Neuheisel did not think he was making a bet

Updated: February 17, 2005, 1:59 AM ET
Associated Press

KENT, Wash. -- Former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel testified Wednesday that he did not consider it a bet when he placed $6,400 on the men's NCAA basketball tournaments of 2002 and 2003, so he did not believe he had violated NCAA rules against gambling.

"You were aware from your experience at NCAA Division I schools ... that it was against the rule to place a bet on intercollegiate athletics?" University of Washington lawyer Lou Peterson asked him during cross-examination in Neuheisel's lawsuit against the school and the NCAA.

Neuheisel responded, "Yes, I did know that."

Peterson went on to question Neuheisel's assertion that his participation involved bids, not bets. Peterson asked Neuheisel if he had placed the money at risk.

"I guess in those terms it was," Neuheisel said, "but I did not think of it that way at the time."

"Did you understand you may never see that money again?" Peterson asked.

"Yes, and it didn't concern me. ... I didn't think of it as a bet. It was a friendly pool," Neuheisel said.

He also admitted he didn't know of UW compliance officer Dana Richardson's erroneous e-mail authorizing such pools when he took part.

However, he said the message conveyed by the e-mail was at the back of his mind. "I knew pool participation is not gambling per se," Neuheisel said.

He later admitted he stopped participating in the much-lower-stakes UW interdepartmental pool after his first season in 1999, when the NCAA cracked down on them.

Neuheisel left the stand Wednesday after four days of testimony in the King County Superior Court trial of his lawsuit. Neuheisel contends Washington administrators wrongfully fired him in June 2003 under pressure from the NCAA.

School officials say he was fired for gambling on NCAA basketball and for initially lying about the gambling when questioned by NCAA investigators. He provided full answers to the investigators later the same day.

The pools Neuheisel took part in in 2002 and 2003 were auction-style pools conducted at high-rise office buildings in Bellevue and Seattle. He and others spent thousands of dollars to "own" a team and follow it through to the championship.

During cross-examination by NCAA lawyer John Aslin, Neuheisel said he never read the association booklet "Don't Bet On It," though he oversaw meetings at which the booklets were handed out to players.

The booklet has a section titled "NCAA Rules: No sports wagering allowed" that reads, "You may not place any bet of any sort on any college or professional sports event."

Responding to Aslin's questions, Neuheisel said, "Had I read that, it would have clarified [the rule], though that would have been contrary to the University of Washington memo which says just the opposite."

Neuheisel contends the NCAA investigation of his participation blindsided him and that he was unfairly targeted. Under questioning from Aslin, he said he agreed that gambling threatens the integrity of college sports and that it was fair for the NCAA to investigate him, but said he had quarrels with how it was done.

Neuheisel said he was ambushed, at which point Aslin noted a 1999 NCAA rule that says investigators don't have to share information about investigations with the targeted institution.

The former coach also continued to deny lying to NCAA investigators when he told them he didn't participate in the gambling pools, saying he merely provided incomplete information.

"I did not knowingly furnish false information," Neuheisel said.

Neuheisel also alleged that Barbara Hedges, UW athletic director at the time he was fired, and Karen Nyrop, an assistant state attorney general, offered to try to delay news reports of his untruthfulness if he would agree to settle rather than take his case to court.

Earlier Wednesday, jurors listened to a tape recording of Neuheisel's interview with NCAA investigators on June 4, 2003, during which he repeatedly denied participating in gambling.

On the stand, Neuheisel said he'd tried to phrase his answers "as carefully and as narrowly as I could."

On the tape, he told investigators, "I never placed a bet on any team."

When investigators asked if he had concerns about going to the auctions, he said: "I didn't have any concerns at all. I know we can't gamble. I know that I can't place a bet or anything like that. I was just there watching."

On Tuesday, his third full day on the stand, Neuheisel said he didn't believe the pools were illegal because no money was being retained by a house.

Peterson asked Neuheisel whether he "knew it was possible to wager and win a lot of money?"

"I knew you could do well," answered Neuheisel, who won $4,799 on his $3,610 investment in 2002, and $7,324 on $2,790 in 2003.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press