Capitals

Pac-12 study finds no abuse in WSU football

Pac-12 study finds no abuse in WSU football

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) A Pac-12 investigation found no evidence of physical or mental abuse of players in the Washington State football program under coach Mike Leach, the league said Tuesday

The findings of the independent review mirrored the findings of Washington State's own internal review of the allegations, which was released last month.

Former Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson contended near the end of last football season that players were suffering physical and mental abuse at the hands of coaches. Wilson, who quit the team, subsequently recanted his allegations.

But university President Elson Floyd asked the school and the Pac-12 to investigate the charges anyway.

``I am pleased with the outcome of both reviews,'' Floyd said in a press release Tuesday. ``The well-being of all WSU students is our highest priority and it was important to take seriously allegations against the program.''

The Pac-12 report was compiled after 20 interviews with coaches, players, parents of players and athletic department staff members.

Wilson, the leading receiver in Washington State history, contended in a letter sent to journalists on Nov. 10 that he quit the team prior to the UCLA game as a protest to ``physical, emotional and verbal abuse'' by the coaching staff. He complained that coaches would ``belittle, intimidate and humiliate us.'' He did not provide details.

The same night he sent the letter, Wilson sent a text message to athletic director Bill Moos in which he recanted those allegations.

Leach also has denied the allegations of abuse.

The Pac-12 investigation was conducted by the law firm of Bond Schoeneck & King of Overland Park, Kan. Investigators interviewed Wilson, who told them there was no physical abuse.

``I wasn't trying to accuse anybody of abuse,'' the report quoted Wilson as saying. ``I mean, they never touched us.''

Wilson said he was just trying to explain why he quit the team.

``I definitely could have used a different word,'' Wilson said. ``I couldn't think of anything or another word at the time I was writing it.''

Leach told investigators that Wilson ``never worked hard'' and was criticized by coaches for that.

Moos, the athletic director, said the release of the Pac-12 report should bring an end to the issue.

``My support for Mike Leach and his methods and his plan have never wavered,'' Moos told reporters. ``I'm even more enthused about the path we are on.

Leach was fired from Texas Tech after the 2009 season after claims that he mistreated a player suffering from a concussion. Leach disputed the allegation and it was not proven. Leach has sued Texas Tech, contending he was fired so the school could avoid a large payment that was due to him at the end of that year.

Quick Links

Vitek Vanecek will play in NHL's round robin, but Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes rest with Braden Holtby

Vitek Vanecek will play in NHL's round robin, but Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes rest with Braden Holtby

Brought up to replace the injured Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek's first taste of NHL hockey will come inside the bubble in Toronto. Not exactly the best of circumstances. 

But Vanecek plays an important role on a Capitals team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Should Braden Holtby struggle or get hurt during the playoffs, Washington will need its young back-up goalie to keep their team afloat and let his talented skaters take it from there.

That's why NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May, during an appearance with The Sports Junkies Tuesday, looks forward to seeing Vanecek play a little bit in the round-robin portion of the NHL restart. Ideally, though, it stops there.

"[Vanecek] probably will get one of these games, [the Capitals] said that from the start," May said. "But I hope he doesn't play once they get to the playoff rounds. I think it would be wise to play him in [round robin] games, it's not the end of the world what the seeding is in this. He's a good size goaltender, I think he's about 6'2, and with the training that he's had, he's worked on the fundamentals of his game, he's gotten his conditioning up. He looks very similar to Holtby in net, He's gotten a lot of good reps in American Hockey [League] just like Holtby did around the same age."

And what's the reason why no Caps fan should want to see Vanecek in the postseason? It's simple really. Because this team's best chance at another title revolves around Holtby being a steady and stifling presence between the pipes throughout the playoffs. 

RELATED: PHYSICALITY THE KEY FOR CAPITALS IN PLAYOFFS

"I think the big thing with this is you really don't want to see [Vanecek] in the net after the round robin," he said. "If they're going to win this thing, it's gonna have to be Braden Holtby getting 16 wins. To me, the most important thing is that Holtby plays in the playoffs, the guy's dynamite, no leaky goals out of him."

This could be Holtby's last playoff run with the Capitals as he enters a contract year. The Caps already committed long term money to Nicklas Backstrom this season, they have an Alex Ovechkin extension to worry about and the flat salary cap certainly won't do them any favors either. Not to mention the presence of Samsonov after a stellar rookie season. 

So if this is it, if this is Holtby's last dance in Washington, he at least looks ready to play his best hockey when it matters most.  

"He looks focused and dialed in, and he wants to make sure if he's going out and won't be a Capital anymore he wants to go home with a victory in his last game."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

Positive reports about Alex Smith's early training camp performance came out over the weekend, and on a Tuesday morning Zoom call with the media, Ron Rivera echoed those reviews.

"He's looked good, he really has," the head coach said. "I'll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how far along he is. It's been exciting to watch his progression."

According to Rivera, Smith has been working off to the side with Washington Football Team trainers at the Ashburn facility and is mirroring what Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen are doing, too. Coordinator Scott Turner and QBs coach Ken Zampese are apparently involving Smith as much as they can, and Smith is looking "very fluid" so far.

"It's a tribute to who he is, it's a tribute to his trainers and his doctors who have helped him get where he is today," Rivera said.

That all, of course, is wildly encouraging. The fact that the 36-year-old is in a place where he can check off those boxes and do those activities is astounding. That can't be pointed out enough, either.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

Yet it's also fair to note just how different mimicking a starting signal caller and actually serving as the starting signal caller are. So, is there any real chance of Smith transitioning from that first phase to the second before the season? 

With what he's seen from the veteran so far, Rivera certainly believes there is.

"I can envision it," he said. "The big thing is if he can do the things that we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the football field, he'll be part of the conversation most definitely. He did some really good things last week. He went through all four workout days, had no residual effect the next morning, which is always important because the next day usually tells.

"We'll see how he is this week and we'll go from there."

As Smith continues to rehab and try to make his way off PUP, the challenges are solely physical. Rivera is not worried at all about the veteran having to adjust to a new scheme or dealing with any other mental task; instead, the primary concern is ensuring that Smith can handle the contact that'll come if he makes it back into live action.

"I believe he already knows probably 75-percent of our playbook," Rivera said. "So for him, it's really just a matter of can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when he's on the field?"

It feels like every time Smith is brought up, he's taken another step. The next one, however — going from the PUP list to the huddle — is particularly daunting.

But at this point, it's gotten pretty difficult to imagine anything being particularly daunting for Alex Smith. So don't be that floored if he makes it happen. Rivera clearly won't be. 

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL NEWS