Quick Quacks

VINDICATED… AS DEFINED BY A LAWYER <p> The Rick Neuheisal/University of Washington episode of CourtTV was resolved in the only way it logically could, with a settlement announced prior to the case being sent to the jury.

The financial consequences are along the lines of the original claim, the University agreed to forgive the $1.4 million loan it had made as a housing allowance when the contract was originally signed and was callable if Neuheisal did not fulfill an eight-year term with the Huskies.

The NCAA will also pony up substantially, to the tune of $2.5 of the $4.5 million total awarded to the plus side of Neuheisal's net worth. By withholding from the defense new policy documentation that required advance notice regarding the nature of their inquiry a mistrial was probable. This policy was not followed though it was to have been implemented prior to the investigator's meeting with the Washington coach.

The NCAA's failure to perform two key obligations in not adhering to their internal by-laws and with their civic obligation in a legal proceeding - whether true oversight or a nod and a wink - is a very damaging blow to the credibility of the governing body of collegiate athletics.

Logic would dictate this settlement was available to both parties sometime last summer, but ego and position aren't ingredients useful to rational thought processes. Obviously, this was no exception.

Though Neuheisal repeatedly (eight times by one count) invoked his "vindication" in light of the settlement, one would have to accept a very narrow view of that term in order to agree with his position. Yes, the University and the NCAA were found to be at fault for not following their published procedure. In a fashion approximating that of a street criminal who is released from charges because the arresting officer didn't submit the appropriate paperwork,a verdict of guilty as charged is a residual in the minds of most observers whatever the monetary reward. The compensation is more appropriately viewed as a consequence of the chaotic business practices and policies in place within the Husky athletic department during those salad days of recent Rose Bowl glory and future Rose Bowl/BCS/National Championships to be had.

Had the NCAA and the University been more disciplined in their business practices and personnel policies, I have no doubt the University's justified termination finding would have been upheld by the court. When you throw the first stone, you best be certain your own house is in order. It was their collective error not recognizing the Pandora's Box such a trial would prove to be in terms of press coverage and public perception.

In some general sense they must have recognized it existed, though clearly did not understood it is impossible to retain any true control of your destiny once that box is opened. Making sure everything inside Pandora's box is held up for all to see is exactly what defense lawyers are paid to do in civil proceedings, and thus is the result.

For Neuheisal's part, one would think anyone of his position finding himself in a room with a NCAA investigator would know – make that KNOW – the investigator won't be asking ANY questions he does not already have the answer to. With that as a given, any denial of participation in the college basketball tournament pool would only complicate the situation. Serious error in judgment coach., but decidedly not the last that was made as this case harshly illustrates.

No one escaped and no one was vindicated. Barbara Hedges is now the former athletic director, Dana Richards is now the former Compliance Director, and of course Neuheisal is the former head football coach.

Several times during the press conference after the settlement was announced, Neuheisal stated his hope was that he would someday be extended another opportunity to coach at the collegiate level. Much conversation holds that in the next couple of seasons, a program that finds itself needing a new coach and a turnaround of fortunes will be tempted to give him a call.

I don't share that view. A wrongful termination suit is a red flag any future employer will have a very difficult time reconciling with their desire to bring in a new coach. They just fired the previous one after all, and it may become necessary to fire the next one too.

Once an administration reaches the point of making a change the very last thing it wants is for the exit interview to be conducted on 24/7 satellite/cable networks. "Only God can forbid that happen to us, but I'll make damn sure it don't happen to us with HIM!!!"

Right or wrong? It is neither, it is what it is.

More to the point, both the University of Colorado and now at UDub, the football programs were experiencing a noticed slide in performance in the year or two preceding Neuheisal's exit. Both programs are years away from reestablishing themselves to the levels of performance they routinely enjoyed prior to his tenure. To my mind that alone should give any potential employer – no matter how desperate the situation may appear to be – a large dose of skepticism about Neuheisal as the best option available, however polished his sales skills.

Were I his attorney, my advice would be to keep a low profile and learn to enjoy the NFL.

Were I Shakespeare, I'd be able to identify a Mercutio in the bunch who could say "a pox on both your houses."


The Lady Ducks may have felt slighted by the selection committee in assigning them a 10th seed. Any affront is quickly mitigated in placing the Ducks in the western bracket, where the first two games are to be played at Bank of America Arena on the campus of the University of Washington. Arizona State, another Pac-10 court, would be the destination were they to advance to the second weekend of play.

In tournament play a small amount of familiarity or comfort can be leveraged into a serviceable advantage. Though the Ducks didn't play particularly well in their two conference appearances in those facilities, they will be dealing with fewer unknowns and distractions than will the teams who are coming in from other conferences. With Arizona State in the same bracket, though opening their bracket in Fresno, a Pac-10 regional final is a possibility on the Sun Devils home floor.

To get there the Ducks will have to navigate a number of formidable opponents; TCU to open, most likely Baylor on the second day and the survivor of four solid teams in a regional semi-final match-up. If you play defense, rebound and make your free throws you are generally able to find a way to win from there.

Till next time…

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