Washington State University President Elson Floyd made the right decision at the right time when he immediately called for independent investigations of the WSU football program by the athletic department and the Pac-12 Conference.
A scandal could be brewing in the Palouse as Marquess Wilson, a highly touted wide receiver, quit the football team last week and then claimed “physical, emotional and verbal abuse” under new football coach Mike Leach.
This is a serious charge and, given a similar claim when Leach was at Texas Tech University, a serious investigation into player treatment and practice conditions is warranted. Although the allegations against Leach were not proven, Leach was fired at Texas Tech in 2009 after Adam James, son of a former ESPN analyst Craig James, claimed he was instructed to spend practice in a darkened equipment shed as treatment for a concussion.
The latest charge against Leach came just prior to Saturday’s WSU game against UCLA. Wilson’s accusations were made public in a letter released by Richard Miranda, Wilson’s stepfather.
Leach denies the allegation and seemed to welcome the investigation as he said he had nothing to hide.
Wilson had quit the team on Nov. 4 after he walked out of what has been described as a grueling practice. Wilson had already lost his starting position.
In the past, such a charge would likely be dismissed as sour grapes. Football programs — and high-profile football coaches — were revered as the cash cows of higher education. Few dared to question their authority or their intentions.
And this is exactly why so much went wrong at Penn State. After years of looking the other way and covering up, it was learned that an assistant football coach had been molesting young boys for years. Those in authority, including legendary coach and good guy Joe Paterno, were more concerned about the image of Penn State football than the well being of the young boys.
The molester, Jerry Sandusky, is in prison and those involved in the cover-up are likely on the way.
The abuse charge made by Wilson is far from the horrors of what went on at Penn State, but is nevertheless a claim of an inappropriate use of authority.
College football has enjoyed — for better or worse — a lot of leeway in the past. No more.
When a claim is made, it has to be taken seriously and fully vetted by people outside of the program. Floyd acted wisely to call for an independent investigation.