Ex-graduate assistant's credibility important

Originally Published: November 18, 2003
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Rick Neuheisel's legal team is pinning a key part of its case on a former graduate assistant coach who alerted investigators to gambling on the NCAA basketball tournament by Washington football assistants.

However, Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges said Tuesday that it doesn't matter what Ikaika Malloe told anybody because he gave conflicting statements.

One of the next steps in Neuheisel's tug-of-war against the NCAA and his former employer will center on the credibility of Malloe, who told investigators he organized NCAA basketball pools in the Washington athletic department in 2001 and 2002 and identified assistant football coaches who took part.

"Mr. Malloe did not have to come forward. No one would have ever found out," attorney Bob Sulkin wrote in Neuheisel's 38-page response to a Pac-10 investigation released Tuesday.

"However, he stated that he could not live with himself," Sulkin wrote. "And if he had to lie to keep his job as a coach at an NCAA institution, he would rather coach in high school."

Malloe, now a coach at Western Illinois, was a graduate assistant from 2000 to 2002 under Neuheisel, who was fired this past summer for participating in high-stakes pools on the NCAA basketball tournament.

Hedges announced disciplinary action Tuesday against 12 athletic department employees, including new head football coach Keith Gilbertson and compliance officer Dana Richardson, for participating in college basketball pools.

The actions were included in the university's response to the Pac-10 investigation.

The NCAA has said all gambling by athletes, coaches and administrators is against its rules. Neuheisel, who is suing the NCAA and the University of Washington over his firing, didn't take part in any of the football office pools, Sulkin said.

Neuheisel admitted winning $12,000 in neighborhood gambling pools over the past two years. His defense team has cited Richardson's memo that approved off-campus pools for athletic department personnel. The Pac-10 found Richardson erroneously interpreted an NCAA rule. For that mistake, and for gambling in basketball pools, Hedges gave Richardson a letter of reprimand -- the most serious of three levels of disciplinary letters.

Gilbertson and four assistants received letters of admonishment for participating in $5 basketball pools in 1999.

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

Hedges said that investigators couldn't confirm Malloe's claims of pools in subsequent years and that she's satisfied that Gilbertson and other coaches told the truth to investigators.

"Our coaches adamantly denied participating in years other than 1999," she said. "There was insufficient evidence for other years."

Sulkin, though, argued that it was wrong to fire Neuheisel for gambling in off-campus pools when other coaches gambled in pools on campus.

Norm Arkans, special assistant to the school president, said there's no comparison between Neuheisel's actions and those of the others.

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

Sulkin disclosed testimony by Erin Chiarelli, who won money by betting $3 or $5 in a 2002 pool. She was one of two football office staffers who received letters of admonishment.

"I know I didn't take $65 or $60 and throw into a hat to win my own pool," Chiarelli told investigators. "So the numbers don't add up" if coaches claimed they didn't participate, she said.

Arkans said top-level school administrators have "held everybody at the football office accountable for knowing about the pools." Hedges said she doesn't know where Chiarelli's winnings came from.

"It appears there were people inside the football office and possibly family members who participated," she said.

Washington officials next will go before a Pac-10 compliance enforcement committee Dec. 15. The conference can accept Washington's corrective actions or recommend others.

The Pac-10 should conclude its portion of the investigation in March, then turn it over to the NCAA.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press