Washington fights back

Washington Interim President Lee Huntsman took time Tuesday to address ongoing issues with the school's athletic department at Parrington Hall's Forum. Huntsman was candid in his assessment of various reports, reviews and responses, noting that the school failed miserably in protecting student-athletes from potential health issues regarding doctors and trainers who dispensed various drugs in a reckless manner.

"It's been a time of unusual problems," Huntsman said about his short, but jam-packed tenure as Washington's President. He has dealt with the termination of Huskies football coach Rick Neuheisel, NCAA violations of many sorts (March Madness pools, boat rides, etc...), abuse by doctors and trainers specific to Washington's softball program, as well as various organizational reviews, including an outside compliance review that was just made public Tuesday.

The 34-page review, written by The Compliance Group, provides an assessment of Washington's compliance efforts in the area of rules education, continuing eligibility and monitoring of financial aid awards. They also reviewed Washington's athletic department organizational structure, including how the compliance office is run, the role of the Faculty Athletics Representative, procedures followed concerning possible NCAA violations and how rules are interpreted.

Rob Aronson, the school's current FAR, is at the end of his second five-year term. Pat Dobel, Professor of Public Affairs, Evans School of Public Affairs and Adjunct Professor of Political Science, will replace Aronson as Washington's FAR.

The Compliance Group's report offered up roughly thirty-eight different recommendations to the University, some of which have already been instituted.

Huntsman said that there was nothing new to report on the lawsuit brought by former coach Neuheisel, although interim athletic director Dick Thompson said that because it's a tort claims case, the cost of the suit will be handled by the athletic department, not the school.

A Pac-10 investigation into violations is complete and the conference has accepted Washington's self-imposed sanctions for involvement in small office betting pools and inadvertent contact with a booster on recruiting boat trips.

"The most important thing is that the Pac-10 did not find a failure to monitor," Huntsman said.

The NCAA investigation into the same issues is ongoing, and the school's response was sent Monday. Huntsman said the school is 'moving mountains' to try and accomodate the NCAA's schedule. Because of the June 11th date for their hearing in Indianapolis, many UW officials will not be able to take part in commencement ceremonies.

Also another process currently under way is the school's NCAA recertification process, one that happens on a 7-year cycle. The review process for certification, including three review committees and evaluations by outside review, takes roughly a year and a half to complete.

Huntsman has also gone about the 'rejuvination' of the Academic Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, and has also put together a two-person 'culture review', in which he hopes the review will 'take the temperature' of Washington's student-athletes on a variety of subjects. "I want to see if our student-athletes are getting a wholesome balance," Huntsman said.

The two people that have been hired by Washington to conduct this review are Tulsa President Bob Lawless and Former NCAA President Gene Corrigan.

The culture of Washington's student-athlete is at the core of what transpired with the Huskies' softball program under Teresa Wilson, the meat of Tuesday's press conference.

By December of 2003, Huntsman was satisfied that at least three issues had come out of Washington's own internal investigation into the activities of Dr. William Scheyer and trainer Craig Moriwaki.

1. Both Scheyer and Moriwaki had improperly dispensed various drugs, including banned substances.
2. Head Coach Wilson created an environment for that activity to happen.
3. Management in the athletic department failed to recognize the seriousness of the issue, and when they did they didn't properly follow up on any actions that were taken.

One thing that was also discovered during Washington's internal investigation of their softball program was that they over-extended the number of hours the players are allowed each week to practice. Per NCAA Bylaw, student-athletes are only allowed a maximum of 20 hours per week to practice. It was found that from 2000 to 2003, as well as through the fall of 2003, the Husky softball team violated the rule by a combined 36.5 hours.

The school self-reported the violations to the Pac-10 on March 24. The penalty was to reduce the number of practice hours by double the amount, for a total of 73 hours. Starting this February, the penalty is being enforced through the end of the team's regular-season schedule. They will also delay the start of their 2004 campaign by three days will reduce the daily practice time from four hours to three during the entire fall season.

The facts of the investigation make it seem as if former athletic director Barbara Hedges and senior associate athletic director Marie Tuite allowed Wilson, as well as current co-head coach Scott Centala, unfettered power to run her program as she wanted to. Hedges, in a prepared statement, continues to assert that she had no knowledge as to the seriousness of what was taking place under her watch.

There was no comment from anyone at Washington on the lawsuit filed Monday by Wilson, claiming sex discrimination, among other things.

Centala, as well as Tuite, have been reprimanded as a result of Washington's internal investigation. But Centala will not be reassigned, the fate Wilson suffered during the early stages of the investigation. The process for hiring a permanent head coach is already under way,

"It's a different order of magnitude," Aronson said when asked why Wilson was reassigned and Centala wasn't. "This was Teresa Wilson's program and she was ultimately responsible for it. She was supportive of Dr. Scheyer and wanted him in the softball program.

"Also, you have to take into consideration the timetable when these things occurred. The softball season was imminent, and we wanted to make sure our student-athletes had the coaching resources necessary for a chance to have a successful season."

Included in Tuesday's documents was a prepared statement by Hedges regarding the softball program. "Despite the claims of some individuals that they verbally advised me that they were concerned about the activities of Dr. Scheyer and Craig Moriwaki, and despite the claims reached by the drafters of this report, I can state unequivocally and honestly that I did not know that our student athletes were subjected to questionable or unacceptable medical practices," she said.

"Had I known otherwise, I would have taken every measure at my disposal to end these troublesome practices."

One move never made by the athletic department during Hedges' tenure was to place the softball program under the same medical umbrella that now covers all sports at Washington, what Huntsman characterized as an 'essential failure'. At one point, the softball program was the only program at the University that was not under the purview of the University's Medical School.

That has since changed as a corrective action by the school.

"The welfare of our student athletes is a fundamental responsibility, and we failed," said Huntsman, matter-of-factly. "We are lucky that no one was seriously harmed. Of all the issues we've dealt with recently, this one disturbs me the most."

Detailed in the report are instances of softball players playing games while 'high', as well as Scheyer and Moriwaki dispensing drugs such as birth control pills, Ritalin and 'Dose Packs', known to be a corticosteroid, without an examination. Even pills like NoDoz, routinely given to 'pep' up a player, has a high enough dose of caffeine to be considered a banned substance by the NCAA.

How did this happen? The softball case isn't the first time Washington has been warned about misuse and improper care.

Health care issues surrounding UW doctors and trainers have been documented since 1993, when the State Department of Health Board of Pharmacy notified Hedges of several concerns they had over the UW athletic training room, including initiating drug therapy without first seeing a doctor, and keeping prescription-only drugs on hand without proper security or DEA registration.

Add to those issues the atmosphere surrounding Wilson's program, and you have an environment where no one was willing to step up and blow the whistle on the abuse that was happening.

"Whether or not it was her intent, Wilson kept the players in a constant state of fear," states the panel that was put together to investigate the activities of Scheyer and Moriwaki.

The 32-page report is a damning testament to Wilson's demanding style and her iron rule over the softball program. "A number of players specifically spoke of their fear, and one trainer referred to it as the players being 'brainwashed'," the panel continues.

"...It is evident from the totality of the Panel's interviews with students and staff that Wilson ran a program that was psychologically and physically demanding, beyond the level acceptable for intercollegiate athletes ... and in violation of NCAA rules..."

As of right now, Aronson is convinced the NCAA will not be seriously involved with the Scheyer investigation, other than to address the two issues that directly affect them - the breaking of the 20-hour rule and the distribution of banned substances.

"We feel very good about the fact that there was no competitive advantage gained by the use of those substances," he said. "But since they were banned, it was a violation of NCAA rules, so we had to let them know about that."

He also added that during the interviews of players, no player knew that either Scheyer or Moriwaki was issuing them banned substances.

"I was surprised how few people publically discussed the situation, for whatever reason," said Aronson. "It was never brought to the attention to those in authority, which is very disappointing."

The panel puts a finer point on it. "While some players exercised better judgement than Dr. Scheyer and Moriwaki, by not using narcotics for headaches, to get to sleep, or simply when they were not told what the medication was, Wilson's total dominance, unwillingness to accept dissent, and negative treatment of those who disagreed with Dr. Scheyer or Moriwaki, caused the players not to challenge Dr. Scheyer or Moriwaki directly, or complain about them to Wilson."

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