Cloud Over UW Athletics Will Lift

Hopefully within the next month, the threatening cloud of sanctions that has hung over Husky Athletics will finally move south to somewhere else - like maybe Eugene or Los Angeles. It seems like it has been hovering over Seattle for almost a decade and a half. Ever since the Billy Joe Hobert story broke in 1993, the Huskies have been squarely in the cross-hairs of both the NCAA and Pac-10.

Just this past week alone, Head Football Coach Keith Gilbertson has been meeting with upper campus powers and recently-retired Athletic Director Barbara Hedges in an effort to fight the latest allegations of gambling and improper booster contact during recruiting visits.

Now I would be a little surprised if either issue warrants even the slightest of considerations. Two of the people most involved are former Head Football Coach Rick Neuheisel and Hedges.

Neuheisel has already been fired and Hedges has retired. Still, Coach Gilbertson is more than just worried about the final judgment of the NCAA, which is scheduled to have a hearing with all the Husky "mucky mucks" - including both Gilbertson and Hedges - within this next week or so.

There is no question that Neuheisel's betting large sums of money in an off-campus basketball pool was the key violation that triggered the resulting investigation, subsequent hearings and potential sanctions.

Just as the Hobert loan opened a can of worms, so has the basketball "betting". Gilbertson's participation in a $5 office pool seems a bit trite to even make issue of, but then again, "lack of institutional control" seems to preclude all other minor infractions. That charge in itself is just a catch-all phrase for not having any specific charges that could be proven severe enough to punish a school.

Unlike the Hobert situation - in which the UW administration rolled over and exposed everything (by order of the UW president himself) – the school is prepared to fight. They have every intention of showing that steps have been taken to prevent future violations of NCAA rules, regardless of their ambiguity.

Easier said than done.

You see, the rules are always changing and it is almost impossible to avoid some kind of violation without even trying or knowing about it.

I know for a fact that Washington was not the only college in America to have had basketball pools for that tournament. I know for a fact that the alumnus in question made no recruiting pitch to any of the recruits while on a boat trip during their official visits.

Still, when you are in the cross-hairs, you had better be careful and diligent with respect to any infraction, no matter how minor.

One of the real sad outcomes is the impression that Barbara Hedges will be remembered most for the sad transgressions of this past year and not for any of the many great things she accomplished during her years of service to the athletic department. She greatly changed the physical face of the department and yet history never really does justice to those caught in scandals. It doesn't make any difference if you are innocent or not, once you are connected with something bad it always seems to taint your reputation.

Consequently, the upcoming hearing will do much to vindicate her tenure. Perhaps the local sports scene will treat her kindly in the future as a result? We will see.

All this begs the question - why is it always Washington? Why doesn't Oregon, UCLA, USC or the Cougars ever get investigated? Well, the head of the NCAA is none other than a former Oregon president. The Los Angeles market and success of those two schools is paramount to the Pac-10, and places like Pullman and Corvallis are too far off the beaten track for anyone to even begin an investigation. Besides, we all know that Washington is the "Evil Empire to the North", just as any place Jerry Tarkanian happened to be.

The NCAA does pick on schools. At least that seems to be the case with previous offenders. Alabama is in the same cross-hairs but their violations involved money and deliberate attempts to break the rules. UCLA's softball program and WSU's baseball and track programs did much the same when they deliberately tried to stretch scholarship limitations.

Did you notice that UCLA won the national championship in softball again yet were never penalized when they were caught red-handed falsifying an Australian pitcher their previous championship? How about Cincinnati and California basketball teams getting caught red-handed paying players yet still getting to go to the tournament? I don't get it.

What about all the violations uncovered at Ohio State with Maurice Clarett? It just seems so trivial to be hassling the Huskies over small-time basketball pools.

Also coming up in June is both the major league baseball draft and the NBA basketball draft. The first will tell the Huskies the fate of their best football recruit from this past signing period. Matt Tuiasosopo was drafted by Seattle in the third round Monday, and depending on how much money he is offered is liable to be moving on to a lucrative career in baseball. This doesn't mean Washington will necessarily lose him for good, as he can always come back and play like Drew Henson did at Michigan or even Chris Weinke at Florida State.

The NBA draft is not until the end of June, but it too will decide the fate of Nate Robinson, arguably the most exciting Husky in either football or basketball. Nate must pull his name from consideration by June 17th and is currently competing at the Chicago pre-draft camp, testing the market and his potential for the pros. Should he not turn professional it would certainly be a great boost to Husky basketball and maybe even football.

June could do a lot to get the Dawgs out from under the cloud but certainly the outcome of the NCAA hearings will have the most bearing on the overall future of the program.

We should also know in June who the new athletic director will be and it is starting to look more and more like Chris Hill, the current athletic director at Utah. Hill, who has connections and experience at the Olympic level of competition, is a good bet.


Let's not use the term "bet". This development alone is going to have a significant impact on the future of all Husky sports.

June camps will do much to determine the evaluation of prospective football players as well. There is no question that performance in camps determines many early offers and the Huskies have always used their camps well to evaluate local talent. Besides, any kid who comes to your camp is usually somewhat interested in your school.

Considering all the things that could happen this month, I think maybe I'll just check out and come back after the 4th of July and find out what the future will bring. Obviously, I have no control over any the happenings, so I may as well continue to concentrate on my garden and my chickens.

Happy June. Top Stories