WSU probe raises questions; UW bowl ticket sales lag

Dec 14, 2012

Washington State University has cleared its football coach of accusations of abuse. And the University of Washington is trying to lure more fans to Las Vegas for the team’s bowl game next weekend.

Both of those topics were on the mind of KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel this week.

Interesting revelations

An internal investigation at WSU has found no evidence of abuse. It was revealed in the report issued by athletic director Bill Moos that former wide receiver Marquess Wilson recanted his claims of abuse, shortly after telling the media about them. 

Art finds that puzzling, along with another interesting fact.

"I still don't know what to believe. I think some stuff was going on, including the water hosing of players. Bill Moos admitted that he told some of the staff assistants to quit using water on the players - apparently there was some sort of punishment on that. I don't think it was all that big a deal but Moos saw enough to quit it. That says to me that there was something on with the players that exceeded normal discipline."

Low expectations for change

The Pac-12 has yet to issue a report on its investigation into the allegations. But Art isn't expecting much.

"I would be very surprised if they came to any conclusions other than what WSU did, because the purpose of college sports is to make money. And Leach is a money-maker for Washington State. His charisma and his coaching skills - even though they didn't manifest themselves this year - are a big reason for Washington State to have financial optimism. So I doubt if there's going to be any corrective measures issued by the Pac-12."

WSU defeat of UW a blow to bowl attendance?

Despite the controversy, WSU did manage a dramatic, overtime victory against the University of Washington in the Apple Cup. And that may be a reason for the low number of tickets sold so far for the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, which will feature UW vs. Boise State on Dec. 22.

Each team has been allotted 11,000 tickets. So far, the Huskies have sold about 4,000. Art believes the Apple Cup loss is a factor.

"The momentum that the Huskies had with four straight wins going into the Apple Cup and the way lost that game - blowing a 28-10 lead - just really left a sour taste in a number of people's mouths. There just isn't a great rush, I don't think, for a lot of Husky fans to go to a pre-Christmas game for a 7-5 team that's probably going to get beat by a 10-2 team. And I think the Apple Cup really did take some of the enthusiasm away."

Several bowls too many

Art says another factor is "bowl fatigue."

"It does also testify to the fact that the bowl season is way too long, way too oversold with way too many underperforming teams eligible. Seventy of the 120 teams that play Division I football will be in a bowl game. How special can that be? Not very."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.