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Updated Monday, November 12, 2012 at 11:42 AM

WSU president wants probe of football program

By Bud Withers
Seattle Times college football reporter

PULLMAN — Washington State University President Elson Floyd said Sunday he has requested independent investigations of the WSU football program by the athletic department and the Pac-12 Conference in the wake of allegations of abuse leveled by ex-player Marquess Wilson.

Wilson, who walked out of a difficult workout Nov. 4 and was suspended, charged that the first-year regime of coach Mike Leach practices "physical, emotional and verbal abuse."

Wilson's allegations came in a letter released by his stepfather, Richard Miranda, hours before the Cougars lost Saturday night to UCLA, 44-36.

Wilson, who said he resigned from the team, didn't cite examples of abuse. Asked to provide some, Miranda referred to a halftime incident at Utah, in which "some coaches were physical, putting their hands on players, pushing them into lockers. That's just hearsay but it's hearsay from people within (the locker room)."

A handful of WSU players, asked in postgame interviews Saturday if they had witnessed anything reflecting physical abuse, either declined to comment or said they hadn't.

Leach told The Times last Monday, "It was intense and face-to-face, but it wasn't some physical ruckus."

Sunday morning, Floyd's office released this statement: "After consultation with WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos, I have asked our athletic department to fully review recent allegations raised concerning the football program and report their findings and conclusions as soon as possible. Simultaneously, I have asked the Pac-12 to independently do the same. Together, both reports should get to the bottom of the matter."

Wilson's former position coach, Dennis Simmons, told a reporter who regularly covers practice: "Honestly, it's kind of laughable. You've been out at every practice. If there was some abuse, I'm sure you would have seen it and everybody else would have reported about it."

Floyd declined a request by The Times to answer follow-up questions, but in response to a text, indicated that "the compliance team" at WSU will assist Moos in the investigation.

Wilson, WSU's leader in career receiving yards and a preseason All-American choice, had a rough transition to Leach's staff, dating to last spring.

He lost his starting job recently, while still on the field a significant amount, but finally walked out on the grueling practice, a day after Leach had been severely critical of his team's effort in a 49-6 loss at Utah. That day, Leach lambasted linemen for a performance "bordering on cowardice."

Wilson was suspended indefinitely, but Moos hinted that there might be a path of reconciliation if Leach were amenable. In his statement, Wilson called that scenario a "lie."

Miranda said Wilson had been hesitant to release the statement, but he did after encouragement from his stepfather.

Saturday night after the Cougars' latest loss in a disappointing 2-8 season, Leach praised his team, saying, "I couldn't be prouder of the effort."

On his postgame radio show, referencing the good effort and Wilson's departure, "Clearly, it was addition by subtraction."

When asked after Sunday night's short routine practice for reaction to the investigations of abuse, Leach replied: "Not concerned. Not concerned at all. We're not worried about Marquess, we're worried about the guys that are here. We're going to eliminate it as a distraction. The most important thing I have is the guys that are here. I need to focus on them."

Leach was fired at Texas Tech late in 2009 amid allegations by a former player that he was instructed to spend practice in a darkened equipment shed during practice as treatment for a concussion. The allegation was never proved. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott says he will talk by telephone Monday with a team of senior leaders in the conference office to determine the makeup and time frame for that side of the conference's probe.

Scott, who was in Pullman for the game Saturday night and spent time with Floyd, flew to Denver on Sunday for a meeting on another matter.

Scott said the league's own compliance team would be involved, adding it is "used to collaborating with the schools, and gets involved in interviews with the schools. This situation is a little unique, so we want to look at it in its own right."

Scott wouldn't speculate on the possible length of time for such an investigation, but said his "commitment to President Floyd is to deal with it as expeditiously as possible, but also as thoroughly" as the situation warrants.

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



Marquess Wilson




WILLIAM MANCEBO / GETTY IMAGES
Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars on the sidelines early in the fourth quarter as the Cougars trail the UCLA Bruins 21- 44 at Martin Stadium.





WSU President Elson Floyd




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