Washington State athletic director Bill Moos expressed strong support for football coach Mike Leach on Monday in the wake of school and Pacific-12 Conference investigations into charges of abusive actions by WSU coaches.
Junior wide receiver Marquess Wilson, WSU’s all-time leading receiver, released a statement Saturday that claimed “physical, emotional and verbal abuse (is) being allowed in the locker room and on the field.”
“Categorically denied,” Leach said Monday at his weekly press conference.
“I have not seen it cross that line,” Moos said on his weekly radio program in Spokane.
Moos said he is hopeful the investigations into Wilson’s claims will be completed before the Cougars leave Friday for Saturday’s game at Arizona State.
“We don’t have anything to hide,” Leach said.
“Football’s a tough game,” said Moos, an offensive lineman at Washington State in the early 1970s and is a 1969 graduate of Olympia High School. “You need tough players. Tough players are the result of tough coaches, and we’ve got tough coaches.
“Some of these players have not been used to the discipline and some of the drills and things that we do to address discipline.”
Leach has drawn both criticism and praise for making harsh public comments when he believes effort has been lacking on his team. Leach’s first WSU squad, which often starts six or more freshmen, is 2-8 with two games to go.
“Mike Leach is old school,” Moos said, “and I’m OK with that. A little bit of old school isn’t all that bad.
“You’ve heard me say this before: I think young people today crave discipline, they just don’t know it.”
Wilson, suspended for at least the UCLA game after walking out of a grueling team conditioning session Nov. 4, has quit the team. Wilson met with Moos on Nov. 6.
“It was kind of a tough-love visit,” Moos said, “because all the great talent that Marquess Wilson has, his effort hasn’t always been what it could and should be.”
Moos said he invited Wilson to meet with him again this week “because I’d be willing to go to bat for you if I believe you really want to be a Cougar football player.’”
Leach described Wilson’s departure as “addition by subtraction.”
Moos said he met with Leach “for about an hour” Sunday regarding Wilson’s accusations and “a variety of things,” including recruiting.
“Recruiting is going tremendous,” Moos said. “There’s a lot of high-profile high school football players that want to be Cougars.”
Moos frequently points out that he does not attend practices of any WSU teams. Reporters cover all WSU football practices and games.
“I feel I’m on top of things,” Moos said. “I have members of my staff that (also) are, in all aspects of practices, locker rooms, team meetings and all that.
“Not that they’re sent there to spy; they have a job to do, whether they’re a trainer, an equipment man, strength coaches, whatever.
“I’ve always felt in my long career (as an athletic director), I don’t micromanage. I don’t go to practices, but I have people that do, because it’s their job. They know if there’s anything out of the ordinary that I need to know about it.”
WSU president Elson Floyd on Sunday requested a school and Pac-12 investigation of the football program . Moos said he spoke to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott at the UCLA game about having a conference representative involved in the investigation.
“We’re going to get some ‘fresh eyes’ (from the conference),” Moos said, “and if there is something that needs to be addressed, we’re going to address it.”
“Basically,” Leach said, “I just think he (Floyd) wants to dispel all the falsehoods that surround the thing. I have no problem with that.”
Six WSU players have been made available to the media since Wilson’s statement came out. Four said they have seen no physical abuse by coaches, and two declined comment.
Leach declined to say whether Jeff Tuel or Connor Halliday will start at quarterback at Arizona State. Tuel, who missed most of the UCLA game with an undisclosed injury, threw the ball well at Sunday’s light practice. Halliday threw five touchdown passes Saturday in three-plus quarters. ... Center Elliott Bosch, addressing rumors of a heated halftime confrontation in the WSU locker room Nov. 3 at Utah, said outside linebackers coach Paul Volero “grabbed some guys (offensive and defensive linemen) by the chest plate” of their shoulder pads in a motivational ploy. “That’s all he was doing,” said Bosch, adding that the coaching staff “treats us the way a football staff should treat their players.” ... Reserve linebacker Chester Su’a played Saturday, one day after he was arrested for failing to appear in court on a hit-and-run charge
COUGARS’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
Arizona State (5-5 overall, 3-4 Pac-12 Conference)
Noon Saturday, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe
Pac-12 Networks, 710-AM, 104.3-FM
Coach: Todd Graham (5-5, 1st year)
Last year: Finished 6-7 overall, 4-5 in the Pac-12.
Against the Cougars: ASU leads the series, 23-13-2. The Cougars pulled out a 37-27 win last year in Pullman, but WSU was outscored 73-0 on the past two trips to Tempe.
Washington Connections: Reserve tight end Alex Bykovskiy is a redshirt freshman out of Decatur High School. Two former WSU assistant coaches, Bob Connelly and Chris Ball, are on Arizona State’s staff. Connelly is the assistant head coach and offensive line coach. Ball coaches safeties and serves as the defensive passing game coordinator.
Scouting report: The Sun Devils have lost four straight games, but they’re 21-point favorites over a WSU squad that has lost seven in a row – and four straight in Tempe. Arizona State needs one win to qualify for a bowl. The game matches the best passing offense in the Pac-12 (WSU) against the best pass defense in the conference (ASU). Another interesting pairing is the team with the second-most quarterback sacks (ASU) against the team that has allowed the most sacks. The Sun Devils like to mix the run and pass, with lots of play-action and passes to running backs. Will Sutton and weak-side linebacker Brandon Magee are two of the best defensive players in the Pac-12. The Cougars rank sixth in passing with 337.5 yards per game, and they’re first in pass attempts per game (52.2).