College Football Roundtable: Do You Believe Mike Leach or Marquess Wilson?

By Kris Hughes

Over the course of the past week, Washington State Cougars wide receiver Marquess Wilson was suspended by new head coach Mike Leach, and then decided to walk away from the team. At that time, Wilson alleged both physical and mental abuse at the hands of Mike Leach– who, as those who follow college football closely, know– he was accused of before prior to his termination as head coach at Texas Tech a few years ago.

This is such a divisive issue that doesn’t yet appear to have many clear-cut facts and is largely based on suppositions and hearsay that we wanted to get the gut impressions from some of our college football writers familiar with the issue.

Below are the uncut reactions from our writers on whether they believe Leach or Wilson and what is truly at the core of this controversy:

Mike Atkinson:

Well, when I heard it, I wasn’t exactly like “What?!?! Mike Leach has abuse allegations against him? He’s the last person I would’ve expected that to happen to.”

Leach has done stuff like this before, and it cost him a job at TTU. I don’t think he is a victim at all. Any coach who is willing to do what he did at Tech seems to not care about player safety or feelings.

The fact that Wilson left the team makes me feel like there was a just reason. He said Leach humiliated and belittled his players. I believe him.

Vanessa Castro: 

Mike Leach jeopardized a former player at Texas Tech’s draft stock by not allowing him to have back surgery. At the time he said the player became fully dependent on prescription drugs for three years to even function, and was finally given “permission” as a Senior in 2010 – five months before the draft, and after the Alamo Bowl under interim Head coach Ruffin McNeal to have the surgery. This incident isn’t shocking at all, considering the laundry list, that apparently keeps growing.

Shannon Smallwood:

I’m going to play devils advocate on this. So Leach has a history of questionable treatment of players and I think Wilson is using this to his advantage. He is not having the year he thought nor is washing state. Kids, especially kids who have been told they are God’s gift to football their whole life, can’t handle correction, failure or discipline.

I think players are getting too much legal power in this. It’s a state school so common sense will not prevail guaranteed. I want to see how this plays out, but it’s not going to end well for Leach either way.

Bottom line, though, the student-athlete has too much power legally. And the AD and Media Relations Department at Washington State have ZERO control of the situation. What Leach allegedly did happens daily at every school. Not to say it’s right, but it’s just a fact.

Riley Schmitt:

I’m taking Leach’s side. The timing of Wilson’s release is just odd and it sounds way too scripted. Wilson has something to protect (draft stock). Easier to say you were run off and a victim of abuse instead of admitting that you couldn’t handle a coach that might be tougher than you thought.

Brandon Cavanaugh:

With Leach’s first year at WSU, I can see him wanting to separate the guys who are going to integrate into his system well from those who aren’t. That said, I can’t simply take Wilson at his word, because as Shannon said, Leach’s history can be used against him whether by a coach or a player who doesn’t feel like he’s gotten a fair shake and/or just can’t or doesn’t want to hack what the new regime dishes out.

If you were going to make demands/try to defame Leach, the first year of his first new gig after being ran out of Lubbock by Craig James would be the time to do it. There’s possibility of Leach overstepping his boundaries to a point, but it’s also likely Wilson’s either a very talented writer or knows someone who is.

Here’s how I see it. I won’t pass judgment on the situation until there is evidence to support Wilson’s accusations. Too many times I have seen journalists, radio hosts and the media in general pass judgment and play judge, jury & executioner before having all the facts necessary to understand the situation.

Yes, the letter is odd timed, but regardless how this turns out, it’s bad for the program. Even if what Wilson is claiming is proven false and Mike Leach is innocent, this image only hurts recruiting and will make parents of kids trying to decide whether to go to Pullman extremely hesitant.

I will say this, when only one player is claiming abuse of any kind, but there is no one to back his claim, such as other players, it makes the claims seem hollow, lacking validity.

Wilson has been having a disappointing season. He hasn’t been the next Michael Crabtree like he probably thought he was going to be, has been dropping the ball a lot, and has been one of the worst offenders for “moping” on the sidelines during losses.

Leach is not one to coddle or be diplomatic and likely told Wilson off much stronger than a star athlete is used to. With the history of abuse allegations and his less-than-warm relationship with the media, it would make for an easy story to say he was abusive. It feels like a boy who cried wolf situation to me.

I think it’s good that the president asked for two independent investigations into it. Obviously allegations of abuse need to be taken seriously. That being said, I’ve always liked Mike Leach and like a lot of you on this chain, I’m skeptical of Wilson’s claims. In terms of verbal abuse, is it more than what goes on at many high schools and colleges every day? (Not saying it’s right, just that football coaches are notoriously tough on their players and most of the players or former players I know accept it, don’t take it personally and move on.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson was trying to take advantage of the TTU situation because he was unhappy with the new coaching staff and culture of the program, one that perhaps didn’t treat him like the superstar he thought he was. I’ve also seen a few message board comments to the effect of “well 18 players don’t just leave the program for no reason…” – the reason is that there was a coaching change and there’s often attrition in those situations.

Almost as many players left Maryland in the year and a half after Randy Edsall was hired, and he’s probably about the last guy who’d ever be accused of player abuse, so I’d definitely want to talk to the rest of the team and see what went on before assuming Leach is at fault.

As you can see, there are two very definable sides to this issue which will continue to strengthen until the facts are available for a concrete decision to be made.

What does your gut instinct tell you? Is Marquess Wilson just a diva who can’t handle tough coaches, or, is Mike Leach a habitual bully who is finally being exposed?

Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

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