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Neuheisel tells of courtship by 49ers

2/10/2005 - Washington Huskies

KENT, Wash. -- Rick Neuheisel acknowledged in court Thursday
that he wasn't entirely truthful in early 2003 when he told his
boss at the University of Washington that he'd been contacted about
the San Francisco 49ers' head-coaching vacancy.

Before he flew down to interview for the job in February 2003,
Neuheisel said, he told athletic director Barbara Hedges he had
been contacted by a friend of the 49ers' general manager.

He did not tell her that he had talked extensively with general
manager Terry Donahue, or that Donahue had offered him $3 million a
year to coach the NFL team.

Neuheisel is suing the university and the NCAA in King County
Superior Court, alleging he was wrongly fired from his job as head
football coach in June 2003.

Hedges, who retired in January 2004, testified earlier that the
main reason for the firing was dishonesty. The university has cited
both the 49ers incident and Neuheisel's initial statement to NCAA
investigators on June 4, 2003, that he never bet on college
basketball. Neuheisel recanted later that same day, admitting he
participated in auction-style NCAA basketball pools.

Neuheisel contends the school fired him over the NCAA basketball
gambling, despite evidence that a former university compliance
director had mistakenly authorized such activity in an e-mailed
memo.

On Thursday, he described to jurors the evasive measures he took
to avoid being discovered at the San Francisco hotel where he met
with 49ers officials. As reporters waited in the lobby, Neuheisel
said he followed a bellboy through a series of fire escapes and
service elevators, ducked into a waiting car and hid his face as
the driver left the area.

Then, Neuheisel said, he found an inconspicuous spot behind a
kiosk at the airport, where he called his parents and wife. He told
them things had gone well, but that he did not plan to take the
job.

Unbeknownst to Neuheisel, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter
had overheard the conversation. When the reporter asked him why he
was in San Francisco, Neuheisel pulled a golf ball from his pocket
and said he was there to play golf.

But the truth was out.

Asked Thursday why he had only told Hedges a little bit about
the 49ers contact, Neuheisel said he was trying to strike a balance
between keeping Hedges informed and respecting the confidentiality
requested by the 49ers.

He also contended that Hedges lied as well when she told a
reporter she had not spoken to Neuheisel about the 49ers job. In
fact, Neuheisel testified, they had discussed the job the previous
week.

"She looked at me and said, 'I think you should take the job in
two years,' " he told jurors. Neuheisel said he interpreted her
statement to mean that she intended to retire in two years, a
possibility that made him feel less secure about his future at the
school.

Earlier Thursday, Neuheisel testified about a series of NCAA
infractions when he was Colorado's coach, and his self-reporting in
Seattle when he discovered he'd violated organization rules with
the Huskies.

He began his second day on the stand by telling the court how Washington lured him to Seattle in January 1999 by offering a
seven-year deal at $1 million a year -- a significant increase over
the $600,000-plus he was making at Colorado.

He said he'd been at the school less than a month when he
committed his first NCAA infraction by dispatching coaches to visit
potential recruits at their homes during an association "quiet
day," the Sunday before signings began.

When he learned of the violation, Neuheisel said: "I went to
Barbara Hedges' office and I said, 'I messed up.' I told her I was
sorry, that I couldn't believe I had done it, but that we had to
self-report" the infraction to the NCAA.

Later, trying to impress potential recruits with the Huskies'
importance in Seattle, he improperly showed them video footage of
the team getting a police escort to Husky Stadium. Under
questioning from his attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., Neuheisel said he
received letters of reprimand, admonishment and caution about the
lapses from Hedges.

Responding to his admission about the improper videotape, Hedges
wrote on April 11, 2001, "I appreciate the commitment and
integrity that you have demonstrated with regard to compliance
matters."

When she admonished him a month later for not getting permission
before accepting $38,000 in speaking fees, also an NCAA infraction,
she wrote: "I understand this violation may have been
unintentional on your behalf."

She went on to note that it was extremely important for him to
be familiar with the fine print in the NCAA rule book.