: discrimination against the poor, us-against-the-world college football player.

Specifically, his players. The ones recently arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault and, in one case, robbery, both felonies. Also the ones at a July frat brawl bedeviled by having police “drag their name through the newspaper” without arrests or charges, according to Leach – even though no players’ names related to that incident have appeared in a newspaper.

Just a messy detail. What’s important here is that we have the seed of a movement.

Coug Reputations Matter.

“No one has been found guilty,” Leach said after practice this week. “Some have not been arrested. None are charged. Comments to the media have distorted the facts and already condemned football players in the court of public opinion.”

Yes. So poisoned was the constituency that they filled Martin Stadium for the first home game and cheered loudly for the Cougs.

But Leach was just getting warmed up. Before he was done setting the record straight as only he can, the coach took the Pullman Police Department to the verbal version of his infamous sand pit, accusing it of a double standard.

Selective prosecution, in other words. Well, not prosecution – nobody’s been prosecuted. Selective charging. Wait, no one’s been charged.

Selective investigating?

“If the other guilty parties are not accused or charged,” Leach claimed, “there needs to be an extensive investigation as to why. How in the world can only football parties be guilty in events depicted like this?”

Other guilty parties? So you’re saying, coach, that your guys are gu. … ?

Of course he isn’t. Just a Leachian slip.

But here’s the thing. On this point, he’s right. Everyone culpable needs to get hauled before the judge. That’s the ideal. The problem is, police work is messier than that. Investigations go where the evidence and witness statements lead them – and, yes, in some instances mislead. Leach, if I recall, has a law degree. You’d think he might have bumped up on fringes of that reality somewhere along the line.

But he seems to think it’s the police’s fault they’re not getting the same stories from others that Leach is getting from his guys. Or that the cops should leap over a pile of contrary witnesses to accept his conclusions, or just proclaim fire where there’s smoke.

Here’s another nuance. On Wednesday, Gary Jenkins, the Pullman police chief, told The Spokesman-Review’s Thomas Clouse that the football player among the suspect group in the Case of the Copped Case of Beer eventually confessed to both the robbery and the assault. Perhaps Leach should encourage that player to be forthcoming with the authorities about his compadres and their roles in the heist.

I know. That violates the tough-guy, no-snitch code. But Leach is the one crusading for equal justice. Isn’t that his greater message here – that everybody needs to do time for the crime?

Athletic director Bill Moos briefly came out from behind the nothingburger statement he released Wednesday to stick up for his coach for sticking up for his players – and let’s not kid ourselves, Leach was certainly trying to score some locker room points after eviscerating them on Monday.

“I think there is merit to a lot of what he said,” Moos told Clouse.

But here’s what neither Leach nor Moos said: That criminal charges or not, there’s a run of bad behavior here they need to address, and that the public is owed better.

Instead, what we got was textbook lack of accountability that we usually hear only from politicians and 10-year-olds: Those other guys did it, too!

Considerable irony there, given Leach’s sermon on toughness and accountability the day before. This was the one in which he lambasted three of his inside receivers – speaking of dragging names through the paper – for being afraid of a Boise State defender last weekend, and groused, “We have the atmosphere of a JC softball team.

“That’s what we are, a JC softball team – the team that wins is the one that has the most fun, crap like that. All this stuff that has contaminated America where they give everyone a trophy and they don’t keep score in Little League anymore. I think that kind of thing has retarded the competitive spirit of America.”

That’s right, folks. Participation trophies are why the Cougars are 0-2.

Not poor preparation. Not dubious defensive plans. Not treating timeouts like time bombs. Just like it’s the cops’ fault his guys can’t stay out of trouble.

We should all have moves this good.