We did this once yesterday, but we'll go ahead and do it again today. Marquess Wilson sent a letter alleging abuse while announcing he was leaving the team. It was strongly-worded and, quite frankly, shocking.
But the letter was also vague, and raised more questions than it provided answers. Here's the first set of questions. Below is another round:
What is abuse?
This may seem like an insanely stupid question, but it's at the core of everything here. How does Marquess Wilson define abuse? What crosses the line and becomes abuse, prompting him to send that letter? The fact of the matter is that none of us can know -- not without being inside his head.
I know college athletes are put through hell, essentially, in the name of toughening them up and preparing them for battle -- both physically and mentally. Workouts are strenuous and coaches demand perfection, and when they don't get it they tend to send a message with the volume on high. The language on a football field is colorful, to say the least, as well. All of this combined could be taken as physical, mental and emotional abuse, depending on what your threshold is.
I wonder about my own threshold now. Does a player who is clearly more skilled getting knocked over by an opponent during a drill then called a "pussy" by a coach mean there's abuse happening? Or is it just normal college football stuff. I'd lean towards the latter, but I don't know how every player on the roster would react -- there's more than 100 of them, all from different backgrounds and with different mentalities.
It's impossible for me to define what qualifies as abuse to Marquess Wilson. Without specifics -- the letter was vague -- I just don't know. The allegations he levied were damning, but also unclear, which makes this a tricky situation.
Sooooo, how did the coaches react
"Honestly, it's kind of laughable, because you and I both know, you've been out at every practice and if there was some abuse or physical abuse, I'm sure you would have saw it and everybody else would have reported about it. As people know me, they know that's not true. As people know the guys that are on our staff, they know that's not true. My mom once told me as a kid, a wise man never argues with an unintelligent person, because from a distance you can't tell who's who. So I'll leave it at that."
"We had a drill. There were 64 guys out there. One guy chose to leave three minutes after the drill started. I ask you: how did I fail him? He wasn't yelled at. He wasn't cursed at. Now, he wasn't chased after. But I mean, there was the same 65 guys that you saw play out there today was the same people that were involved in that drill."
Leach didn't say much, opting to take a subtle jab at Wilson while praising his players' effort.
Mike Leach on Marquess Wilson quitting: "I think there was some addition by subtraction, because that was the best effort we've had." #Cougs— Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynESPN) November 11, 2012
Finally, Connor Halliday lamented the loss of Wilson, saying he was close to the star receiver. But he added this when asked if he saw abuse:
I wouldn't expect any current player or coach to come out and say "Yep, everyone is being beaten down physically and emotionally." But the words Simmons used struck me. That's a strong denial from Wilson's former position coach.
Is Marquess Wilson a quitter?
I've seen Wilson labeled everything in the last 24 hours. From a wuss to a quitter to other phrases that probably shouldn't be repeated. I get that there's a lot of anger right now and this issue has become polarizing. But stop it.
Marquess Wilson is still a young man who is going through some things. This week -- and probably longer -- has been a struggle for him. The letter he sent felt like one last gasp to save face, but I don't really know.
Leave the young man alone, though. Let him be, and let him walk off to wherever he's headed next. It's been a fun two and a half years, and it's just a damn shame it ended like this. It's something I never would've expected.
Why is this happening?
Again, that's only a question Wilson and others who have left can answer. My own feeling: There's been a very dramatic shift in the way football matters are handled. There are all sorts of different ways to handle personalities and motivate players, and Washington State moved from one end of the spectrum with Paul Wulff to the opposite with Leach.
There's no right answer when it comes to coaching style. Being a complete hardass and absolute asshole works for Nick Saban and many others. Being a happy players coach who is part friend, part mentor also works.
The same holds true for motivational tactics. Some yell and scream, getting their point across by way of terms that may be considered harsh. Others ask nicely, say please and hope players respect them enough to put forth effort out of a respect and friendship. There's no wrong answer here either.
But in going from Wulff to Leach, Washington State went from a coach who preached family, protected his players from the outside world and seemed to be more players coach than anything else. Leach, well ... Leach doesn't use kid gloves, speaks in very clear terms and is a hardass. You could call him a dick, meanie or asshole and you probably wouldn't be wrong when it comes to his on-field coaching style.
It feels like the transition has shocked players. Where they once may have enjoyed coming to practice and had fun hanging out in a relatively happy environment -- even when the team was losing -- they're now being thrown into the metaphorical fire. Things are more intense. The volume is raised. There's nobody protecting them from the outside world.
It's a significant change and we've seen some attrition as a result. Is it abuse or a culture change? I still don't know, and I'm not sure anyone really does.
What comes next?
I don't know, and that's kind of scary. It'll be investigated, I'm sure, but the unknown should be pretty frightening for Washington State fans. A letter alleging abuse and a cover-up is going to draw strong reactions, and the spotlight is on Washington State.
This gets to the final point: Wilson's letter has far-reaching consequences. It could, legitimately, ruin quite a few careers. In fact, no matter who ends up being right here, someone's career is getting ruined. Either Wilson torched his bridges on the way out of Pullman and did the same to his draft stock, or Leach and his assistants were abusing players and will likely never work in college football again.
These allegations are serious for all those involved. There's a lot of money, livelihoods and careers that could be hanging in the balance. And that's ... scary.