There is Opportunity amid this Mess

Looking at Rick Neuheisel's distraught face on the TV, I had two equally powerful emotions collide in my mind and vie for control.

On one hand, I felt so disgusted at Neuheisel, at the recklessness of his actions, which have heaped even more turmoil and suspicion upon our beloved football program.

On the other hand, I felt such pity for him and his family, and the look of despair he showed, as we all can relate to that from some point in our lives. As I watched the TV, and in an effort to be fair, my mind went to all the good things he has done in his rocky four-year stint as the Husky head coach. Be it the Curtis Williams situation, or the time spent with terminally ill children, or anything else amid the long list of praiseworthy endeavors that he has been involved with over the years.

There is no question that he is a good man and father, and asset to the community of Seattle.

Ultimately, in my brain, neither emotion really won out. Instead, they both gave way to a powerful feeling of relief. After some time passes and the dust settles, I think that a very positive result can come from this, both for the University of Washington, as well for Rick Neuheisel.

How can this be good for Rick Neuheisel? Simple. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I believe when faced with staring into the abyss, adversity will introduce a man to himself.

Through a brilliantly clever mind and dazzling oratory skills, Rick Neuheisel has always been able to dance on the edge, particularly in regards to rules and regulations. His great sense of humor and lively personality made it all very enjoyable. He was a breath of fresh air to us all. And then he won a Rose Bowl, so despite the dozens of minor violations at Colorado and later on at Washington, he was still the brash, Hollywood hero-- able to escape from harm at the last moment and save the day. There was something about him that could enable a rumor of another minor recruiting violation to dissipate, giving way to the blaring headlines of another brilliant 4th quarter comeback.

But at the completion of his fourth season at UW, Neuheisel's Houdini-like escape abilities were not enough to extract him from the binding realities of an obsessively enforced rule. Gambling is clearly the NCAA hot button, and has been for the past seven years.

Neuheisel's claims that he was unclear about the rule governing pools clearly offended the sensibilities of many Husky fans that otherwise would have still stood by him during this tumultuous time.

Rick Neuheisel and the University of Washington became a square peg in a round hole. He is gone now and he is clearly in shock. The cobra has suddenly bitten the Bombay snake charmer. He has been truly humbled.

I mean this in all sincerity, when I say that this can be a good thing for him. If you combine his outstanding abilities and talents, with a dose of humility, the future should open up exciting new doors for Neuheisel. Certainly he will coach again, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him in politics in a public office someday soon. He could bring a lot to the table and his communication skills are unmatched. We wish him nothing but good luck.

As for Washington, if they announce Keith Gilbertson as the next head coach, I see this as great news. Gilby is not a flash-and-glitter guy. Instead, he is cut from the genuine Husky cloth and would instill a bona fide northwest work ethic into his team and staff. When Dan Cozzetto was named the new offensive line coach, Gilbertson cancelled his vacation plans so that he could work with Cozzetto and bring him up to speed as soon as possible.

On paper, Husky teams have typically been less talented than the L.A. schools. In order to overcome that and win Pac-10 championships, and establish our great tradition, Husky football teams had always out-worked everyone else. Our teams have been built on the sacred pillars of genuine discipline, tough defense, special teams, efficient offense, and limited mistakes.

While I desperately want to beat Ohio State, I also want the UW to be deeply respected by the rest of the Pac-10 and NCAA. I don't just want our opponents to know that when they play Washington, they better strap on that helmet and get ready to have the crap kicked out of them. I also want them to know that they are going to get steamrolled by a first class organization that puts sportsmanship and integrity at the very top of the priority list.

Gilby brings all that and more to the table. If you were to ask me, I would tell you that Washington's chances at defeating Ohio State would increase, if Keith Gilbertson were to be named the new head coach.

Come on Barbara, make it so.
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories