Coach's Corner

Just when Husky fans thought that there would be closure in the latest dark chapter of non-football news, Rick Neuheisel is coming out swinging. Can't say that I blame him.

He certainly has to question the process, the charge, and the legality of his dismissal. I still maintain that his betting in the basketball pool was not grounds for dismissal.

In fact, I'm pretty confident that it won't even draw a major violation by the NCAA. I think he will prevail in court, and coming from a lawyer family, I don't doubt Rick and his counsel's resolve. Rick is a battler and it doesn't appear that he has a lot to lose in challenging both the University and the NCAA.

However, it won't matter in terms of him returning to the UW sidelines to coach. He's now fighting for his family and his settlement, not his job.

But just for fun, I did some research with some lawyers I know and asked for their opinions on the wording of the NCAA manual, specifically with regard to gambling. All agreed that Rick probably did not violate the rule as it is written, based upon the fact that he did not solicit the bet from an organized gambling source. Most also agreed with the interpretation of Dana Richardson, that being the rules do not specify that betting in office pools is illegal.

They further agree that Dana was wrongly accused and neither she nor Rick was properly defended in this case. The attorneys wondered out loud whether the NCAA and the University of Washington were collaborating on this. That's only conjecture, but interesting, nonetheless, if you subscribe to those Oliver Stone conspiracy theories.

The aggressive stance by Rick with regard to his dismissal will prolong the healing process, and is probably the reason why there has been no replacement yet named. Undoubtedly there are still a lot of questions to be asked and answered. The stench coming out of this whole mess threatens to not only envelope Rick, but also Barbara Hedges, Rob Aronson, and the University. It's hard to see a happy ending to this affair.

The marriage is broken and the gloves are coming off. The lawyers for Rick seemed poised to defend and legally back their client in an all-out war with the NCAA as well as the UW Athletic Department. I believe that the reasons for dismissal were probably altered numerous times before finally being adopted into the "termination for cause" case, but that's neither here nor there.

Every statement released by the UW has been carefully orchestrated. Washington appears to be preparing for a legal battle, based on the cautiousness they are showing during the progression.

I should point out that lawyers are of little use when dealing with the NCAA. There are no such things as judicial rights, or alternative interpretations of their rules. They are the 800-pound gorilla and they make the rules and sit wherever they want.

However, it is an entirely different issue when trying to terminate a contract, especially from a State owned and operated institution like the University of Washington.

Bill Saum, the NCAA Director for agents, gambling, and amateur activities, was quoted saying, "The gambling rule is not vague."

I beg to differ. It is extremely vague and does not mention "pools" of this nature, while at the same time specifies that the wager must be solicited and can't be with an established gambling outlet (i.e., a bookie, casino, parley card, or organization). If Coach had gone to Vegas or had bet through a bookie, then he would have committed a major violation.

If all of the facts were in, what Neuheisel did would normally warrant a minor violation that would normally draw a secondary reprimand.

However, we are talking about Rick Neuheisel, a guy that the NCAA has been just waiting to step out of line. Well, he did, and now here we are.

With all of the casinos, lotteries, poker houses, race tracks, and pull-tabs available, I can pretty much guarantee you that gambling by players, coaches, and administrators takes place at every college in America.

By no means am I trying to imply that Coach is innocent of any wrongdoing. But he did admit his fault after a recess with the NCAA investigators.

There appears little chance that Rick will ever get his job back, but the settlement may be contested for months or years. The question of "just cause" becomes paramount in this case and anything short of a major infraction would be hard for the University to defend. As far as lying is concerned, to my knowledge Rick has almost always come forward and admitted the truth be it after the fact or not. Consequently, he has been honest in his disclosures by eventually telling the truth in all cases.

Grounds for dismissal? Is a lie still "on the books" if you correct it with the truth later? That is probably what is being decided. As I said, there are still a lot of questions and answers for both sides in this battle for truth and justice. Washington will undoubtedly receive far kinder treatment from the NCAA by parting ways with their coach. I think everyone knows this.

Unfortunately, these open wounds can erode the team. As a former coach, I'm just banking on the fact that kids are usually very resilient and once practices begin this summer they will actually use this as a rally cry, but the healing needs to start, and soon.

You can bet that these kids will be thinking of Coach Neu when they line up to play the defending national champions. Hopefully they'll play as hard, if not harder, for Keith Gilbertson.
Dawgman.com columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the Dawgman.com staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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