Neuheisel says he could have run but chose to fight

Updated: August 23, 2003, 2:54 AM ET

SEATTLE -- Rick Neuheisel is still fighting. Unable to save his job as Washington's football coach, now he wants his reputation restored and at least $6 million he claims he's owed.

Neuheisel has sued the NCAA and the University of Washington, alleging breach of contract by the school and accusing NCAA officials of defamation, conspiracy and wrongfully interfering with his job.

He also says the NCAA has hurt his future employment prospects.

"You can't run away from something that's just wrong, in your own mind," Neuheisel told KING-TV. "So I chose to take them on. It would have been easier to run and look for something new."

NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard said Friday he couldn't comment on specific allegations in the lawsuit because the organization hadn't received a copy. He predicted the NCAA will be vindicated.

"The NCAA has done nothing wrong in this case, and the association is confident a favorable ruling will be issued on its behalf," Howard said.

Neuheisel's firing took effect July 28. Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges said he was dismissed for gambling on NCAA basketball tournaments and then lying to NCAA investigators when first questioned.

School officials are confident Neuheisel's firing "was consistent with the terms of his contract and that this lawsuit against the university has no merit," according to a news release.

Bob Sulkin, Neuheisel's attorney, filed the 12-page document in King County Superior Court on Thursday.

Neuheisel is seeking unspecified monetary damages. It may well be an attempt to recover the remaining five years of a six-year contract extension he signed last season, worth about $1.2 million a year.

Hedges said Neuheisel was fired with cause, meaning the university isn't obligated to pay anything. Under those terms, he also would be required to repay a $1.5 million loan he received last fall.

The lawsuit lays out several claims Neuheisel made previously, including that a Washington athletic department memo gave him permission to participate in off-campus gambling pools with neighbors.

It also discloses new allegations, including that a Seattle newspaper held discussions with NCAA officials on whether to delay a story about the coach's involvement in the pools.

The Seattle Times on Friday said it was that newspaper. A Times spokeswoman denied the implication that reporters worked with the NCAA to "catch Mr. Neuheisel unaware" when he met June 4 with NCAA investigators, as the lawsuit alleges.

"After receiving a tip that Mr. Neuheisel may have violated NCAA regulations, we pursued the story aggressively," Times spokeswoman Kerry Coughlin said.

"At the earliest point at which we could confirm the existence of an NCAA investigation and give Mr. Neuheisel a chance to respond to the allegations, we published the story," she said.

Sulkin said there are no plans to add the Times as a defendant. The paper was mentioned in the lawsuit to demonstrate the NCAA wrongly provided information to people outside the investigation, he said.

The lawsuit says university representatives entered Neuheisel's locked office while he was gone and searched through his personal effects.

"I don't know what was taken," Sulkin said.

It also says NCAA officials know of "individuals who have intentionally lied to the NCAA for days or weeks" after committing gambling violations but later were exonerated by the NCAA.

Sulkin declined to identify those individuals.

"I'd prefer not to, only because Rick knows these people," he said. "It will probably come out in court, maybe before then."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index