“I was vouching for a friend who I think is good for our country,” Leach tells USA TODAY Sports. “This is my opinion, not Washington State’s opinion. But there’s a point that we’ve got to get to in this country where people are willing to exchange ideas and discuss ideas. Right now, there’s this contest on who can be offended and how fast. Everybody is offended by everything. I’m offended by people who get offended by everything.”
If the past is prologue, Leach's broad brush stroke there may have just painted over his new boss.
When he was president at Kansas State, Schulz encountered a somewhat similar situation when Wildcat football coach Bill Snyder appeared in a video ad supporting a U.S. Senate candidate. Schulz came out at that time to emphasize that KSU doesn’t endorse political candidates, and both the school and Snyder asked the campaign to remove the ad from its website.
As stated in our column last month, Schulz is said to be a firm believer in free speech and diversity of thought, but he also believes high-profile employees are the face of the entire university community -- students, faculty, alumni and donors -- and that decidedly public actions on either side of a political race don't serve the interests or unifying nature of the school.
Leach's public endorsement of Trump also captured the attention of at least several members of the WSU Board of Regents and the WSU Foundation Board of Trustees. As one pointedly told me recently, "Politics is a no-win area for a football coach but Trump is another matter altogether because he runs counter to the university on everything from the power of science to the power of inclusion."
Another told me, "Trump is neither a Republican or a Democrat, he's a divider. Why Mike Leach feels compelled to drag WSU into that mess is beyond me."
Leach's defenders in that group point to the first amendment right to free speech and to the coach's offbeat, "Leach will be Leach" nature.
In regard to recruiting athletes, Leach told USA Today that he doesn't believe his vocal support of Trump will hurt. “His picture has been in my office since I got here,” said Leach. “There’s not a recruit in our program who hasn’t walked past that picture. It’s on the wall. Maybe it’s helped.”
Based on Cougfan.com's informal, purely anecdotal temperature check with a handful of prep coaches over the last few weeks, he may be off base in that assessment. While not a burning issue among any coaches we talked with, Leach's Spokane appearance for Trump raised critical eyebrows among some prospects and/or their parents, said the coaches.