Ex-coach continues testimony Thursday

Updated: February 10, 2005, 1:31 AM ET
Associated Press

KENT, Wash. -- Rick Neuheisel took the stand Wednesday in the trial of his lawsuit against the NCAA and University of Washington, telling jurors about his playing days at UCLA, his once promising coaching career and how he spent the past two seasons away from college football.

The former Huskies coach gave King County Superior Court jurors a biographical overview during his 45 minutes of testimony. In his suit, Neuheisel contends he was unfairly fired in June 2003.

He didn't address the issues central to the case, such as why he participated in high-stakes NCAA basketball pools in 2002 and 2003, nor did he explain why he initially lied to NCAA investigators about it.

Neuheisel had been out of coaching since being fired by Washington before the 2002 season. He was hired last month as quarterbacks coach by the NFL's Baltimore Ravens.

During his testimony Wednesday, he described spending the past two seasons as a volunteer quarterbacks coach at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, handling his son's Pop Warner team and working as an analyst for College Sports TV.

"I was unable to secure a job in the coaching world," he said.

He was to continue testifying on Thursday.

Neuheisel has sat with his lawyers through the trial's opening two weeks.

He seemed at ease on the stand, making eye contact with jurors and smiling often. He talked about going from a walk-on quarterback to Rose Bowl MVP at UCLA and his struggle to earn a law degree as his coaching career was taking off. He also described his swift rise to Colorado head coach in late 1994.

"I was 33. I think at that time I was the second youngest, maybe the third youngest coach in college football," Neuheisel said. "It's very uncommon for a guy to get that kind of opportunity at that age."

"Were you proud?" asked his attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr.

"I was extremely proud -- and nervous," Neuheisel said.

He concluded his Wednesday afternoon testimony by answering questions about how Barbara Hedges, then Washington athletic director, called him in January 1999 to gauge his interest in the Huskies job.

"She said, 'Rick, I have an opening for a head coach. I think you'd be terrific here in Seattle,'" Neuheisel recalled.

Earlier, jurors saw videotaped deposition testimony from two high-ranking NCAA officials: David Price, the NCAA's head of enforcement, and Bill Saum, chief of agents, gambling and amateurism issues.

Neuheisel's lead attorney, Bob Sulkin, asked Price why NCAA officials told Hedges they wanted to discuss recruiting issues with Neuheisel on June 4, 2003, but didn't say they also wanted to ask about his gambling.

Price testified that NCAA investigators had legitimate recruiting questions and asked Neuheisel about them. But when they scheduled the interview, they didn't want to alert Neuheisel or Hedges that the discussion would include gambling.

"We're certainly not required, nor do we normally tell people we're going to interview, about all the areas we want to talk about," Price said.

Saum testified he didn't pursue a tip that Neuheisel had participated in the NCAA basketball auction in 2002 because he didn't think the coach would really take part.

Saum said he received an e-mail from a confidential informant on April 12, 2002. He was told that Neuheisel had bid $5,000 for rights to eventual-champion Maryland in an auction-style NCAA basketball pool.

"I didn't see any way this could be truthful," Saum said. "There was just no way coach Neuheisel would participate in something like this."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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