AD steps up support despite record

Updated: November 18, 2003, 9:13 AM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Washington coach Keith Gilbertson will return for at least one more season despite a crushing loss to California, Huskies athletic director Barbara Hedges says.

Gilbertson signed a four-year contract with two years basically guaranteed when he was hired in late July after the firing of Rick Neuheisel.

"He stepped into a very difficult situation at a very late date," Hedges told The Seattle Times. "Some things this season have not gone as expected, but he is an outstanding coach."

Even if the Huskies (5-6) lose to No. 8 Washington State (9-2) in the Apple Cup this Saturday after their utter collapse in a 54-7 loss to the Bears last weekend, Gilbertson's job is safe, she said.

"All the coaches on this staff have my full 100 percent support," Hedges said. "They are working as hard as they can work. That is all you can ask for. I think we are very fortunate to have Keith Gilbertson as the coach at the University of Washington."

According to a report broadcast Monday night on KING-TV, Gilbertson is under investigation by the state Ethics Board after his wife and two children flew to the season-opening game at Ohio State on a booster's jet.

No state employees are allowed to receive gifts worth more than $50, KING reported.

Mike Hunsinger, a lawyer for the coach, said Gilbertson has done nothing wrong but offered to reimburse the booster.

"The law does not make it illegal for a longtime family friend, or business associate for that matter, to give something to a state employee, in this case a state employee's kids. And it doesn't prohibit somebody from donating something without the intention of getting anything in return," Hunsinger said.

A loss Saturday would end the Huskies' streak of 26 years without a losing season, the fourth-longest active string behind Nebraska (42), Michigan (36) and Florida State (27).

Hedges, 66, criticized for a number of high-profile problems in the athletic program during her 13th year at Washington, confirmed last week that her own contract had been extended through June 30.

Neuheisel, accused of gambling in violation of NCAA rules and of being untruthful when first questioned about the matter, is suing the university on a claim of breach of contract and the NCAA on claims of defamation, conspiracy and wrongful interference with his job.

In a separate matter, state and federal authorities have begun a joint criminal investigation of a former team doctor who admitted improperly handing out thousands of doses of prescription drugs to Washington athletes.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press