The weird thing about sudden claims of abuse is how quickly it can make you question everything you've seen. I haven't been at every Washington State football practice, but I've been to quite a few in the spring and fall. I talk to quite a few people who are at every practice, as well. In short, I feel like I have a decent understanding of what's going on in front of me.
So when Marquess Wilson claimed he and others were being physically, mentally and emotionally abused, it made me wonder if I missed something. So I've been sitting here going over everything I've seen and heard, trying to parse whether it's abuse or just common college football things.
Let's try to understand what's going on here:
Marquess Wilson did not just fall on the sword for his teammates
Lastly, I thank my fellow teammates, those who also have left the program this year, and those we are leaving behind. I hope our departure will bring awareness to the physical, emotional and verbal abuse being allowed in the locker room and on the field. I pray for healing and recovery for all those who have been hurt by this treatment
This is how Wilson's letter ends. It's conclusion is carefully crafted and meant to strike a certain chord: By leaving, Wilson is hoping to bring awareness and save those left behind. Except that's not what this is. It's not Wilson trying to save his friends and be the knight in shining armor.
There's absolutely no reason to release this letter now -- two hours before Washington State takes the field -- in an effort to play the role of hero. The timing of it all makes me incredibly skeptical. It was carefully designed to start a public relations fire and, by association, it ends up screwing those teammates he left behind. Whatever happens tonight won't matter. Wilson already stole the spotlight.
Claiming abuse is akin to using the trump card.
All week, we heard about Wilson's draft stock and how he stood to lose millions by walking out of practice and quitting the team. Just by leaving, Wilson torpedoed his own draft stock -- doing so was a sign of weakness.
This letter sure as hell looks like it was written with Wilson's future interests in mind. It's a way to flip the script: The coaching staff was abusing Wilson and others above and beyond a normal football experience, thus causing him to leave, he claims. Again, Wilson struck a very specific chord knowing the controversy that surrounded Leach at the end of his Texas Tech tenure. Claim abuse and people are apt to run with it, because this is Leach.
So now you'll see the columnists...
Mike Leach might want to address those allegations. One accusation of abuse is one thing. Two at two different schools? That's a trend.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 11, 2012
Leach is going to be an easy target here. Claim abuse and it's real easy to see it all snowball with the quickness. This is the soft spot, and Wilson -- or whoever advised him -- knows it.
Wilson has -- whether the accusations are true or not -- flipped the script. He's gone from the player who walked out on his team to a victim.
So is this true?
I don't know. The timing and content of the letter make me skeptical. It's too manicured and too specific, reading like it came from a PR person. And the timing of it all makes me skeptical.
I can only speak to what I've seen and say I've never watched a practice or conditioning session while feeling uncomfortable. I was skeptical of Leach's ways coming in and wondered how hard he pushed with his conditioning, and whether that ever crossed a line. If he has ... I haven't seen it.
I've seen players run a lot. I've seen plenty of up-downs from Wilson and others. I've seen guys pulling weight sleds while rehabbing and guys in the sandpit. None of this was exclusive to Wilson, and none of these drills were revolutionary or outside the scope of what I've seen and expected from football.
I've seen yelling and heard cursing, but this is football. Pretty damn normal. I've seen Wilson and others singled out for poor effort in practice, and told to do up-downs. I've seen them called on it loudly, as well. It was across the board, with no eyes for star or walk-on. Poor effort was called universally.
But we can't see everything. We don't know what goes on behind closed doors or in the weight room. And that always makes me wonder. But right now, well ... I guess we'll just have to wait. These are some hefty allegations, released at a questionable time. If there's something to them, we'd probably find out soon enough.