Deadspin: “How Washington State Football Confronted, And Didn’t Confront, The First Bad News Of The Mike Leach Era”

I worked on the following story for Deadspin for over a month (although most of the time was waiting for records to come in). From public records requests and tracking down multiple sources with direct knowledge of what really happened at Washing State following the public statements made by former star wide receiver Marquess Wilson. In the first two days, it has nearly 55,000 views and 90 comments. Here’s the story on

… Sources and documents obtained by Deadspin recount clashes between training staff and coaches over player safety, and physical—and nearly physical—altercations between coaches and players. They describe “dangerously excessive” workouts used as punishments, including an episode in which coaches supposedly sprayed players in the face with water from a hose while making them exercise in a sandpit in cold weather.

“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.'”

One “concerned parent” wrote in an email to university president that “some of the things that are going on with WSU are completely out of control.” In another email, this one sent to the athletic department, someone wrote: “I played—I wouldn’t have played for Leach.”

That person added: “Sooner or later you’re going to get sued over Leach.” (Documents and emails referenced in the story are available at the bottom of this post.)

Wilson was not interviewed during Washington State University’s internal review, according to records and sources, and the players who were interviewed were never specifically asked about the receiver’s allegations.

Nor did the investigation interview Bill Drake, the school’s head athletic trainer. Before this season, Drake was responsible for the day-to-day training of the football team. This past fall, athletic director Bill Moos installed a trainer specifically for the team. …

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