Full disclosure: I tried to get this column published in a local newspaper, but they wouldn’t take it. Enjoy my rejected words, serumites!
More than a month ago, Washington State University’s head coach Mike Leach absolutely lost his cool with The Spokesman Review’s John Blanchette after the Nov. 29 Apple Cup, calling him a ‘sanctimonious troll.’ Pot, meet Kettle.
Leach has a long history of treating the press — and really anyone he doesn’t care for — with disrespect. Despite his demeanor, I will admit Leach has been a great coach at WSU. He may have only won one Apple Cup in 8 years, but we’ve been on the Associated Press’ top 25 teams more years than not, and that does make me proud as a Coug. And he will be with WSU at least until 2024, as he just got his contract extended.
But in the five years that I’ve lived in Pullman, I have heard and seen a lot of inappropriate behavior out of Leach.
While picking up books at the Bookie during my freshman year at WSU, I saw a book — not written by Leach — called “Fat Little Girlfriends Cookbook.” Apparently the title referenced a 2009 comment where Leach had blamed his players’ “fat little girlfriends” for why Texas Tech, the team he coached at the time, lost against Texas A&M. Seems he’s got a history of losing rivalry games … and being sore about it.
Over the next year or two, I went from news reporter to opinion editor at the Daily Evergreen, WSU’s student newspaper. I started as an editor around the time Leach endorsed Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Spokane, which kicked off a controversy about politics in sports. Strangely, WSU released a statement supporting the rights of faculty to express themselves politically, though just a few months later they demolished a WSU wolf researcher’s career for expressing an opposing view to The Seattle Times, but let’s just sweep that under the rug, shall we?
And as the 2016 football season kicked off, Leach made another infuriating comment about a loss his team suffered. He compared WSU to a junior college softball team, saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s like the team that wins is the one that has the most fun. Crap like that. All that stuff that’s contaminated America where they give every kid a trophy, and they don’t keep score in little league anymore. I think that entire thing is retarding the competitive spirit of America.”
Maybe I’m biased, but my step-sister played softball for a junior college, and she could put Washington State to shame with her competitiveness and tenacity, so let’s say that comment really rubbed me the wrong way. And, to add insult to injury, he rags on millennials for being raised to believe that having fun is more important than winning. God forbid, right? It’s not like Washington State athletes are getting paid anyway.
After I graduated from college and began to work as a news desk editor at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, I often encountered Leach on his daily walks around Pullman. I believe I lived on the same street as him because he often walked past my front door, yammering away into his headphones. I would see him on campus and in Cafe Moro and Etsi Bravo.
After many weekends of seeing him at the dance club in Pullman, one of my male friends asked me to take a picture of him with Leach. I did; I mentioned I was also a Cougar fan, and Leach requested I take a photo with him. I laughed it off, but he insisted. After my friend snapped the photo of us, Leach said to me, “Now don’t we look great together, honey?”
Despite that encounter, the last straw for me was him snapping back at Blanchette, who was just doing his job. Leach has always been crappy to the press and treated news conferences like they were a waste of his time, spewing nonsense that has come to be known as Leachisms, but this moment was something else.
Sure, maybe Blanchette has said some oh-so-awful, not-so-nice things about Leach in his column. But Leach is a grown man who is the leader of a team of other grown men whom he has no problem bullying and degrading when they don’t do what he wants. Somehow, I find it hard to find sympathy for him.
Here’s to hoping Leach puts his big girl panties on, treats the press with respect and gets us an Apple Cup win next year.
To hear more about Ally’s feelings on Leach in an episode of her podcast, All Over the Map, visit this shortened link: bit.ly/33Jt4k0.