Coach's Corner

As the Neuheisel trial grinds towards its fourth week, it is becoming more and more apparent that he might not have been the only person that played loose around the envelope where truth resides.

The major difference is that he has admitted such, and so therefore is perceived as dishonest and that, in its self, is the grounds why the UW chose to fire or dismiss him.

Or at least that is the current story.

Although I have not been in regular attendance, I have been at the trial four times and have also been dutifully reading other reporter's perceptions. I find that the opinions vary considerably but all those following the trial seem to feel there is plenty of dishonesty to go around.

Each reporter has an opinion but obviously it will be the opinion of the jury who will make the final decision. That is, of course, unless the losing side chooses to appeal, then it might just be the opinion of the judges.

My fellow "Husky Honk", Hugh Millen, has been a regular at the trial and is convinced that Rick Neuheisel had lied so many times that the UW had just "cause" when he was dismissed and therefore he will lose the case. Hugh has listened to all the testimony and admits he does not want his alma mater to lose.

I, however, am not so sure and based upon the testimony and cross examination, it is obvious that the NCAA was dishonest in their approach, and that the UW was dishonest in their "cover up" of the "Richardson Memo". The stories and accounts of how things transpired in the hours and days immediately following the "gambling probe" are vague.

We know that Rick Neuheisel has admitted to at least a couple of lies and he confessed that to the jury. His dishonesty after all was the reason for his being dismissed according to the University and Barbara Hedges testified that the decision to do so was hers without any influence from the NCAA. The acting UW President at the time, Lee Huntsman, says he decided right away that Rick should be fired after his initial denial of the gambling charge. At the very least he was heavily leaning that way based upon the information he was given by Hedges and others.

Was she giving him all the information? And if she was withholding some of the information at that time, was that a lie? She was somewhat evasive about her knowledge of the infamous 49'er lie. Did she or didn't she know Rick was talking to the 49'ers? Did she or didn't she have knowledge of the equally infamous Dana Richardson memo? If she purposely didn't tell President Huntsman all the things she knew, was she not being dishonest with her boss?

Dana Richardson was present at the time of the "gambling probe". She obviously knew about her own memos. Why had she not immediately disclosed that information at the time? Did she or did she not immediately tell Hedges, who was sitting right next to her?

At the end of the first week of the trial, it appeared that Neuheisel was off to an early lead but now it appears that the UW is rallying and that their case is getting stronger. They have already put Barbara Hedges and Jim Daves (the UW Sports Information Director) on the stand, and then followed with UW VP, Norm Arkans. All centered their testimony on the 49'er lies of February 2003 and then the subsequent gambling lies of June, 2003.

Neuheisel's attorney went after Daves strong about his "dishonesty" in not telling the media about the "Richardson memo". Daves defended himself by claiming omission is not lying. But, he essentially admitted he had not revealed the exact contents of the memo to a reporter although he did admit the "memo" existed.

Everyone admits that they knew about the memo but none of them admit to reading it thoroughly at the time it was distributed. There had actually been two such gambling memos but nobody on the UW side could remember or find the first one.

Except Richardson and Neuheisel of course.

President Huntsman, who I think is the clean up hitter for the University, testified that he told Rick Neuheisel immediately after the 49'er fiasco and again later on while on a walk on the beach in Hawaii that he was warning him not to tell another lie. He also said he had been very emphatic about the need for integrity and honesty because Rick was so much in the public light.

Huntsman further indicated that he questioned whether or not Rick had the ethical ability to handle the position he held. Coach Neuheisel's attorney was grilling him when the trial recessed for the weekend.

Regardless, I believe that Lee Huntsman's testimony proves that Rick Neuheisel had been warned on more than one occasion that he could be dismissed for dishonesty. Huntsman is the most "believable" of all the witnesses thus far. He is a stately gentleman who, like Arkans, is an educator, administrator, and scholar. He admitted that he had finally given up on Barbara's guy, and based upon the information he was given, was leaning towards termination once Rick had lied again.

I want to iterate that I am not on anyone's side here.

Well, that was a lie. I'm definitely not on the side of the NCAA.

Other than that, I don't want to see the University get stung for a huge settlement but I do believe Rick should be entitled to some sort of severance. How's that for playing the fence? I believe that the NCAA meant to, and did, influence the firing of Rick Neuheisel. I also believe that the testimony so far shows that members of the NCAA commented publicly before they had completed their investigation, thereby exerted influence over Ms. Hedges who has always been afraid of David Price, the NCAA chief investigator, and the NCAA itself.

If the University wanted to terminate Rick Neuheisel's contract, that is their prerogative. It's just an acceptable part of the profession. Coaches get fired everyday. Most of the time schools or professional teams just write a check and ends or terminates the coach and all assistants.

In this particular case, however, the UW chose to not write the check. In fact, they even called back the 1.5 million dollar loan from Rick so that, not only was he not going to get a buyout, but he was also going to have to write a pay back. They chose to play hardball and rather than walk away. Now Rick has stepped into the batter's box and is taking his swings.

He is doing so as an admitted liar and that could easily be his downfall.

To recap, when Neuheisel was first broadsided by the NCAA for an unannounced ambush about gambling, his immediate response was to deny, deny, deny. It's understandable when one thinks that they are in trouble. He denied that he had taken part in "organized gambling". When faced with mounting evidence, he later reconsidered that same day and admitted he did in fact take part in an auction style pool and he did win a considerable amount of money. He took Barbara Hedges aside and told her so. He also was cooperative with the NCAA in completing their investigation.

Essentially, he told the truth upon further consideration and further conviction. So, does that mean the original "lie" still stays on the books? Who was being dishonest here? The NCAA for obviously deceiving him or Rick for initially denying his involvement?

Unfortunately for Rick, even though he recanted his lie, he violated an agreement he had had with Huntsman to not lie in the first place.

And the NCAA eventually backed off its gambling charge. Why? Because they didn't want to be the primary reason behind Neuheisel's termination.

Because I know some of the principle players in this drama, I know that there are situations where many have been dishonest in the past. The NCAA admits to being dishonest with Rick and springing their "gambling questions" on him under the pretences of recruiting violations.

I also remember Barbara Hedges going to the press in November of 1998 and making a statement that Jim Lambright was the coach and will continue to be the coach and that he was not being fired or replaced. Then exactly one month later, she fired him. Had she lied or merely just changed her mind?

I think she lied.

David Price, the head investigator for the NCAA, has always had it in for Washington. He is the one who I know can't be trusted with anything having to do with the Huskies. It was David Price who, after the Pac-10 threw out all the testimony of a specific player who had an axe to grind with Coach James, then turned around and sent it all the stricken testimony on to the NCAA anyway. That move was what caused the NCAA to double the penalty on the Huskies in 1993.

Price is the "Barney Fife" of NCAA enforcement. He relishes the power associated with his position and I have always believed he assumes guilt first, especially when dealing with coaches and players. He has the classic little man's power trip and has always exercised it when dealing with Barbara Hedges.

I believe Price influenced her decision. Her testimony pretty much confers that she and he talked and that he had advised Hedges or at least had some input on her decision.

Some of which she failed to pass on to Huntsman.

That is the essence of Rick's case against the NCAA, that and their stupid comments while the investigation was still in progress.

Still, to this point the most impressive testimony has come from Lee Huntsman and it is obvious he had had it with Rick Neuheisel.

The trial will continue next week and the NCAA will begin to present their defense. We can expect more dishonesty, especially when they try to cover their tracks and their own memos that openly show their contempt and desire to "get" Rick. The following week will be the finale with final instructions being given to the jury by Judge Michael Spearman who has been magnificent through out the whole trial.

Equally impressive have been the lawyers for both sides. Lou Peterson, the lead attorney for the UW has been very systematic and astute. He is very classy and very direct. Neuheisel's lead attorney, Bob Sulkin, has been equally impressive and really aggressive during cross examination of the UW's witnesses. The whole trial is very interesting but "honestly" the legal world is a whole different arena for me and obviously for the witnesses involved. I highly doubt whether Neuheisel or Hedges will be returned to the stand. I don't think either side could afford to expose them further.

Who is really to blame in this whole thing? Whatever the outcome or verdict this whole thing is really just a new beginning. The rebuild of Husky Football is already underway. I can't wait for this trial to end.

I guess we'll all know the results in a couple of weeks. It will be then and only then that the UW can come out from under this cloud. The end of the Hedges-Neuheisel era is about to come to a close. It has been even blacker than the scandal of 1992-93 simply because it took the program to the absolute bottom. At least the Huskies continued to win following that one. This time it led to a disastrous collapse of the entire football program. Once the new coach and new administration sails clear of this storm, then we will all look back and be thankful it is finally over. Top Stories