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5 Reasons Why WSU Cougars Coach Mike Leach Does Not Address Injuries

November 23, 2015


Shareholder Kelly Hagen was quoted in the article "5 reasons why WSU Cougars coach Mike Leach does not address injuries" originally published on November 23, 2015 in The Seattle Times.

By Stefanie Loh

Despite getting knocked out of Washington State's last game on Saturday and sustaining what might be a concussion, quarterback Luke Falk is still in the mix to potentially play in the Apple Cup against the Huskies on Friday.

WSU coach Mike Leach said Monday that he'll make a game time decision on his starting quarterback for this Friday's game, but did not elaborate on Falk's condition because he does not talk about player injuries.

"We're going to make that decision 27 seconds before kickoff," Leach said.

However, WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos said on his radio show Monday morning that Falk is doing well and that the jury is still out on whether he will play this week.

Leach drew the ire of concerned fans on Saturday night when he responded to an ESPN's sideline reporter's question inquiring about Falk's condition by saying Falk was healthy and that the coaching staff "rested him in the second half" of the Cougars' 27-3 win over Colorado.

This came after Falk sustained a hard hit in the game and was eased onto a backboard and driven off the field on a cart – his injury apparent to anyone watching the nationally televised broadcast of the game.

Still, Leach defended his stance on Monday, saying that his policy of not commenting on injuries is well-known and that the reporter shouldn't have asked the question.

Leach has traditionally maintained that he does not talk about player injuries because it's a violation of HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was enacted in 1996 and protects individuals' medical records under federal law.

While Leach isn't the only college football coach who will not talk about player injuries – Oregon's football program, for instance, is also known to keep mum on these matters – there are 100s of other football coaches out there who are willing to discuss player injuries with reporters on a weekly basis.

Colorado, on the other hand, provides an injury report in its weekly football notes. Many other coaches, such as Arizona's Rich Rodriguez or even Oregon State's Gary Andersen, usually answer injury related questions throughout the week.

Leach doesn't care what his contemporaries are doing though. Asked on Monday to explain the rational behind his policy of never addressing an injury – regardless of how grievous it might be – he said, "The fact that (other football coaches) violate HIPAA doesn't mean I'm going to."

Does that, however, mean that hundreds of other football coaches who do answer injury-related questions from the media are in violation of HIPAA every week?

Not exactly, but it's a gray area.

According to Kelly T. Hagan, an attorney with Portland, Ore.-based firm Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt, who focuses on healthcare law, HIPAA prevents what the law terms "covered entities" from disclosing a individual's healthcare information without consent. And those covered entities include: healthcare providers, healthcare insurers and healthcare clearinghouses.

"So a football coach doesn't sound very much like any of those things," Hagan said. "But you don't know, for example, whether or not the information that the coach has available to him may very well be the product of an examination by an employee of the athletic department who is a licensed healthcare professional, and they would be covered by HIPAA."

Regardless of whether HIPAA is actually an issue here, Leach has four other reasons why he won't talk about injuries.

"Two, I'm not qualified to talk about injuries, that's something doctors and trainers should have the expertise for," Leach said, "Three, I don't see the sense in giving the opponent any additional information; four, how do I predict what a guy is going to be able to do physically, or not? Given that it's in the hands of doctors."

The Cougars abide by a "next man up" policy. Harping on injuries detracts from that focus, Leach believes.

"Five, somebody is going to play that position no matter what," Leach said. "And the last thing we're going to do is create a distraction for our team and sing the blues and act like somehow we're working our way out of a hole because someone else is playing the position, because the other person playing the position may be just as good or better than the last one.

"Quite frankly, I don't understand coaches who are constantly talking about injuries because to me it smells of hiding behind and trying to generate an excuse in case they need one after the fact if the game doesn't go the way they hope it does."

As published in The Seattle Times as of November 23, 2015.