Marquess Wilson: Legitimate Victim, Or The Boy Who Cried Wolf?
I’d like to preface this by saying I don’t know what happens in the Cougar football locker room, or on the practice field. I have no way of knowing what Marquess Wilson said is true or not, and we won’t know until both the Washington State University and Pac-12 investigations release their findings. But this is an important issue, and as a blog that has four authors that currently attend WSU, we would be remiss not to dedicate at least one post on this issue.
Marquess Wilson, as you may or may not know by now, but probably do know unless you are against the internet, or any other sort of media, resigned from the WSU football team citing “verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.” These are heavy allegations, and as Coug Center’s Jeff Nusser noted, even if Leach is proven innocent, some amount of damage has already been done. My goal in this post is not to talk about the impact of what happened; I just have to ask–do Wilson’s comments pass the smell test?
I’ll cut straight to the point: No, I don’t think Wilson’s comments pass the smell test. Now, I don’t want to crucify the kid for it, because there’s evidence he was pressured into releasing his statement, but what he said is the type of thing that can destroy someone’s reputation. Alleging abuse is a serious thing, and Washington State President Elson Floyd correctly made the no-brainer decision to launch both a WSU and Pac-12 investigation immediately.
Marquess Wilson has had a reputation for dogging it in practice since he arrived at Washington State, coasting on natural ability. Wilson may be the school’s all-time leading receiver, but he’d have an insurmountable lead if it weren’t for his numerous drops. There have been reports all season that Wilson drops balls in practice, doesn’t hustle, and when he is punished for that lack of hustle, shows a lack of effort on his up-downs. Paul Wulff’s coaching staff basically let Wilson play when he felt like it, instead of when the coach wanted him to. Coach Mike Leach runs a more traditional football practice with old-school discipline methods. They’re harsh, but hardly abuse–that’s just, you know, football practice.
The other aspect of this situation is that if the claims were true, one would think that Wilson would open the flood gates for other players that felt the same way, but were too afraid to speak up. There are 65 guys in the locker room, and the only guy who left 20 minutes into practice is the one claiming abuse? Seems dubious to me. Especially when you consider that other players on the team have gone on the record with reporters defending their Coach; center Elliot Bosch said “They’re trying to change the culture. They’re pushing us very hard, like a good football staff should.”
Football is a tough game. Some people have been rubbed the wrong way by Leach’s comments, calling players “empty corpses” or saying that their effort “borders on cowardice”. But these aren’t fragile little 14-year-olds. The players are 18-22 years old. They’re men…young men, but men, nonetheless. Football practice is hard, and sometimes your coach is going to call you out. Leach has never called out a player by name, instead mentioning units as a whole, to make it blanket criticism and not single one guy out.
Now, there are all sorts of coaching methods that work. Leach’s method worked in Texas Tech; Pete Carroll’s worked at USC. They’re two totally different ideologies, but one is not better than the other. They’re just different. Generally, the best football players are alpha males who are uber-competitive, and being called out in public should motivate those players. If you’re not tough enough as an 18-to-22-year-old to handle a bit of criticism, you’re not tough enough to play football. Leach knows this, and likely does it to get the weaker-minded players to quit. I, for one, am all for that.
Now, if the investigation comes out, and it’s true that Leach is abusing his players, then he should absolutely be fired. I will admit that I was wrong in my assumptions about this situation. But with the limited facts that are available in this case, it sure seems like Wilson’s comments are dubious at best, and whiny at worst.