| March 22, 2018

Column: Passing the Blame

September 22, 2016

The Washington State football team is off to a disappointing 2016 season. It’s not the 1-2 record disappointing people — it’s the number of player arrests under Washington State head coach Mike Leach.

According to the Spokesman Review, 29 Cougar football players have been arrested in the past  four seasons with Leach as the head coach, leading the country in Division 1 player arrests.

The question is not whether or not this is a serious issue, but rather who needs to be addressed in resolving it.

Leach has pointed the finger of blame at the Pullman Police Department and other students involved.

At no point has Leach acknowledged the fatal errors made by his team members. Rather, he has focused the blame toward others.

Leach gave a press conference Sept. 13 concerning the arrests.

“The system has to be checked if — with the number of people involved in these incidents — the only ones accused are football players,” he said. “If that’s the case, then something is seriously wrong.”

Leach makes a valid point — there are others in the equation. But it isn’t the police or students, it’s him.

As the head of the team, poor behavior falls back on Leach. After a win, Leach and his players share the glory. When players are arrested, Leach takes that burden as well.

It can be said Leach and his staff are doing their job by defending the team. But they are definitely not doing their job by passing the blame and ignoring that the players’ are defying the law with little to no punishment.

In a recent interview with the Spokesman Review, Washington State Athletic Director Bill Moos said there is no excuse for bad behavior.

“But when it’s perceived that the people I’m responsible for are the only ones with the rude behavior, that’s offensive to me and my coaches,” Moos said. “With all these incidents, with the possible exception to the most recent one, there was rude behavior happening by more than those representing Washington State.”

The focus here is not on those not representing Washington State — it is on the football players who have been at the center of the 29 arrests and the 16 cases that have been casually dismissed, allowing those arrested to play. This is where the blame starts to transition from players and police to the coaching staff.

Leach is a coach and a mentor. Allowing students to play without any punishment, Leach says is  acceptable.

In March 2014, starting cornerback Daquawn Brown became violent at a house party, leaving one girl with a concussion. She later committed suicide. A few months later he was on the field leading the team in tackles after his 180-day jail sentence was dismissed, according to the Spokesman Review.

The actions of one player don’t reflect the character of the whole team and coaching staff, until the situation repeats. However, it was not just one instance.

Leach stood behind his players after they attacked a walk-on player, thinking it was him who cost the team an extra workout.

The perpetrators remained on the team through the 2013 season.

When asked about this, the only comment Moos gave was vague and dismissive.

“There’s something that instigates it and to my knowledge, our guys aren’t starting the fights, which makes you wonder who wants to start a fight with these kind of guys,” he said in an interview with the Spokesman Review.

Leach and Moos point to others involved, glossing over the fact that regardless of who is involved their players are, 29 Cougar football players have been arrested and received little to no punishment.

Leach should not be held accountable for the individual wrong doings of the players — their actions are their own responsibility. But he is responsible for allowing them back on the field and  sending the message that their behavior is acceptable.

There is no clear party to blame here. The main issue is the lack of responsibility taken. At the end of the day it falls on the coach to step up and hold their team accountable. Leach can and should take responsibility. This starts with pointing his finger away from outside parties and more towards his own team.

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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