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Neuheisel says he lied to NCAA to buy time

2/14/2005

KENT, Wash. -- Rick Neuheisel cried on the stand Monday
while discussing his firing as Washington's football coach, being
separated from his former players and the impact on his family and
career.
"It was devastating to my family. It was devastating to me
professionally," he told jurors in the King County Superior Court
trial of his wrongful termination lawsuit. "Everybody out there
was writing stories that I was this gambler."

He admitted he wasn't fully forthcoming when initially
questioned by NCAA investigators about gambling on NCAA basketball,
explaining that he feared implicating himself or harming his
friends.
"I was scared," he testified. "It was very nerve-racking to
me."
Neuheisel is suing the NCAA and the university. He finished his
second full day of testimony and was expected to return to the
witness stand Tuesday. He claims Washington administrators fired
him in June 2003 under pressure from the NCAA.
Neuheisel broke down when he recalled the meeting in which his
boss, Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges, told him he
could resign or be fired. Hedges, who retired in January 2004,
testified earlier in the trail that the main reason for the firing
was dishonesty.
He also cried while recalling the realization that he wouldn't
coach his players any longer -- "My relationship with my players --
that's what I do it for," he said -- and when he described the
impact on his family.
"Having people stare at you like you're a zoo animal," he
said. "I was used to being seen in public, but this was foreign.
... I was being likened to Pete Rose, this guy who was gambling. It
never, ever seemed accurate or fair."
University officials say Neuheisel lied when he denied
interviewing for a head coaching vacancy with the San Francisco
49ers in February 2003, and then lied to NCAA investigators about
taking part in off-campus basketball pools in 2002 and 2003. He
told NCAA investigators the truth later on the same day.
Neuheisel claims he lied about interviewing for the 49ers
because he was honoring that team's demand for confidentiality.
Later Monday, UW lawyer Lou Peterson questioned Neuheisel on
when he learned about a key piece of evidence: an e-mail by a
former Washington compliance officer that mistakenly authorized
gambling in the off-campus NCAA basketball pools.
Neuheisel agreed that he never mentioned the memo during his
June 4, 2003, interview with NCAA investigators, nor during
meetings with Washington administrators as they discussed his fate.
"I didn't recall an e-mail," Neuheisel said. "I just knew in
my head it was OK."
Not until Washington sports information director Jim Daves gave
him a copy of the e-mail late on June 5 did Neuheisel have a
connection, he said, between what he knew he had read somewhere and
a written copy to back it up.
"I was holding it like it was the Holy Grail," he said.
Neuheisel also complained about "many, many, many" comments by
NCAA officials in newspaper articles during the week after his NCAA
interview, when Washington officials were preparing to fire him.
"It gave me no chance," he said.
And he described his difficulties finding work until being hired
as quarterbacks coach of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens last month. He
will earn $250,000 per year, a huge cut from the $1.6 million he
earned in his final year as Washington's coach.
"I made a lot of calls to people I knew. ... Everybody was
afraid because of this gambling thing," he testified.
Neuheisel said NCAA investigators didn't tell him they were
going to ask about gambling during the interview on June 4, 2003,
only about potential recruiting violations.
When those questions came up, he said he lied initially because
he was suspicious of a possible link to organized gambling and
didn't want to implicate his friends. He also admitted he hoped to
buy time until he could talk to a lawyer.
"They had lied to me. I thought they had tried to set me up,"
Neuheisel said. "They told me they came for this minor thing ...
and now they're asking me about organized gambling."
Later that day, Neuheisel admitted his involvement after
consulting an attorney. Jurors listened to tape-recorded excerpts
from the interviews, where he described the pools as "strictly a
buddy-to-buddy type of arrangement."
Investigators also asked for permission to search his bank, home
phone and cell phone records, he said. He refused.
While the coach was being questioned in Seattle on June 4, 2003,
NCAA gambling director Bill Saum in Indianapolis sent an e-mail to
an associate that indicated they should consider advising law
enforcement officials.
Neuheisel said repeatedly he never believed he was doing
anything wrong, since no money went to a house and no bookies were
involved.