COMMENTARY: Leach doing program no service

MARQUESS WILSON

OVER THE PAST several weeks, Washington State coach Mike Leach has publicly criticized his football players. The Cougars are 2-7 and deserve criticism, but coaches typically yell at their players at practice or rip them in private. They don't berate them in front of the media.

Seeing a lack of effort, Leach has called some of his players "empty corpses" and said that last Saturday's 49-6 loss at Utah was like "a zombie convention."

He also intimated that his offensive and defensive linemen were cowards and forced them to meet reporters after the game so they could explain their sorry play.

As a Coug, I was excited when Leach was hired. He led Texas Tech to 10 straight bowl games. Certainly he was the right man to rebuild the WSU program.

But nine games into the Mike Leach era, I'm starting to wonder about our new coach.

And wonder is exactly the right word. I'm not suggesting he was the wrong person to hire. I'm just saying some doubts are creeping into my thoughts. Mind you now, last December when Bill Moos introduced Leach to a thrilled crowd of Cougs in downtown Seattle, I told Bill it ranked as one of the greatest days in the last four decades of WSU sports.

I understand that part of the transition from one coach to another involves weeding out players who don't buy in. Most of these current Cougars were recruited by Paul Wulff.

But isn't there a better way to handle the transition from one coach to the next? Can't you go about your business behind closed doors? Isn't there a classier way to do it?

Leach responded to those types of questions by saying the media failed to mention that he also said he and his staff are responsible for the poor effort at Utah. First, every report I read did mention him saying that and two, he still effectively called them cowards. How does holding himself accountable change any of what he said publicly about those players?

From what I gather, Cougar fans are as divided as the locker room. Some believe that what's happening is necessary -- it's about time we changed the losing culture with some really tough love. If it means publicly belittling players, fine. Get ‘em out of here and bring in your own kind of players, the un-zombies so to speak.

I'm in the other camp, wavering in my support of Leach. It's just not cool to call out kids the way he does. I was initially amused with the empty-corpse comments, but now I feel like he's gone too far.

When Travis Long, one of the all-time great Cougs, is reduced to tears on a public stage, it just isn't right.

And purely from a win-loss perspective, how is all this going to sit in the minds of standout high school prospects and their parents?

I think it's bad for business.

Leach and Moos both talked tough yesterday. Tough is critical for football. That's understood. But is that "old school" approach really the sales pitch you want to lead with when trying to woo 18 year olds to your school?

From a player's perspective, are you motivated by the name-calling? If it were me, I'd be more motivated to smack him than play hard for him, and I'd have no doubt gone the way of Marquess Wilson, who was suspended on Monday. Marquess, by the way, is not one of these over-privileged prima donnas you sometimes read about. Since the day he stepped foot in Pullman the buzz on him has been universal: Marquess is a great kid.

Combine great kid character with All-American talent and you'd think you'd have the perfect Coug.

From a parent's perspective, what if that's one of your kids getting ripped publicly and/or mocked in the sand pit? What do you tell him -- suck it up, son? Not me. I'd be telling my kid to transfer. If you want to call me a bad parent, go ahead, I've been called worse.

Every coach should expect a full commitment from his players. But at the same time, a player should expect his coach to stick up for him and not humiliate him in public.

Just yesterday I heard Seahawks coach Pete Carroll answer a question about backup linebacker Mike Morgan's performance in the game against the Vikings. Carroll said Morgan was "adequate."

Translated, Carroll didn't think he played that well. But "adequate" sounds a lot better. Wherever Morgan was lacking, I'm sure that Carroll got his points across in the film room without having to criticize him publicly.

And as soon as I say that, I feel like a hypocrite because I like coaches who are candid and politically incorrect, and Leach is a heaping portion of both.

I said how I felt about Leach yesterday on 710 ESPN Seattle and received a few texts from listeners who essentially called me a wuss and told me I need to toughen up, etc.

But here's what I come back to – as much as I want the Cougs to win, I think about those kids who didn't sign up to play for Leach and are now being ridiculed and kicked to the curb.

You know what I'd like to see – a little human decency. Maybe some of the players aren't good enough. Maybe they're not trying hard enough. Maybe they don't meet his standards.

I don't care what their shortcomings are, treat them with respect when you show them the door.

Am I being too sensitive? Am I naïve to what it takes to build a big-time football program? Maybe. But I'm just telling you how I feel about it, putting myself in those players' shoes.

Here's the thing: I don't know jack squat about coaching football. Leach has got it all over me in that department. And his IQ is through the roof.

But more and more, I'm starting to agree with comments in an email I received a few days ago. The emailer wrote: "I was in favor of Bill Moos hiring this guy but now I'm starting to see what the Texas Tech administration saw – an arrogant personality with limited human relationship skills."

The emailer said he's always been a huge Cougar fan but will now follow the team with "guarded optimism."

Hate to say it, but that's where this wuss is headed too.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, www.jimmoorethego2guy.com, and www.710Sports.com. You can reach Jim at jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo. He appears weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle or 710Sports.com.

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