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Originally published January 8, 2013 at 8:01 PM | Page modified January 9, 2013 at 12:07 AM

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WSU, Pac-12 investigations make it clear — Cougars coach Mike Leach didn't deserve this

Washington State football coach Mike Leach had to deal with two months' worth of innuendo on whether he's over the top. But investigations by the school and the Pac-12 did not substantiate former receiver Marquess Wilson's charge of abuse.

Seattle Times college football reporter

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Marquess Wilson is in Florida, training for the NFL draft in April.

"He's done with Washington State," said his stepfather, Richard Miranda. "It's something that's in his past now."

Done, too, are the dual investigations into charges of abuse by Mike Leach's regime at WSU. Tuesday, the Pac-12 announced it couldn't substantiate Wilson's Nov. 10 allegations, just as WSU's separate probe had concluded in mid-December.

The stepfather said Wilson won't be talking about this.

Through the whole sketchy, perplexing affair, that's been one of the problems. The plaintiffs have been moving targets.

Late in that November Saturday afternoon — conveniently, just in time for ESPN's coverage of the WSU-UCLA game — Wilson let fly to media outlets his scathing salvo at Leach. Before midnight, he was sending athletic director Bill Moos a message, saying that's not what he meant.

That was a leap more spectacular than anything Wilson did in three seasons on a football field, and he did plenty. His letter — he said he penned it with help from his mother and stepfather — described coaches who "belittle, intimidate and humiliate us ... it is not 'tough love.' It is abuse."

He backtracked with Moos, and when Leach said later Wilson had "essentially recanted his statement," it was easy to scoff. But that's essentially what Wilson did.

"There was no point where I was trying to say they were abusing us," the Pac-12 report quotes Wilson from their interview. "I was just simply stating why I was leaving — that's all I was trying to do ... I definitely could have used a different word. I couldn't think of anything or another word at the time I was writing it."

So: All this for want of a thesaurus. WSU is probably out the couple of hundred thousand dollars or more that the law firm Bond Schoeneck and King, hired by the Pac-12, will bill.

"I do what my president tells me to do," Moos said, referring to WSU president Elson Floyd's directive to conduct investigations. "I'm glad we did it."

Then there was an accusatory letter sent by the father of a player who left the program, the details of which were a good bit of both investigations. Of course, he's not making himself known publicly, either.

As raw and profane as Leach can be, as controversial as was his exit from Texas Tech, he didn't deserve this — two months' worth of innuendo on whether he's over the top.

Clearly, the whole thing could have been avoided. Wilson has made it plain that his ax to grind was simply WSU's statement that he had been "suspended" when he left the team. He thought it might have painted him as a drug-user.

In his scattered way, however, Wilson might have done Leach a service. Because of his fractious departure from Texas Tech, Leach is always going to be viewed with suspicion in some quarters. Now, he can say he's been given the white-glove treatment by the Pac-12, and he's been cleared — of the sand-pit capers, the hands-on-players dustup by assistant Paul Volero at halftime of the Utah game — all of it. The Pac-12 report made only a couple of mild recommendations, while applauding that the dubious practice of hosing players in the sand pit had been discontinued.

At the same time, Wilson's action also served to raise the antennae that the past year of acclimation to Leach Ball hasn't exactly been Camelot. Even as the Pac-12 report was issued, Deadspin.com unspooled a cover story with more details, including respected trainer Bill Drake's message to a superior in which he sounded an alarm about "punishment workouts that are dangerously excessive."

Deadspin also quoted associate trainer Chris Lange as saying there was "lots of pressure to get (players) back on the field after an injury," and, in particular, he cited differences with coaches over concussion diagnosis.

Guess what? That's not new with Leach. Fourteen months ago, his predecessor, Paul Wulff, complained in an obvious push-pull with medical staff, "We're getting more concussions than I've seen in my entire life."

Now, though, Leach is left to try to raise an underachieving team that went 3-9. Marquess Wilson is a continent away, hoping to move on, a good kid who got bad advice.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com


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