<
>

Former coach cleared; UW's probation extended

10/21/2004 - Washington Huskies

SEATTLE -- Former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel was
cleared of wrongdoing by the NCAA Wednesday for gambling in a
college basketball pool, but the university had its probation
extended two years.

Washington's NCAA probation -- initially imposed because of men's
basketball recruiting violations -- now runs until Feb. 9, 2007. The
school was also reprimanded for failing to monitor the football
program.

Thomas E. Yeager, chair of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions,
said that Neuheisel avoided punishment because the school's
compliance officer had written memos mistakenly saying that
participation in gambling pools was allowed.

"Sports wagering is a problem that continues to threaten the
well-being of student-athletes and coaches and the integrity of
intercollegiate athletics," Yeager said. "If not for unique and
unusual mitigating circumstances in this case, the outcome
certainly would have been different. This case should not be
interpreted in any fashion as a softening of the NCAA's
antigambling position."

Neuheisel coached four seasons at Colorado before compiling a
33-16 record in four seasons with the Huskies, including a Rose
Bowl victory.

Neuheisel was fired in June 2003 by then-athletic director
Barbara Hedges after he acknowledging taking part in a high-priced
NCAA college basketball tournament pool.

Neuheisel twice told Hedges that he had never taken part in
gambling pools, when in fact he had won $11,219 in two of them --
winnings he donated to a local school.

"The important thing is to realize that, not only did they not
impose any penalties on me but also, they came to the conclusion
that I did not violate any rules, which is the way I had felt all
along," Neuheisel said in an interview with College Sports
Television, with whom he works as an analyst.

The NCAA said in its report it was "very troubled" Neuheisel
initially lied, but said that because of the memos, it could find
no evidence that he intentionally broke the rules. Neuheisel was
never charged with ethical violations for lying because he told the
truth later the same day, Yeager said.

The outcome could lead to Neuheisel's return to college
coaching.

"My hope is that someone will see this as vindication and that
they will give me an opportunity. I think that, in the past, I've
shown that I can do the job, and do it well," Neuheisel told CSTV.

University attorney Lou Peterson said it would likely have no
impact on a wrongful termination lawsuit Neuheisel filed against
the university, set for trial Jan. 24. The university argues that
Neuheisel broke his contract by being dishonest.

"Rick and I are pleased the NCAA found he was not in violation
of NCAA rules," said Neuheisel's lawyer, Bob Sulkin. "It's what
we've said all along. ... He is happy and he feels vindicated,
because he has been."

Washington escaped serious penalties that may have resulted if
the NCAA cited the school for lack of institutional control. The
NCAA did, however, find repeated instances in which the school
failed to monitor the football program.

In addition to Neuheisel's gambling violations, the NCAA cited
pool betting by other members of the athletic department, including
former compliance officer Dana Richardson, who wrote the memos that
cleared Neuheisel.

The NCAA also cited the football program for undercharging
recruits and their parents for rides in a 65-foot yacht and other
private boats between 2000 and 2003, and for allowing impermissible
contact between a football booster and recruits.

Washington had already imposed several punishments on itself
following an internal investigation of the football program --
including limiting the number of expense-paid visits recruits can
make to the campus in the 2004-05 academic year from 56 to 48. The
university also said it would not use watercraft to recruit
student-athletes in '04-05.

The NCAA extended each of those penalties through 2005-06.

"We are eager to move forward, continue to implement our
corrective actions and build a program that fully reflects the
university's values," Washington president Mark Emmert said. "We
will do things the right way. We will be exemplary in everything we
do."

Beset with other problems, including a softball team physician
accused of improperly dispensing medication and the resignation of
the softball coach, Hedges retired early in January.

Richardson left for another job. Robert H. Aronson, a law
professor and longtime faculty representative to the athletic
department, resigned after handling much of the school's defense in
the NCAA case.

The Huskies are 1-5 this season under coach Keith Gilbertson,
who was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Neuheisel.
Washington plays at top-ranked Southern California on Saturday.