Digging into the Pac-12 report clearing Mike Leach of abuse

Allan Henry-US PRESSWIRE

The report prepared by the attorneys working on behalf of the Pac-12 that exonerates Mike Leach and his staff is 35 pages long. We boil it down to under 1,500 words for you.

So, the Pac-12 finally released a summary of its findings into the investigation of football coach Mike Leach and his staff at WSU, and as Leach and Moos have been telling us for weeks, there's no evidence of wrongdoing in the program.

Since the report is 35 pages in total, and I don't imagine most of you want to read the whole thing, I went ahead and did the dirtywork for you and pulled out the "highlights," so to speak. There's nothing particularly revelatory in there -- nothing shocking or earth shattering -- but if you've been following this since the beginning, it's worthwhile to know exactly what the final words are.

Here's a Cliff's Notes version for your perusal.

The Interviews

  • There were 20 interviews: Marquess Wilson, a sampling of coaches, players, parents of players, athletic department leaders and athletic department staff. Only Wilson is named.
  • The players interviewed were team leaders on both sides of the ball, an undisclosed number of wide receivers, and a sampling of players who witnessed the workout Wilson walked out of.
  • The parents interviewed were those with second-hand knowledge through their kids about incidents between players and coaches.

The Scope

The investigation actually covered four aspects, not just one:

  1. Whether there was physical, verbal, emotional abuse;
  2. Whether the sand pit workouts were endangering athletes;
  3. Whether players were forced to practice while still injured; and
  4. Did the program exceed NCAA limits on practice hours.

In all cases, WSU was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Section I: Abuse

Because Wilson's letter to fans through the media was the main impetus behind the investigation, much of the first section of the report focuses on Wilson's attempt to clarify his use of the word abuse -- to get to the bottom of what Wilson actually saw and experienced that led to him leaving the football team.

The report doesn't really get too deep into why Wilson left, other than to say it was the culmination of a number of events, but Wilson does make it clear that he doesn't actually feel like he and other players were actually abused. In the interest of keeping this an actual abridged version, we've moved the specifics of Wilson's comments into its own post, which you can read over here. Summary: The staff did not physically abuse the players.

The report did investigate the halftime incident in the locker room during the Utah game, which the report describes as one in which an assistant coach (whom we know to be Paul Volero) used some colorful language and pushed some players by the breastplate of their shoulder pads in an effort to fire them up from a lackluster performance. According to the report, none of the players interviewed -- including Wilson -- thought it was anything more than a coach trying to inspire his players, and the report concluded that it was within the boundaries of acceptable football coach behavior.

As to whether players have been verbally abused under Leach, the report concedes that strong language is pervasive on the football staff -- on this everyone agrees. However, the report states that none of the players thought it was abusive: "Most of the student-athletes indicated that they have heard that kind of language from coaches most of their lives and are not offended by it."

Often overlooked is that Wilson's letter alleging abuse wasn't the only driving force behind the investigation -- there was an email sent by a player's parent to President Elson Floyd a few days before Wilson walked away that also alleged abuse. (You can read the email at the end of the report.)

The report hits on the crux of this issue: The events happened, but unlike the parent, the independent third party does not believe it crossed the threshold to "abuse."

"The evidence indicates that most of the incidents that the parent reported were acknowledged and confirmed by the student athletes and coaches who were interviewed. However, neither the student-athletes, coaches, nor the administrators with knowledge of the events, believed that the identified activities were wrong or inappropriate. Rather the incidents reflected a new attitude in the football program and they are all recognized as a new philosophy within the football program.

"All parties agreed that the coaching staff is tough, they demand discipline and they will not tolerate anything less than maximum effort when involved with their program. The vast majority of the student-athletes reported that despite the difficulty of the workouts, they each recognize that it will bring rewards to them and the football program."

Section II: The Sand Pit

The report acknowledges that there are legitimate training reasons for using the sand pit; because of that, most of the investigation centered around the use of a hose to to spray the sand and players while working out in the pit.

In short: Yes, they and the sand were sprayed, and yes, it was sometimes cold out during the workouts, but players said it was "tough" and not abusive.

As to the spraying of the sand and players, there were three such incidents, all in August and September -- the last time on Sept. 23. Each time, a trainer was present. An unnamed assistant athletic director witnessed the spraying, believed it was not the "right thing to do" and told them to stop. They did -- the practice actually had ceased several weeks before Moos directed it.

It was during one of these sand pit workouts that Wilson walked away from the team. Why did Wilson quit that day? Not because the pit was abuse. "There was no point in doing (it)," he said. "(We were) not getting better at football."

Again, in the parent email, it was alleged that injured players were being made to participate in workouts, ostensibly as punishment. The investigation revealed that no players were told to participate when they shouldn't have been. There was a disagreement between the strength and conditioning coach and former head football trainer Bill Drake as to whether a couple of players -- who had been out for a couple of weeks -- were being pushed to hard. It was concluded that the disagreement was professional and businesslike and handled correctly.

Section III: Did coaches force players to practice while injured?

This was another allegation in the parent email. The answer is no.

"The assistant athletic director (Drake) reported that he never felt pressure from the coaching staff to clear student-athletes to participate beyond what was 'normal.' The assistant athletic director stated, 'I mean coaches are asking about everybody on the injury report - when they are back. I would call that normal pressure. That's fair.' "

The investigators also talked to the team doctor -- who's worked with four staffs at WSU -- who refuted the notion that he was pressured into clearing players before they were ready.

"Over the years each coaching staff has put slight pressure on the training staff to have student-athletes back on the field before the trainers thought they were ready. He indicated that this is not new and it is not unusual. He pointed out that he has never heard of or seen an instance where Coach Leach's desire to have a student-athlete participate overrode the decision of a trainer or doctor."

Section IV: Practice hours

Again, this comes from the parent email -- voluntary workouts weren't voluntary. Based on player testimony, "There was no evidence that voluntary workouts were anything but voluntary." Wilson and Leach both said, though, that it's clear to players that you better be ready for the season.

There also was a look at whether the team exceeded the allowable hours through disciplinary workouts. They said there wasn't enough evidence to conclude that that had happened.

Recommendations

This section was fairly brief and simple. The big recommendation: Implement a discipline workout/conditioning policy approved by Moos so that everyone knows the rules beforehand. The firm also recommended that WSU compliance further educate the staff to clarify countable practice time.

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