KENT, Wash. -- Fired Washington football coach Rick
Neuheisel left a King County courtroom with a $4.5 million
settlement in his lawsuit against the NCAA and university.
Just as importantly, he claimed victory in his 21-month legal
battle and put closure to a dispute that had threatened his
"I feel fully vindicated," Neuheisel told reporters Monday.
"Obviously, they're going to have their stories, too, but I feel
like this is the best scenario. Nobody's nose gets bloodied."
The settlement was announced by Superior Court Judge Michael
Spearman after five weeks of testimony, just as jurors --reportedly
leaning in Neuheisel's favor -- were set to hear closing statements.
It capped a lengthy and bitter legal fight, starting with
Neuheisel's firing in June 2003, that publicly exposed the NCAA and
university to embarrassing administrative gaffes and left
Washington's once-proud football program in tatters.
"I'm elated that it's over. It's been 21 months and it's been
hard," said Neuheisel, who signed autographs for jurors.
Neuheisel will receive cash payments of $2.5 million from the
NCAA and $500,000 from the university. Additionally, the university
agreed not to seek repayment of a $1.5 million loan.
"The legal system works," Neuheisel said. "The players got
together and found an amicable resolution. I'm thrilled to be
Neuheisel's lawyers put the settlement amount at $4.7 million,
saying it included $200,000 in forgiven loan interest. University
officials insisted the settlement included no such provision.
Jurors took a straw poll shortly before they were dismissed and
the tally favored Neuheisel "60-40," one juror, Nikki Peterson, a
commercial insurer in Redmond, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
"I thought everyone was at fault to a certain degree," added
juror Johanna Brackett, 24, a nurse who graduated from Washington
State University last year. She told the newspaper she thought the
settlement was reasonable.
A third juror, Joseph Majack, 55, of Enumclaw, said he would
have favored a judgment that gave Neuheisel nothing except not
having to repay the loan.
"In my mind, (the settlement) was more generous than what would
have come from the jury," Majack said, "but there was plenty of
fault all around."
The genesis for a settlement was a monumental trial development
Feb. 28. NCAA lawyer John Aslin disclosed that the organization
failed to provide Neuheisel's legal team with an updated version of
its bylaws during discovery.
At issue was whether those questioned by NCAA investigators must
be notified of the purpose of the interview. It turned out the NCAA
had amended its bylaws to require such notification six weeks
before Neuheisel's June 2003 interview.
The finding seemed to bolster Neuheisel's argument that NCAA
investigators acted improperly, since they hadn't advised him they
would ask about his gambling in an auction-style pool on NCAA
NCAA president Myles Brand said in a statement Monday that the
organization believes its investigators acted properly. He said
when the bylaw was redrafted, it wasn't intended to be interpreted
However, Spearman decided last week to leave open the
possibility of a mistrial. The judge also ordered restrictions on
how the NCAA could present its case during the trial's final week.
Aslin said that made it more difficult to present an adequate
"In light of everything going on, we felt the appropriate thing
to do was to resolve the case," Aslin said.
Last fall, the NCAA infractions committee found Neuheisel
violated NCAA rules against gambling but didn't sanction him,
citing a memo by Washington's former compliance officer that
mistakenly authorized gambling in off-campus NCAA basketball pools.
University lawyer Lou Peterson said Washington administrators
agreed to the settlement because the school "could settle for less
than 10 percent of the amount sought against us."
"I feel we came out a winner," Peterson said. "There was
never an opportunity to settle this case at any time before last
weekend in any way approaching the settlement that the University
of Washington achieved."
Neuheisel starts his new job next week as quarterbacks coach of
the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. He insisted he bears no resentment
toward Washington or the NCAA, and he even expressed hope he might
coach college football again.
"I hope I have the opportunity," he said. "But I'm focusing
right now on the opportunity to coach Kyle Boller and seeing if the
Ravens can't get to the Super Bowl. It's in Detroit next year. I've
Neuheisel had accused the university of wrongfully terminating
his contract and the NCAA of encouraging Washington administrators
to fire him.
"I have great respect and admiration for the University of
Washington and the NCAA," Neuheisel said. "It was the toughest
decision I've ever made in my life, going to court against them.
"I didn't feel the story was fair or right. I had to stand
up," he said.
The university argued that Neuheisel's contract allowed him to
be fired for acts of dishonesty. School officials said he was fired
for gambling on NCAA basketball, and for lying when first
questioned by NCAA investigators.
In four seasons with the Huskies, Neuheisel had a 33-16 record,
including a Rose Bowl victory in 2001 and a No. 3 national ranking.
He was 33-14 at Colorado, his first head coaching job, from