School reacts to Neuheisel-spurred investigation

Updated: November 19, 2003, 4:09 AM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- The University of Washington announced disciplinary action Tuesday against 12 athletic department employees, including football coach Keith Gilbertson and compliance officer Dana Richardson, for participation in gambling pools on college basketball.

The disciplinary actions were included in the university's response to an investigation by the Pac-10 Conference regarding gambling by athletic department employees. The investigation was launched after allegations of gambling by fired football coach Rick Neuheisel first became known.

Other than Neuheisel's gambling, "we believe the other violations are minimal," athletic director Barbara Hedges said.

Neuheisel won as much as $12,000 in basketball pools over the past two years. However, he refused to characterize it as gambling to NCAA investigators, saying he took part in an auction and donated some winnings to charity.

Neuheisel claims he didn't know it was against NCAA rules to gamble in neighborhood pools. He has cited a memo from Richardson, which authorized such pools for athletic department personnel, as the key piece of evidence in his case.

Gilbertson and other assistants acknowledged participating in $5 basketball pools in 1999. Investigators couldn't verify reports by a former graduate assistant of pools in subsequent years.

The NCAA has said all gambling by athletes, coaches and administrators is against its rules.

Washington officials agreed with a Pac-10 finding that Richardson made an erroneous interpretation of NCAA rules in her memo about off-campus pools, but they argued one mistake does not constitute a failure to educate staff about gambling rules.

They also announced several corrective actions in addition to Neuheisel's firing last summer:

  • A letter of reprimand, the most serious of three levels of disciplinary letters, sent earlier this month to Richardson for her participation in three basketball pools. "In her place as compliance officer, she should be held to a higher standard," Hedges said.

  • Letters of admonishment to Gilbertson, four assistant coaches, two women who worked in the football office and three trainers.

  • A letter of caution to an equipment manager.

    Additionally, the school acknowledged a minor recruiting violation for undercharging 13 football recruits for a boat trip to Neuheisel's Lake Washington home. The boat was captained by a booster, another minor violation.

    As a corrective action, the recruits in question repaid $10 each. The money was donated to Children's Hospital in Seattle.

    The university is reducing the number of official campus visits by recruits for the 2004-05 season by eight, from 56 to 48. The football program also will not be allowed to use any boat as transportation for that season.

    Washington officials will go before a Pac-10 compliance enforcement committee Dec. 15. The conference then will either accept Washington's corrective actions or recommend others. The conference should conclude its portion of the investigation sometime in March, then turn it over to the NCAA.

    Earlier in the day, Neuheisel launched a pre-emptive strike at his former employer, claiming he was wrongfully terminated. Neuheisel is suing the NCAA and the university over his firing.

    Neuheisel's lawyer released a 38-page statement and an 1½-inch stack of supporting documents.

    Lawyer Robert Sulkin argued that the university failed to properly educate its staff regarding NCAA rules. He claimed the betting pools involved more employees over a longer period than the UW acknowledged.

    "As explained herein, over 20 members of the football program alone participated in NCAA basketball pools in 2001 and 2002, including trainees, coaches, staff and compliance officers," Sulkin's statement said. "This problem apparently has not occurred at any other NCAA member university."

    Sulkin also argued it was wrong for Hedges to fire Neuheisel when the university had given its blessing to neighborhood pools.

    "To sanction Mr. Neuheisel for following the advice of his Compliance Office would send a crushing and incorrect message to coaches throughout the nation," Sulkin wrote. "It would undermine the very system that has been set up to ensure that NCAA bylaws are interpreted by people most capable of doing so."

    Norm Arkans, special assistant to the UW president, said there was no comparison between Neuheisel's actions and those of the other employees.

    "They are light years different," Arkans said. "It's somebody putting a couple of bucks in their brother's pool versus a highly visible coach of our most prominent program going into a public place to secure the rights to NCAA tournament teams."


    Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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