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Originally published December 12, 2012 at 4:32 PM | Page modified December 13, 2012 at 11:16 AM

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WSU review finds Leach 'firm, fair and most of all consistent'

Washington State athletic director Bill Moos was asked to investigate coach Mike Leach's football program after receiver Marquess Wilson made claims of abuse last month. Moos and his staff interviewed 12 players and said he is excited about the future of the program.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Washington State gave football coach Mike Leach a positive finding Wednesday in its internal review of allegations of abuse in the football program by former receiver Marquess Wilson.

Still to come is an independent investigation by the Pac-12, with an unknown timetable for release.

In his report to WSU president Elson Floyd, athletic director Bill Moos wrote of Leach, "... another central theme is that the head coach is firm, fair and most of all consistent."

On a conference call after the summary of the report was released, Moos told reporters, "It's very demanding here, and I want it that way. That's one of the reasons I hired Mike Leach. The players that are with us believe in this coaching staff and are excited about the future of Cougar football, and quite frankly, so am I."

Internal documents obtained by the Seattle Times through a public-records request revealed few of the particulars of the investigation, which Moos said included interviews with a cross-section of 12 players, plus officials who oversee various aspects of the football program.

"The consistent theme was that there are three basic standards that are set at a high level and are not to be compromised," Moos' report said, naming academics, personal behavior and maximum effort.

Moos repeated an earlier assertion made by Leach that late on the night of Nov. 10, hours after Wilson's letter of allegations was released by his stepfather, Wilson recanted his statement.

That night, records show, Wilson wrote to Moos, in part, "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."

Moos, asked if the investigative process could thus have been avoided, said, "The president and I both felt it was in all our best interests and that of the football staff and our student-athletes to go forward with the review and I'm glad we did."

Upon receiving Wilson's text, Moos messaged Floyd past midnight Nov. 10, after a WSU comeback attempt came up short against UCLA, saying, "Sent to me at 11:33 (p.m.). Unfortunate, as our guys gave a valiant effort and deserved to be the lead story."

The next morning, Floyd responded to Moos, "Well, the damage is done now. I must repair it and move on."

Moos said WSU didn't interview Wilson in its investigation, adding, "In the review itself, questions were asked in the various units (that oversee football) regarding all of the allegations made by Marquess."

Attempts to reach Wilson and his stepfather for comment Wednesday night were unsuccessful.

Wilson walked out of a rigorous conditioning workout the night of Nov. 4, a day after the Cougars had been routed by Utah and Leach ordered linemen, some of whose effort he said "bordered on cowardice," to answer media questions.

Before that flashpoint, there was concern expressed about Leach to top WSU officials. A letter, apparently sent by a parent of a player or former player — the name was redacted — cited several questionable instances and summarized in part, "I feel Coach Mike Leach and his staff are out of control. They have tried to get rid of injured players and mistreated players. There are many parents that fear their kids will be retaliated against. There are many athletes who have the same concerns."

One of the allegations in that letter was activity related to Leach's sand pit used for arduous conditioning workouts, and whether water is improperly used. The letter alleged players were required to hold 45-pound weights over their heads "while players were sprayed in the face with hoses."

While not specifically addressing that charge, Moos said he ordered use of water to be discontinued in midseason. He said its purpose was to "harden the sand," but conceded that "it was getting sprayed on the players at times. I felt that was something we didn't need to do."

Asked if Leach was verbally abusive, Moos replied, stipulating he was joking, "I played for Jim Sweeney (a WSU coach decades ago). These kids have never seen verbal abuse."

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


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