I think we can all agree that Mike Leach is a weird guy. The Washington State football coach has a shirtless, George Costanza-like photo of himself hanging in his office, has broken down how all of the Pac-12 mascots would fare against each other in a fight and is obsessed with all things pirate.
I think we can all agree that Mike Leach can be a vindictive guy, too. After USA Today sports writer Dan Wolken criticized him in a column last year, Leach said that Wolken would be selling Big Gulps soon and went on to name one of his plays “Big Gulp Left.”
But is Mike Leach really the type of coach who would rip one of his ex-players so as to lower his draft stock? Seems unlikely. Because even if Leach is weird and vindictive — he isn’t stupid.
Hall of Fame running back-turned-agent Eric Dickerson had some words for Leach after his client, James “Boobie” Williams, signed with the Chiefs after going undrafted. Williams led the Cougs in rushing last year and declared for the draft despite Leach advising him to return for his senior season.
After the draft was over, Leach tweeted a screenshot of a tweet posted by The Athletic’s Max Olson, which listed the 49 underclassmen that went unselected. Not long after, Dickerson took to Twitter and let it rip.
“Thank you @Coach_Leach for talking down @boobiewilliams2 #NFLDraft stock nonstop since James declared. Because of you… James was able to choose his dream team @Chiefs. Thank you for not helping James accomplish his goal of feeding his family… who were homeless only a few years ago. Because of you … James will be a great NFL running back. Thank you for thinking this is the 1980s where players have no voice. Because of you… players will unite from Hall of Famers to top high school recruits and protest your ways. We will not stand for NCAA coaches using their power to harm young men who are simply trying to help their families. We’re watching you “Coach” Leach. #ThisTimeItsDifferent #Brotherhood.”
Leach has long held the opinion that student-athletes should earn their degrees before going off to the pros. Whether it’s because he wants players for another year or truly values education is up to you to decide.
But Dickerson seems to be implying that Leach was actively torpedoing Williams’ chances of being drafted. Really? Even if Leach was that spiteful, that would be career suicide.
If word got out that a coach was interfering with a player’s livelihood, nobody would ever play for him. And given all the scrutiny surrounding the NFL and college football, word would almost certainly get out.
Leach may not be right that every guy should stick around for four years — particularly if he has a newborn like Williams and his fiancee do. But “talking down” his players? Seems like a stretch.
Asked to comment on Dickerson’s tweet, Leach sent the following over text.
“I don’t have any comments. His speak for themselves. The NFL and I advise student athletes every year. Sometimes an agent has different advice, often for the agent’s best interest. There are a lot of sleazy agents out there that think about themselves, rather than their clients. We wish all of our student athletes and former student athletes the best for their futures. We will continue to advise them and encourage them to get their degrees. The NFL doesn’t tell us who to recruit and we don’t tell them who to draft.”
Williams was projected as a late-round pick in some mock drafts, and did not appear at all in others. This wasn’t some unexpected free fall. Still, in a since-deleted tweet, Williams did seem to take a shot at Leach, who was reportedly ready to take the Tennessee head-coaching job last year before the deal fell apart.
“Some people really butt hurt that I left early and all I’m trying to do is feed my family so if that makes me a bad person then whatever,” Williams tweeted. “Besides how could you get mad at me leaving when you been trying to leave since I’ve been there. I’m good.”
Whether this has any effect on Wazzu recruiting down the line remains to be seen. My guess is that it won’t.
Leach may think finishing college is the best way for his players to ensure success. But that doesn’t mean he wishes failure upon the players who don’t.