SEATTLE — Washington State coach Mike Leach revisited a lot of themes of rebuilding the Cougars in his season-ending media teleconference Wednesday and contended that departed receiver Marquess Wilson had “basically recanted everything he’s said.”
Wilson made allegations of abuse against Leach’s first-year football coaching staff in an open letter Nov. 10, spurring a review by the school and the Pac-12 Conference. Results haven’t been released.
Asked if the investigation could help him — he was fired from Texas Tech after accusations of player mistreatment — Leach said, “Maybe. The whole thing is an obvious distraction. He’s basically recanted everything he’s said. The entire thing has been a total waste of time, other than some of the media that’s embraced it because they’d rather cover that than football.”
Richard Miranda, Wilson’s stepfather, who orchestrated release of the letter, did not return calls seeking comment.
Leach said he hadn’t talked to Wilson.
“Just read the review and stay tuned,” Leach said. “And when you all get bored talking about football, you can talk about that again.”
Leach repeated he wouldn’t be surprised if more players left the program. Asked if he thought the program’s scholarship total could drop to about 70 (85 are allowed), he said, “I doubt that.”
The Cougars (3-9, 1-8 Pac-12) beat only Washington in conference games. They were ninth in both total offense and defense in the league, with averages of 359.5 and 425.9 yards, respectively.
“The biggest thing is, we’ve got to get bigger and stronger,” said Leach, who told USA Today recently that this “will be an offseason for the ages.”
Recalling a thrust that his predecessor, Paul Wulff, harped on early in his tenure, Leach said, “Nutrition is going to be a big part of it.”
He promised that the Cougars will regularly be placed in competitive situations in the offseason.
“We’re a team that’s comfortable with participating instead of being truly competitive,” he said. “It needs to mean a great deal to us whether we win or lose.”
Leach says both lines are the major priority in recruiting, where WSU is believed to have 18 commitments. Meanwhile, Connor Halliday figures to be the obvious choice at quarterback, although the Cougars will take a long look in the spring at freshman Austin Apodaca.
Leach, who signed a five-year contract worth $2.25 million annually plus incentives, scoffed at reports linking him to other jobs.
“I’m staying here,” he said. “I planned from the beginning to get to a place where you build it up and turn it around.”
And that, he said in several different ways, will require an increased level of program toughness.
Speaking generally, he said, “If a player doesn’t like the way something is going, he can quit. Or go find him a team where they don’t coach very hard, or where lackadaisical effort is allowed.
“People don’t join football or coach football to see people go out and be lazy. If they wanted it to be comfortable, they wouldn’t call it football. They’d call it cuddling.”