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For Mike Leach and WSU, losing magnifies everything

Why all the uproar over the Washington State football team, its Twitter ban and every little comment? The answer is always losses.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Let's just do this bit by bit, because it's all so foolish.

Mike Leach is throwing everyone under the bus!

When a team is on the skids, the questions come ... and they never end. There's a constant search for what's wrong, why it's going wrong and how it can be fixed. And every word a head coach says is scrutinized.

That's what happened when Leach started talking about empty corpses and a zombie-like quality from some of his seniors. The reactions ranged from a search to figure out who he meant to fans interpreting it as Leach throwing his team under the bus. And, in fact, after every loss it's been nearly the same thing: Leach speaks candidly about the shortcomings of his team, usually from a mental-side, and his words are then dissected.

Lost in the shuffle are his words about the coaching staff needing to do better and correct mistakes in practice. He's still taking responsibility and talking about what his staff can do to better prepare guys mentally for games, or for battle.

And what else is he going to say? Do you want excuses and the same old things, like we heard under the previous staff? Or do you want honest assessments of the team -- brutally so?

The coaching staff can micro-manage every single detail throughout the week, but ultimately the players have to make a decision on gameday. Do they want to pack it up and go home, or turn and fight when something goes wrong? Are they absorbing what's being taught to them, or just going through the motions?

We overestimate how much a coaching staff influences the outcome. Coaches can call the perfect plays and have their guys in the perfect spots, but when the action is underway, it's on the players. It's on the players to be in the right frame of mind. It's on the players to keep their heads in the game. Coaches can beg, plead and yell all they want, but the mental aspect of the game is on the players.

So yes, calling out the mental lapses is sending a direct message to the players. Because they have to choose whether they want to be here or not. They have to make a decision that they're tired of getting beat on and do something about it. The coaches are there to put them in the right spots, and take ownership of that, but the actual, tangible things we see on the field come down to the athletes.

When the team is losing and everyone is on edge, every little thing will be picked apart.

Boy, this Twitter ban will sure fix the Cougs' on-field problems!

Believe it or not, head coaches are responsible for much more than wins and losses. Sure, that may be the standard they're judged on, but it's not the end all be all. And not everything a coaching staff does is geared towards winning and losing, though notching wins is the ultimate goal.

College head coaches are mentors, babysitters and molders of men. Along with producing results on the field, it's their job to help mold young men and women. There's a character element at play, and you're fooling yourself if you think this isn't a big part of their job.

Washington State has, at times, had an image problem. Players getting arrested, failing drug tests or doing downright stupid things makes everyone look bad, from the top of the program down. This can be anything from the aforementioned arrests to simply saying ridiculous things. Coaches and administrators have to spend a lot of time dealing with issues -- personal, academics or otherwise -- as a part of their daily routine.

Vulgar and offensive tweets reflect incredibly poorly on the athletic department, even if it's not the intent of the athletes. They're representing the entire athletic department, as well as the school and its alumni base. If they can't act like adults and be responsible, then there's consequences -- and they're now facing those consequences.

But acting as though a Twitter ban was enacted with the ultimate goal of winning games is foolishness. Simply banning the medium does help in a way in that administrators have to spend less time on a wild goose chase, tracking down errant tweets and dealing with their consequences in the middle of the season. It's bad publicity, and for the moment just banning the whole thing removes one element from the equation.

Edit: Forgot one.

This is really going to screw up recruiting!

No. No it is not.

We joke about recruits latching onto small things and being fickle. And in ways, they are. But those really small things that some believe tip the scales just don't. The kid who joked about one campus not having a Chick-fil-A? Well, it had a Chick-fil-A, and the kid was joking.

Look, coaches invest years -- yes, years -- getting to know kids and recruiting them. There's phone calls, visits to high schools, official visits and more. It's a long process that amounts to dating, in a way. Twitter is not going to be the deciding factor.

There are some kids that will tell you they HAVE TO HAVE THEIR TWITTER. These kids are 17 years old and also HAVE TO HAVE the newest, hottest pair of shoes. And in the end, it doesn't even matter. Because all they want is attention.

Remember Kenny Lawler? He had some of y'all eating out of the palm of his hand on Twitter. Everyone was convinced he was headed to Washington State. And then he went to Cal, and fans showing him love on Twitter really didn't matter.

And besides, are athletes really that worried about Twitter? Are they "building a brand" around an empire of tweets about sandwiches, class and studying game tape? It's not as big as you think.

Wooooo glass houses

We can't be outraged that Jim Mora berated a member of the sports information staff. We can't be mad that Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian threatened to pull the access of media members for reporting on injuries. We just can't have an opinion of anything now that Leach has enacted a Twitter ban. He's stifling free speech! And it's hypocritical to call out others!

Here's the problem: There's a massive difference between threatening to pull access of media members, or anything of the sort, and banning Twitter. Kiffin isn't my boss. Mora isn't my boss. Mike Leach is the "boss" of the players. He's within his right to say they can't use social media while laying out the consequences if they do.

It's incredible how many Straw Man arguments are being thrown around in the wake of a Twitter ban. Mike Leach is outspoken, but he's stifling his players! What a hypocrite! It's simply crazy that the difference between these things isn't recognized.

More to the point, all of these issues are coming to light with the fanbase on edge. As losses pile up, everyone gets on edge. They're cranky. They want wins and will pick apart every little detail while the team is losing. We've seen this same crap for the past five years. The team starts to lose and the fans turn.

None of this would be a blip on the radar if the team was winning. There wouldn't be an empty corpse uproar, even if Leach mentioned that things were going well, but some seniors had checked out. The Twitter ban would be a footnote because who cares, we're winning!

Instead, Washington State is coming off a bye week, news is slow and everyone is cranky. That's a long way of saying Saturday can't come soon enough.