Richardson: I felt no pressure to quit
SEATTLE -- The University of Washington compliance director whose erroneous memorandum on gambling was the cornerstone of former football coach Rick Neuheisel's legal defense says her departure is entirely voluntary.
In her first public comment since Neuheisel released copies of the memo in June, Dana Richardson also told The Seattle Times she bore him no ill will, feels no need to apologize and believes the compliance office is much stronger than when she arrived in 1998.
Far from being asked to leave, Richardson, a 1997 Washington law school graduate, said Tuesday that interim athletic director Richard J. Thompson encouraged her to stay.
With the university searching for a new athletic director to replace Barbara Hedges, who retired last month, she said she felt it was a good time to pursue other career options.
"I woke up one morning and just knew I was done," Richardson said.
She said she plans to stay in Seattle and pursue jobs in education or environmental conservation.
Her departure as assistant athletic director for compliance was announced last week, leaving the office vacant following the departure of two subordinates, Jennifer Henderson and Merlene Aitken, for higher-ranking positions.
Henderson, Washington's compliance coordinator since September 2002, is now associate commissioner and general counsel of the Sun Belt Conference. Aitken, assistant compliance director since June 2001, is now compliance auditor at Kansas.
Until replacements are hired, Thompson said Tuesday that associate athletic director Dave Burton and Cordell Thorn, an hourly employee, will handle issues concerning play and practice seasons and recruiting.
Thorn, also the cheerleading coach, has a law degree from Louisiana State and is studying for the bar examination.
Shawn Farrel, a lawyer who is also an hourly employee, will handle admissions, housing and initial eligibility issues, Thompson said.
"I think we are OK for a few days," Thompson said, "but we are certainly not OK for an extended period of time unless we get some (experienced people) in here who are familiar with the NCAA rules. We want to protect our coaches and play by the rules."
Neuheisel, fired last summer for participating in an auction-style basketball betting pool and for initially lying to NCAA investigators about it, has based much of his case on an interpretation of NCAA gambling rules in a memo reissued March 13 by Richardson.
The memo, approved by faculty athletic representative Robert S. Aronson, a law professor, stated: "The bottom line of these rules is that if you have friends outside of ICA (intercollegiate athletics) that have pools on any of the basketball tournaments, you can participate. You cannot place bets with a bookie or organize your own pool inside or outside of ICA."
"I did my best effort to provide the best information," Richardson said. "We thought we were providing accurate information."
Richardson wouldn't talk about some aspects of Neuheisel case because of his pending lawsuit against the university and the NCAA but said she is not angry with him for releasing the memo.
"I wasn't surprised," she said. "A lot of people would have done the same thing. I don't blame him for it."
The gambling probe and the succeeding months "weren't a lot of fun," she conceded. "It's a challenge to keep your head up, we were taking a lot of hits, but you try to come to work every day."
On the advice of the NCAA, the school established a compliance office the year she was hired and tried to "create an environment" in which coaches, staffers and athletes would ask questions whenever they felt unclear about rules, Richardson said.
She said the office's success was shown by the 405 requests for interpretations in the first half of last year and 640 in all of 2002.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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