Did Media Cover WSU Football Scandal Appropriately?


Last November a bombshell was dropped on the Washington State Cougar football program. The story detonated a barrage of media reports which were ignited by former player Marquess Wilson. He alleged Mike Leach and his staff abused student-athletes.

Wilson’s contention of poor treatment became fodder for virtually anyone who could tap out finger-pointing diatribes on a keyboard to publish anywhere and seemingly everywhere.

Leach is no stranger to assaults on his reputation as a college football coach. Thick skin would be mandatory if he were to survive this bone-chilling account by one of his players.

A little background…

The arrival of Mike Leach in Pullman was typically described as the greatest thing for WSU football since hiring of Mike Price as head coach. The career of Price included two Rose Bowl teams for a school typically languishing in the middle or near the bottom of the Pac-10.

While at Texas Tech, Coach Leach accomplished great things leading his players to both on-field and off-field success.

Leach was placed on a pedestal so lofty, the chance to knock him off may have been beyond difficult for writers to resist.

As the 2012 Cougar football season unfolded, many discovered the task given to Mike Leach was more challenging than expected. After all, his predecessor Paul Wulff was credited for doing the heavy lifting to restore the program to the time of Coach Price.

WSU wasn’t winning many football games prior to suggesting there was an abuse scandal on the Palouse. When Wilson’s accusatory letter went public, writers created a frenzy placing Washington State University, president Elson Floyd and athletic director Bill Moos prominently in national news along with Mike Leach.

Floyd and Moos responsibly took swift action organizing an internal investigation to determine if there was wrongdoing on the part of Coach Leach and his staff. An appropriate number of key people with intimate knowledge of the program were interviewed to collect facts.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott ordered an investigation into the WSU football program as well. The conference intent was to expand investigative scope.

When the WSU report was completed to university standard the findings were clear. Coach Leach and his staff were running a good program.

When the WSU investigation was released, local news outlets offered modest reports with a significant qualification. Don’t let Leach off the hot seat just yet. Wait for the Pac-12 report.

Months later, the Pac-12 report investigating the Cougar football program run by Mike Leach was completed to conference standard and released. The findings were clear. Coach Leach and his staff were running a solid program.

When it comes to writing, stories along the line of “man bites dog” get much more attention than “man feeds dog”. No revelation there. That’s part of the psyche of our society. Writing stories about a college football program can be a daunting task, in terms of reaching and maintaining a significant audience.

No question there has been a smattering of stories covering the results of both investigations into Wilson’s allegations. However, the number of articles on both a local and national level pale in comparison to the explosion of accusatory coverage last fall.

If you follow Cougar football closely it’s likely you’re immune to negative press. You’re used to stories focused in on what WSU didn’t do rather than what they did.

Wishing there would be comparable coverage attempting to clear the reputation of Washington State University, Mike Leach and his coaches denies reality. That’s just not going to happen.

The collateral damage caused to student-athletes, their families and friends as a result of this sorted affair will fade from collective memory. My intent is to speed that process along by adding a voice recognizing there was and is no significant wrongdoing by Coach Leach and his staff running the WSU football program.

Before moving on to the relevant matters surrounding Cougar football, such as recruiting battles, wanted to pause and recognize Leach for running the Washington State University football program with integrity and the best interests of student-athletes first and foremost.