In the wake of yet another arrest of a WSU football player accused of a violent crime, coach Mike Leach decided it was time to defend his players.
Pulling reporters together after practice today, Leach delivered what appears to be a semi-prepared statement on the situation, which is sure to get the attention of Pullman Police and fans alike:
You can also read Leach’s entire statement via Jacob Thorpe’s transcription at The Spokesman-Review. But, in essence, Leach feels as if his football players are being unfairly targeted when they are the only ones being investigated and arrested despite it being plainly obvious that there are a lot of people involved in some of these incidents.
He begins, “Comments to the media have distorted the facts and already condemned football players in the court of public opinion,” before describing the facts as he understands them surrounding each of the events.
Then, the money lines.
“If the other guilty parties are not accused or charged, there needs to be an extensive investigation as to why,” Leach said. “How in the world can only football parties be guilty in events depicted like this? It is irresponsible to this town, this community and everybody to have some kind of a double standard where we only focus on one demographic, one group of people and then drag their name through the newspaper with a bunch of irresponsible comments.”
If you’re thinking that this is Leach spouting some sour grapes to deflect from some bad pub for his team, it’s worth noting that those around the athletic department have felt for a long time that athletes are unfairly singled out by Pullman PD. You might remember a spate of incidents about five years ago — including DeAngelo Casto having his rights violated in an illegal search — that I believe precipitated a what you might call a summit between athletics director Bill Moos and the police department.
And, if you ever spent any time around College Hill late at night on a weekend, you probably have a crazy story of PPD figuring out a way to catch a student doing something they shouldn’t have been doing.
This has led Leach to conclude that his best course of action going forward is to wait until the legal system runs its course before taking action action against his players.
“Many of the statements are incomplete or totally false,” Leach said. “I'm going to do what I should have done in the first place, which is presume them innocent until proven guilty.”
So, I suppose that answers the question of what’s going to happen to Shalom Luani, Logan Tago, and any players who might be arrested in connection with a party brawl over the summer: They’re going to keep playing until their legal issues are resolved.
I don’t know if this is the right course of action by Leach. I do know one thing: This is likely to elevate his stature in the eyes of his players. And one has to wonder if all this drama serves as a kind of galvanizing force, where the team closes ranks and takes an us-against-the world posture.
Or maybe it backfires, and this becomes one of the most epically disappointing WSU seasons in history. I suppose we’ll find out.