State board probing UW official

Updated: May 16, 2004, 3:54 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- A state board will investigate the University of Washington's director of football operations after finding he violated ethics laws by taking free flights on a booster's private jet to golf outings and away games.

The state's executive ethics board decided Friday to investigate Jerry Nevin for possibly violating a law prohibiting state employees from taking influential gifts, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Saturday.

The flights were made on a twin-engine turbo jet owned partially by Wayne Gittinger, a member of several boards and advisory groups with the UW athletic department.

Gittinger has helped select candidates for key posts, including athletic director and football coach, the newspaper said.

Nevin is responsible for monitoring and reporting UW boosters' compliance with NCAA regulations. The board alleges that accepting flights from Gittinger compromised his ability to remain impartial.

If found in violation of the rules, Nevin could face fines of $35,000 or more, depending on the number and value of the flights.

Nevin's lawyer, Mike Hunsinger, said "Jerry refuses to acknowledge this as a violation." He said he plans to challenge the board's ruling.

Gittinger did not immediately return phone calls Sunday from The Associated Press. The News Tribune said he was unavailable for comment Friday.

The board also is investigating trips taken by UW football coach Keith Gilbertson and former coach Rick Neuheisel, said Brian Malarky, the panel's executive director.

Hunsinger contends Nevin and Gittinger are longtime friends. He said the flights fall under an exemption to the law that allows gifts if it's "clear beyond a reasonable doubt'' that they are not made "as part of any design to gain or maintain influence."

"Wayne Gittinger was not giving these things with the intent to influence the University of Washington," Hunsinger told the paper.

However, the board said the exemption didn't apply because the pair's friendship "began as an official rather than personal relationship" after Nevin was hired by the UW.

Nevin came to Washington in January 1999 from the University of Colorado where he worked with Neuheisel, who also was hired at that time.

Gittinger befriended the two men soon after they arrived. The board's report said, "Over the next several months, the Nevins, Gittingers and Neuheisels developed personal friendships," which included taking vacations together and staying overnight at each other's homes.

The report said the three families used the 10-seat jet to attend at least three Pacific-10 Conference head coaches' golf tournaments at Pebble Beach Golf Course in California. The men also went to one outside Pittsburgh.

The Gittingers and Nevins "on several occasions between March 2000 and March 2003" attended a UW-sponsored booster event in Palm Springs, Calif., called Dog Days in the Desert, the report stated.

The board also is investigating a flight by Gilbertson's wife and two children, who returned on the plane from Columbus, Ohio, after the Huskies' August 2003 game with Ohio State, said Hunsinger, who also represents Gilbertson.

The board's investigation is the latest in a series of troubles plaguing the university's athletic department.

In July the UW fired Neuheisel for gambling on NCAA basketball and lying to investigators about it.

Athletic director Barbara Hedges retired early in January, citing the Neuheisel case and an investigation into the dispensing of powerful painkillers and other medications to UW softball players by former team doctor William Scheyer.

Last month, an internal report found athletic officials knew or should have known about problems with prescriptions for the softball players.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press