Admitting he did step in to stop players from being sprayed with water by staff, Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said head coach Mike Leach and his assistants did not physically or verbally abuse players, rebutting the contention of WSU’s star receiver, Marquess Wilson.
Moos said Tuesday that the university’s month-long probe into the football program revealed what Moos already knew after Wilson recanted his abuse allegations in a text message to him Nov. 10 after the Cougars lost 44-36 to UCLA.
Wilson quit the team a week prior when he walked out of a Leach-mandated workout in the sand pit dug out of the team’s practice field. The incident and ensuing letter from the former All Pac-12 performer claimed he was being abused by Leach and assistants.
Moos said Tuesday he told the strength and conditioning staff to soften workouts that took place in “Leach Beach” after receiving complaints from players and parents early in the football season. It involved the school’s strength and conditioning coach spraying players in the face with a water hose while they did workouts in the designated area.
“The coaches were not doing the spraying of the pit,” Moos said. “It was in our strength and conditioning area which primarily does that aspect of the conditioning drills. I got word of that and brought a halt to it and made sure that members of my staff monitored those conditioning drills to make sure that I was aware of anything that might be a little bit questionable.”
Moos said the athletic department, headed by assistant AD’s Bob Minnocks and John Johnson, interviewed 12 players to better understand how coaches acted throughout the course of WSU’s 3-9 season. They found there was no spraying of players in the “Leach Beach” workout the night after the Cougars lost 49-6 to Utah.
“It does firm up a little bit,” Moos said when asked about how the “Leach Beach” reacts to Eastern Washington’s frigid winters. “It was, as I understand from my sources, getting sprayed on the players at times, whether that was on purpose or not or whatever. I felt that was something we didn’t need to do. It wasn’t necessary to achieve the results. Once I became aware the water was being used, I stopped it.”
Wilson left 20 minutes into the session and never retuned. Moos said Wilson told him he sent out his letter to clarify that he was no longer with the team. After the incident, Leach told the media Wilson was suspended for one week. Moos said WSU’s all-time leading yards-getter met with him two days later. According to the WSU AD, Wilson didn’t want fans to think he was kicked off the team for using drugs, alcohol or fighting.
Moos said he felt comfortable with the direction Leach is leading his football program.
“I think in the broader context the players had an opportunity to address anything and I saw nothing that came out about that,” he said. “I think that players talked about it the week afterward. It was nothing out of the ordinary in college football and halftime.”
There were reports of a physical confrontation between outside linebackers coach Paul Volero and players during halftime of the Utah loss. Moos said the altercation was meant to “fire players up” and that he felt comfortable with what happened. He also said Leach’s tumultuous first season was a product of the culture change invoked by his new coaching staff.
“Some players aren’t going to be able to adapt and like most programs, we can expect attrition to happen . . . probably there’ll be some in the future,” he said. “Barry Alvarez took over at Wisconsin and had 52 guys quit in a year because they weren’t willing to put forth the effort and make the commitment to please the coaching staff.”
Moos said his coaching staff’s behavior is comparable to other big-name schools across the country. He also referenced his playing days in an attempt to offer a little perspective.
“I played for Jim Sweeney,” he said. “These kids have never seen verbal abuse.”