Lawyers confident of AD's mistakes

Rick Neuheisel has officially appealed the University of Washington for his job back, his attorneys announced Thursday afternooon at a press conference in downtown Seattle. Bob Sulkin and Jerry Crawford spelled out exactly what took place earlier in the day, when they met with Washington Athletic Director Barbara Hedges and Karin Nyrop from the state's Attorney General's office.

The two hour meeting, held in Hedges' office earlier Thursday, was a chance for Sulkin and Crawford to give Hedges' their defense of Neuheisel. "We made a presentation," Sulkin said. "We asked them if they had any questions of us and they politely declined to ask us any questions.

We asked them a few questions, but didn't get any answers," added Crawford. "What we hoped to do today is set the record straight. And we'll start to let the people of Washington see that Rick Neuheisel has been denied due process. He has been denied fundamental fairness with his job, and in fact has been denied basic human decency in the way these allegations were processed."

At the heart of Neuheisel's defense is a two-pronged attack toward NCAA Bylaws 10.1 and 10.3.

Here's Bylaw 10.1.
10.01.1 Honesty and Sportsmanship.
Individuals employed by (or associated with) a member institutionto administer, conduct or coach intercollegiate athletics and all participating student-athletes shall act with honesty and sportsmanship at all times so that intercollegiate athletics as a whole, their institutions and they, as individuals, shall represent the honor and dignity of fair play and the generally recognized high standards associated with wholesome competitive sports.

Unethical conduct by a prospective or enrolled student-athlete or a current or former institutional staff member (e.g., coach, professor, tutor, teaching assistant, student manager, student trainer) may include,but is not limited to, the following: (Revised: 1/10/90, 1/9/96, 2/22/01)
( a ) Refusal to furnish information relevant to an investigation of a possible violation of an NCAA regula-tion when requested to do so by the NCAA or the individual's institution;( b ) Knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts for a prospectiveor an enrolled student-athlete;
( c ) Knowing involvement in offering or providing a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete an improper inducement or extra benefit or improper financial aid; (R e v i s e d : 1 / 9 / 9 6 ) ( d ) Knowingly furnishing the NCAA or the individual's institution false or misleading information con-cerning the individual's involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of anNCAA regulation; or
( e ) Receipt of benefits by an institutional staff member for facilitating or arranging a meeting between astudent-athlete and an agent, financial advisor or a representative of an agent or advisor (e.g., "runner"). (Adopted: 1/9/96)

The meat of 10.1 as it pertains to Washington's termination case against Neuheisel revolves around a conversation Neuheisel and Hedges had with NCAA officials on June 6th of this year. During that meeting, Hedges characterized Neuheisel's reaction to the officials' questions regarding gambling as being 'blindsided' but he later fully disclosed the information the NCAA was looking for.

"There has never been a coach that has been sanctioned for what Rick Neuheisel has done under 10.1," Sulkin said. "He was completely forthcoming on that very first day. Barbara Hedges said so. Barbara Hedges said he was treated unfairly.

"Rick Neuheisel answered the questions carefully and precisely. And when confronted with misleading information, extraordinarily misleading information, information I can't go into right now, people do exactly what Rick did. And I feel it was appropriate. And after that meeting he talked with a lawyer, said, 'This is my story, is there a problem with this?' and he said 'No' and he went back in and said everything.

"What he did, I think, was extraordinary, quite the contrary to others who, within the University of Washington, are coaches that have misled the NCAA for over a week or so. And no action was taken on a 10.1 violation against them.

"Here you have a coach that's confused, gets his answers fixed by a lawyer, and goes back. And maybe the only thing he can be accused of is not getting up earlier and walking out.

"That is clearly not a basis for firing this man, period. And furthermore, we feel that the NCAA has weighed in inappropriately on the subject."

Crawford said that, until this process is completed, neither Neuheisel, nor his counsel, can talk about the details regarding Neuheisel's June 4th meeting with the NCAA. That would be an NCAA violation.

"It would be helpful for us if we had the tape of the way that subject (gambling) was introduced by the NCAA," he added. "But apparently the same person that updates the NCAA website is also the one that's responsible for taking care of the tapes.

"It no longer exists."

Crawford did not know if the tape had been destroyed accidentally or if the recording ever existed in the first place due to a possible malfunction of the recording device.

Later, during the June 12th press conference announcing Neuheisel's termination with cause, Hedges backtracked on her initial statements somewhat, saying Neuheisel hadn't been as initially forthcoming as she would have liked him to be.

There are some very good reasons for that, Neuheisel's lawyers claim.

"The first part to this argument surrounding 10.1 has to do with the memo sent out by Dana Richardson on March 13th of this year," Sulkin began. "We know without question that Rick Neuheisel saw that memo. We know because he doesn't get his email. His secretary (Liz Zelinski) gets it. She sorts it depending on importance, and then she would meet with Rick to talk about them."

Sulkin's assertions are backed up by a declaration from Zelinski. "On Thursday, March 13, 2003, I received an e-mail from Dana Richardson that went to all people in the Athletic Department. I know I received the e-mail for Rick because I still have it on my computer. I considered that e-mail to be important because it was from Dana Richardson about NCAA rules. All communications I receive from Dana Richardson are of the highest priority."

Zelinski also stated in the declaration that she believed Peggy Watson, Neuheisel's first secretary, had the exact same e-mailing system set up, and that Watson had shown Neuheisel the intial gambling memo sent out by Dana Richardson in March of 1999, and understood it to allow betting pools outside the ICA not created by him.

Later, on March 23rd, Richardson followed up on the infamous 'memo' with an e-mail to Rob Aronson, Faculty representative to the Athletic Department, and also a professor at the UW Law School. Richardson wanted Aronson's advice on whether or not her interpretation of Bylaw 10.3 regarding gambling was too 'wishy-washy'.

"In other words," Richardson wrote. "...they don't say "You can't gamble" because technically that's not what the NCAA regs say, but I wonder if it's better to say that. Your thoughts?"

Aronson's response backed Richardson's initial assertion that small betting pools were well within reason. "When people from all over the country are putting a dollar in an office pool on the NCAA tournament, we lose credibility if we suggest that it is horrible and should be banned for all student-athletes...otherwise we appear to be moralizing in what is a hazy area."

This went to the heart of Neuheisel using Richardson's interpretation as gospel when he involved himself in a similar-type pool, albeit one that was not organized him and done outside of intercollegiate athletics.

Move back to the June 4th meeting with the NCAA. When the officials asked about his participation in the pool, Hedges came to Neuheisel's defense, saying it was nothing more than a neighborhood Calcutta.

"But the line of questioning concerned Rick, so he contacted Tom Bagan," Sulkin said. "He said, 'Tom, they are claiming that there's an issue somehow with the pool. I know I saw something that's out there saying that it's OK to do this."

In a declaration, Bagan acknowledges that this conversation occured. He also goes on to state that after his conversation with Neuheisel, he contacted Jerry Nevin, current director of operations for the football team, and Nevin told Bagan that a document did exist proving Neuheisel's activity to be appropriate with the compliance office's interpretation of Bylaw 10.3.

"On June 6, 2003, Rick Neuheisel and I met with Barbara Hedges at her office. Among other things, she told us that Rick had two choices, to resign or be terminated for cause. She stated that the reasons for termination were due to violations of NCAA Rule 10.3 and 10.1. Rick said "10.1?" Barbara Hedges calmed Rick down and said, "It was not my idea. I did not want to include that." Rick then asked, "well then, why did you include it?" Barbara's response was that Karin insisted. Karin is Karin Nyrop, an attorney with the Attorney General's Office at the University of Washington."

Sulkin went on to state that Neuheisel 'unequivocally' had the right to rely on Richardson's memo. "There are three compliance officers at the University of Washington, and all are lawyers. I doubt the University would be paying them what they are paying them if a coach could not rely on what they said."

He furthed bolstered that claim by showing 13 different letters by Division-1 coaches, all backing the assertion that following compliance is absolutely essential to the job performance of a head coach. Included were letters from Joe Paterno (Penn State, Mike Bellotti (Oregon), Ron Turner (Illinois), Jim Tressel (Ohio State), Tom Cable (Idaho), Chris Scelfo (Tulane), Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin), Lou Holtz (South Carolina), Jeff Tedford (California), Sonny Lubick (Colorado State), Dan McCarney (Iowa State), Jeff Bower (Southern Mississippi) and Mack Brown (Texas).

McCarney's was brief and to the point. "I definitely have a right to rely on my compliance officer at Iowa State University for accurate information and interpretations."

Brown's was similarily short, but sweet. "When our Football Office receives a ruling in writing from our Compliance Director, we feel that we are able to proceed with that interpretation."

Sulkin did confirm that they, along with Neuheisel, solicited the support from said coaches. "And in every case they agreed with us," he said. "The only time a coach did not send a letter is if their Athletic Director asked them not to."

"Any statement, or allusion by the University of Washington that Rick Neuheisel was out of bounds in what their own compliance officer said, is completely false," Sulkin added.

"Rick Neuheisel knew about the Richardson memo on June 4th and he had it on June 5th. He didn't talk about the memo until later because Barbara Hedges asked him not to. He only disclosed it because the University, on June 7th, disclosed the existance of that memo, but excluded a portion of that memo that permitted what he did. And of course what happened in the press is that it looked like Rick had just found the memo on June 7th, which wasn't true. He knew about it on the 4th, had it on the 5th and held it at the request of the University."

Then Sulkin brought out what he called the 'Smoking Gun' - a memo, dated 'June 20, 2003' sent out by Hedges to the ICA department. In that memo, it states that "Regardless of anything else you may have read or heard, from this day forward it is the department's firm policy that no betting activities of any kind (including betting pools) on intercollegiate athletics events will be permitted by any coach or staff employee of Intercollegiate Athletics."

"If that memo had been sent out on March 13 of this year, we would not be here today," Sulkin said. "Period."

He further admitted that Hedges correctly interpreted 10.3 in the June 20th memo and that Richardson's interpretation was a citing of a rule that was '6 years old'. And as of June 7th, the NCAA's own website also had the rule incorrectly posted.

"We have presented to the University of Washington throughout this whole process...names and phone numbers of experts in the NCAA infractions process," Crawford said. "We have relayed their view to Barbara Hedges and Karin Nyrop, that there is no violation of 10.1 in an instance where a coach tells everything there is to be known on the first day.

"So it really doesn't matter to us whether or not Barbara Hedges wanted to include 10.1. We've got years of case precedent in the NCAA, and no coach has ever been sanctioned for unethical conduct under facts similar to the ones in this case.

"And as of today, we could not get an answer to the question of whether in fact they had followed up with these experts. And I'm talking about people that have either served the NCAA in the infractions process or people that have served on committee structures, including the infractions committee of the NCAA.

"And as of a few days ago, we began hearing back from these people, saying they have never even heard from the University of Washington after we had provided names and numbers to the University."

With regard to Rule 10.3, Crawford echoed Sulkins comments about Neuheisel having every right to rely on the March 13th memo sent out by Dana Richardson, a memo affirmed by Rob Aronson.

Here's Rule 10.3, as stated on the NCAA web site.

Staff members of a member conference, staff members of the athletics department of a member institutionand student-athletes shall not knowingly: ( R e v i s e d : 4/22/98 effective 8/1/98)
( a ) Provide information to individuals involved in organized gambling activities concerning intercollegiate athletics competition;
( b ) Solicit a bet on any intercollegiate team;
( c ) Accept a bet on any team representing the institution;
( d ) Solicit or accept a bet on any intercollegiate competition for any item (e.g., cash, shirt, dinner) that has tangible value; or (Revised: 9/15/97)
( e ) Participate in any gambling activity that involves intercollegiate athletics or professional athletics, through a bookmaker, a parlay card or any other method employed by organized gambling. (R e v i s e d :1/9/96, 1/14/97 effective 8/1/97)

That memo, in Crawford's opinion, would have been enough on it's own to pass muster with the NCAA in terms of a possible violation. He then went on to claim that Dana Richardson's interpretation was correct and that Rob Aronson's reaction to her interpretation of 10.3 was also correct.

"Bill Saum (NCAA's director of Gambling enforcement) has stated publically that they are relying, in their allegations, on 10.3 (e)," Crawford said. "An interview on the Mike and Mike show with him immediately comes to mind.

"I would ask the people of Washington this question. Does that refer to participation in a pool like 'Bracketville'? Something the NCAA heralds on the announcement of the brackets? Or does that refer to illegal gambling activity?

"I think it clearly is the latter and nothing of that sort occured in this instance."

Crawford further stated that because of this case, he expects the NCAA will either outlaw pools entirely or allow them altogether. "Because Professor Aronson was right when he said this rule does not prohibit participation in pools.

"And if they have to change the rule in regard to what it says about pools, then there is absolutely no way that Rick Neuheisel could be held responsible for a violation of 10.3 for participating in a pool."

Crawford went on to claim that these same experts that have relayed their opinion on Rule 10.1 would tell the University that 10.3 was never designed to deal with this type of activity, namely betting pools.

"The NCAA, and rightfully so, has said that gambling is a major priority for them," Crawford said. "But when their director for gambling enforcement go out and say, in so many words, that Rick's participation in this pool was worse than coaches that made illegal bets through bookmakers - is an outrage.

"And more importantly, it undermines the credibility of the NCAA's very effort to try and do something important in regard to illegal gambling activities."

Crawford then took dead aim at Saum and others at the NCAA, like President Myles Brand, who have commented on the Neuheisel case in the press. "We have called with our concerns to public statements and private conversations that have occured between the University of Washington and the NCAA," he said.

"Many of these statements have been reckless. They have been wrong. And we are working dilligently with the NCAA in an attempt to correct the misstatements of record, the misstatements of fact and the misstatements of interpretation that have occured up til now."

Sulkin added, "Barbara Hedges made the original decision. I think we delivered a powerful case to her today, but if she wants to take the position that Joe Paterno is wrong, Mike Bellotti is wrong, Jim Tressel is wrong - I can't stop that.

"And if she is going to take the position that Rick Neuheisel didn't have a right to that memo, I can't change her mind. But the fact that she sent the other memo out on June 20th speaks volumes."

During the termination press conference, Hedges acknowledged that Neuheisel's poor judgement and conduct during an interview with the San Francisco 49'ers had much to do with the grounds for his dismissal. But, as Sulkin pointed out, if his conduct was grounds for termination, he would have been fired.

Also, throughout the whole situation regarding the 49'ers, Neuheisel never received one letter of reprimand from the University. It's Sulkin's and Crawford's contention that if he wasn't even reprimanded for his actions, how could his poor judgement be considered a fireable offense?

"On June 6th, that (49'ers) wasn't even in the termination letter," Sulkin said. "It was added afterwards.

"Also, in his contract, which is pretty clear, he had no obligation to disclose to her any communication or job interviews with professional teams. Only college teams."

He added that Rick was asked to keep his conversations with the 49'ers on a confidential basis by the 49'ers. "From what Rick remembers saying to Barbara was, 'Look, all you need to know is that I was playing golf in San Francisco,' meaning 'Barbara, I don't want to put you in this situation that I'm in'. He was trying to protect her.

"Could he have handled it better? Absolutely."

Sulkin also admitted that Rick did lie to the press in an attempt to cover up his interview and that Neuheisel had no interest whatsoever in the 49'ers job.

"He went down to San Francisco as a favor to Terry (Donahue)," Sulkin said. "Of course the job had some appeal, but it just wasn't something he wanted to do. And as it's been reported, within 4 minutes Bill Walsh knew Rick Neuheisel wasn't interested in the job. He wasn't and he showed it."

"It is very, very common, in instances like these, for requests for confidentiality to occur in general," Crawford added. "Because no institution or professional franchise wants to announce naming of a new coach after it's been publically discussed that they've previously offered the job to one or more people.

"But however you want to characterize the San Francisco 49'ers situation, it was never a basis for termination," Sulkin concluded. "Because if it was, he would have been fired for that.

"What is at the core of this is 10.3 and whether or not Rick Neuheisel had the right to rely on an email sent to him on March 13th of 2003.

"We have offically appealed for Rick Neuheisel's job. He is still suspended with pay pending the appeal."

There is a secondary appeal with UW assistant vice president for university relations Norm Arkans the lawyers can use if their appeal with Hedges is unsuccessful. Top Stories