When Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson left the team partway through the season, citing “physical, verbal, and emotional abuse,” some raised their eyebrows at more missteps from head coach Mike Leach, while others painted Wilson as a disgruntled former player trying to use Leach’s questionable past against him.
The school and Pac-12 conducted separate investigations into Wilson’s claims, and on Wednesday, WSU released its report, finding no evidence of abuse.
“Throughout this review, there was no report or detection of abuse or inappropriate behavior,” athletic director Bill Moos said in a statement.
The conference’s investigation is still on-going.
Moos said he believes the program “is moving in a positive direction,” and the findings are positive news for Leach, whose return to the sidelines was less successful than hoped.
The Cougars finished the season 3-9 after weathering a quarterback controversy, sharp public criticism by Leach, and the claims of abuse. Leach had not coached since being fired by Texas Tech at the end of 2010, after receiver Adam James accused him of mistreatment.
When Wilson released a statement that he was leaving the team, Moos stood by his coach, and Leach, who said he was not concerned about the complaints, called it “addition by subtraction.”
On his radio show the week Wilson left the team, Moos noted that the receiver had not been a model player this season, fueling speculation that the statement came out of frustration and was crafted to take advantage of past allegations against Leach.
“All the great talent that Marquess Wilson has, his effort hasn’t always been what it could be and what it should be,” Moos said.
Wilson had a record-setting season in 2011, but he clashed with the new coaching almost instantly and reportedly considered leaving the program back in August.
In the memo to WSU president Elson Floyd accompanying the investigation report, Moos revealed that Wilson had sent him a text message after making his public statement “where he recanted the allegations of abuse made in a letter written by he and a relative and sent to the media earlier that evening.”
The text message, which was made public when numerous media outlets filed a Freedom of Information Act request, read:
“Mr. Moos this is marquess … With that letter I wasn’t trying to accuse the coaches of hitting players or anything. I was just trying to put it in different terms and now everything is getting misinterpreted and I didn’t mean it like that at all … I simply was trying to get my story across and get my name cleared instead of having it say I’m suspended for breaking team violations … That could mean like I did drugs or something … I was never trying to harm the university or the program with it.”
Wilson’s concerns about his own reputation are understandable, but falsely alleging “abuse” makes him look like a bitter, thin-skinned diva who values himself above the team and doesn’t want to put in the work.
The Cougars’ former star receiver was suspended for the standard “violation of team rules” about a week before leaving the team, reportedly for walking out of a conditioning session. That conditioning session was held the day after WSU’s loss to Utah, after which Leach soundly criticized the “cowardice” of some of the players. Members of the media were at the session, which the rest of the team finished, and did not report any misconduct.
There were also rumors of coaches shoving players during halftime against Utah, but the coaching staff, as well as Cougars’ starting center Elliott Bosch, denied those claims. “I haven’t seen any sort of physical abuse at all,” Bosch said.
As most associated with the program expected, the university’s internal report backs that up.
“Transition in coaching changes is rarely smooth, however, after reviewing the comments from the players that were interviewed, I am encouraged the program is moving in a positive direction,” Moos said.
Wilson is a tremendous talent, but he caused far too much drama for the Cougars in 2012. Without him, the team will be able to move forward in an even more positive direction.