Mike Leach

Pac-12 concludes no abuse of players by Wazzu staff


Amidst allegation leveled by former wide receiver Marquess Wilson that he and his teammates had been subjected to “physical, emotional and verbal abuse… in the locker room and on the field,” an internal investigation last month concluded that “there was no report or detection of abuse or inappropriate behavior on the part” of head coach Mike Leach or his Washington State staff.

That was part of a two-pronged investigation into the situation, with the Pac-12 assuming the second part of the probe.  Today the conference backed up the school’s findings, although this may not be the last we hear of it.

In a release, the Pac-12 announced that, “[b]ased on the evidence developed in this investigation, there is no basis to conclude that there were any instances of physical, emotional or verbal abuse by University football coaches.”  Suffice to say, the university was pleased with the report, which can be viewed in its entirety HERE.

“I am pleased with the outcome of both reviews,” WSU president Elson Floyd said in a statement. “The well-being of all WSU students is our highest priority, and it was important to take seriously allegations against the program. Now that the reviews are completed and have rejected those allegations, we will continue to move forward with our goal of establishing a successful program while maintaining the high standards shared by Washington State University, WSU Athletics and Coach Leach.”

However, based on an article published by Deadspin.com this afternoon and prior to the release of the Pac-12’s report, this situation may be far from over.

In the piece, unnamed parents of current players expressed their concern over the treatment of members of the team at the hands of Leach and the football staff, with one of them writing in an email to the university and obtained by the website that “[s]ooner or later you’re going to get sued over Leach.”

An email from Bill Drake, the school’s head athletic trainer who was removed from his day-to-day dealings with the football team by athletic director Bill Moos, expressed concern that revolved “around certain practices of the coaching staff that put the health and safety of the student athlete at risk.”  Workouts used as punishments were described as “dangerously excessive.”  It was during one of these “workouts” out of which Wilson walked, setting the stage for the current brouhaha.

There appears to be a disconnect between the WSU coaching staff and parents as to what exactly constitutes abuse.

“If you run players and roll them in sand till they puke, is that abuse?” one player’s parent said to Deadspin. “I don’t know. There are no rules or laws and nothing defined in any handbook that says rolling a kid in the sand until he pukes is abusive. But some people might say, ‘That seems abusive to me.”

There appears to even be a disconnect between the various parents of players on the team.

“Some said, ‘I don’t care, that’s what football is, kick my kid’s butt if you want, suck it up and get it done.’ And some parents had a different opinion and didn’t think this was reasonable. There was no consensus among parents but it was certainly talked about.”

“A lot of it has to do with how you classify abuse,” the parent said. “Obviously Marquess felt like it was bad enough for him to personally leave. I think until someone defines it, it’s really hard to term it. I think there’s a big gray area.”

Leach completed his first season in Pullman with a 3-9 record.  He had been out of the game for two years following a messy departure from texas Tech, with his firing coming amidst allegations of the abuse of a player.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
1 Comment

Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
1 Comment

The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.