BY Howie Stalwick 08:40PM 10/20/2013

Cougs’ Leach ‘low class,’ says Ducks assistant

Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti rips Leach for throwing the ball late in a blowout. Leach declines to fire back. Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich semi-apologizes.

Sunday night, Oregon assistant Nick Aliotti apologized for calling WSU coach Mike Leach low class. / Washington State athletics

One day after his Washington State football team staged an aerial assault on the Oregon Ducks, Cougars coach Mike Leach politely rejected the opportunity to stage a verbal assault on Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Aliotti, who called it “low class” for Leach to let the Cougars continue to throw the ball late in Saturday night’s lopsided loss to Oregon, did not draw much of a reaction from Leach.

Publicly, anyway.

Asked via text message to respond to Aliotti’s remarks, Leach wrote back to the website, “I don’t criticize other teams or coaches. I focus on coaching my team.”

Aliotti and Leach are known for making strong comments to the media, but it’s rare for a coach to criticize a rival coach after a convincing victory such as Oregon’s 62-38 decision in Eugene. WSU quarterback Connor Halliday set a Football Bowl Subdivision record by throwing 89 passes, capped by two touchdown passes in the final 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

“That’s total bull(crap) that (Leach) threw the ball at the end of the game like he did,” Aliotti told reporters. “And you can print that and you can send it to him, and he can comment, too.

“I think it’s low class and it’s bull(crap) to throw the ball when the game is completely over against our kids that are basically our scout team.”

By Sunday, however, Aliotti backed off.  Whether it was his idea or at the insistence of the university isn’t known. But he released a statement of apology through the school

“The bottom line is, I’m sorry,” Aliotti said in a statement released by Oregon. “I’m embarrassed that I got caught up in the moment after the game. There’s no excuse, but sometimes right after the game the adrenaline is still flowing and I made a huge, human error in judgment. I wish I could take it back, and I promise it won’t happen again.

“I’d like to apologize to Mike Leach and Bill Moos (Washington State athletics director), Washington State and its fans, and Oregon and our fans.”

Leach and his players were complimentary of the undefeated, second-ranked Ducks after the game.

“If they’re not the best team (in the country), they’re certainly in the top five,” Leach said.

“Oregon’s a great team,” safety Deone Bucannon said.

“Their team speed rivals anybody,” Halliday said. “It’s really impressive to watch them . . .  Oregon’s a team we can learn from.”

In stark contrast to Aliotti’s post-game remarks, Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich had nothing but good things to say about Leach earlier in the week.

“He seems like a great guy . . . a very intelligent person,” Helfrich said. “And hilarious.”

Helfrich also Leach’s pass-happy offense is “a great system” and that the Cougars are “very, very talented.”

Asked at his regular Sunday press conference about Aliotti’s remarks, Helfrich said, “I talked to Nick today, and first of all we have a lot of respect and he has a lot of respect for Coach Leach and (current WSU and former Oregon athletic director) Bill Moos for Washington State, and I think the content and the manner of his comments was not representative of him or our program.

“I know he’s remorseful and more or less caught in the moment of defending our players. We’ll all learn from that and move on.”

The Cougars led the nation in pass attempts and were last in rushing attempts and rushing yards going into Saturday’s game. Nothing changed in that regard after Halliday passed for a school-record 557 yards and the Cougars ran the ball just 12 times – counting four quarterback sacks – for two yards. Halliday ranks second in the nation with 2,798 passing yards.

Coming into the game, the Ducks were ranked in the top 20 in points allowed per game (13.8) and total yards allowed per game (338.7). Oregon had not given up more than 24 points, 280 passing yards or 376 total yards until Saturday.

“They want stats, they got stats,” Aliotti said. “But we got the most important stat and that’s the ‘W’ and we are happy about that.”

The Cougars, 39-point underdogs, gave the Ducks their second-closest game of the season (Washington lost by 21 the week before) by rallying from 38 down in the fourth quarter.

“How dare Washington State not just lay down and die!” college football writer Tom Fornelli sarcastically wrote on “They were playing the mighty Oregon Ducks! You don’t try to score points against the Oregon Ducks reserves, you just take your 50-point beating and tell the Ducks you were honored to have the privilege of being run over!”

Stay tuned for the rematch next year in Pullman.


  • Jeff Shope

    since when is never giving up a bad thing? geaux Dawgs

    • art thiel

      Aliotti will, in the vernacular of another local sports figure, rue the day.

      • Realitypotion

        Aliotti is a beloved member of the Oregon coaching staff and has been on the payroll for over 25 years. He may be rough around the edges, but he speaks the truth. It was low class to call out the other teams coach in the media, but… It was also low class for Leach to keep his starters in and be throwing for touchdowns against Oregon’s scout team with under 20 seconds left in a game that had been decided long ago. It is ettiquette that is understood in coaching. If the Ducks kept thier starters in the game and was padding stats Coug fans would equally upset. The only one who should be “rueing the day” will be the cougs who will get beat by 50 next year. I hope the Ducks keep their starters in all game and go for an NCAA scoring record. Go Ducks!

        • BruceA

          I’m afraid Realitypotion, like many Duck fans, simply miss the point of what happened Saturday. You won. You won by 28 points. Be happy with that. But don’t go all high and mighty by suggesting that the Cougars did something wrong by continuing to play hard. That is what teams that are down by 40 points should do. To then have an assistant coach suggest that was wrong simply suggests that Oregon believes the rest of the Pac-12 should bow at its feet. It also shows how out of touch Aliotti is. If he truly is a good defensive coordinator, he’d know that the WSU offense is based on passing. Short passes are the same as runs in the WSU offense. So WSU did nothing different at the end of the game than it did the rest of the game, or the season for that matter. Aliotti was just upset because record passing numbers were put up against his defense — much of it gained against the first string defense. Oregon fans should remember that it wasn’t that long ago when Pac-10 schools counted the Oregon game as a sure victory. Just because you’re on top now doesn’t mean it will last. Learn to win with grace because it will serve you well on the way down the standings.

  • Effzee

    Seems like we could learn a thing or two from Wazzu about playing hard until the end of the game. :

    • art thiel

      Aliotti was a fool to speak up. Even if he had a legitimate beef, he could have told Leach after the game in person.

  • jafabian

    Evidently Oregon thinks everyone should lie down and let them steamroll over their opponents instead of playing hard until the clock expires. Because, they’re Oregon.