It reeked of malice and dislike toward Neuheisel, and simultaneously placed Mike Price upon a towering, gold-plated pedestal.
In taking aim at the Husky coach, the letter tried to come off as clever in quoting Shakespeare. As stated anonymously, "to go or not to go, that always seems to be the question."
Well friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; the Seattle Times comes to bury Neuheisel, not to praise him.
The editorial begins by stating, "The suspense is killing us. Is this the year Husky football coach Rick Neuheisel backs a U-Haul trailer up to his house and flees in the middle of the night to a new coaching job?"
This line makes it sound like Neuheisel is a serial job abandoner. It is true that he left the University of Colorado with astonishing deftness, leaving many furious people in his wake. But during his head-coaching career, he has not established this as a pattern. He has done this exactly once. Of note, while at Colorado, he turned down a job offer from UCLA. Would that not be a step up, as was implied by the scathing editorial you chose to post with no author mentioned?
You went on to say: "Neuheisel arrived with a short-timer's attitude and reputation, so the question always lingers: Where will the Husky rung on his career ladder take him next?"
Neuheisel has held two jobs in eight years. There are many people in the business world that can't say that.
There seems to be an acid bitterness to the words. If your editorial raised some bona fide questions based on actual news, this would be understandable. There is no question that he did a sub-par job in coaching the team this year. The team only responded late in the season, when the Husky Empire was crumbling and Neuheisel finally cracked down.
I also wasn't thrilled with how he handled the Bob Toledo situation. Neuheisel could have made it easy by issuing a statement that he had no interest that very first day after Toledo's firing. But he didn't. Of course, this fanned the flames of speculation. Neuheisel knew this, and perhaps he enjoys attention and causing a stir a bit more than the average Joe. He has already played the political side of this well, and as a result is earning a very comfortable living. However, Neuheisel never officially met with anybody at UCLA. On the second day after Toledo's firing, the Husky coach called KJR himself in an effort to put an end to speculation.
Hypothetically, if he had played this out for several days, or if accurate reports that he was talking to UCLA officials and had been spotted at the LAX airport began surfacing, then I would agree that he is actively looking for the next step up.
However, the whole thing was put to rest the morning of the second day. I am not saying that I think Neuheisel is a saint. From his actions he has shown that he can push the envelope, as illustrated when the litany of minor recruiting violations that he perpetrated while at Colorado came to light.
Nevertheless, I am saying that he did nothing to warrant what was written in the column you published.
The broad brush by which you painted your editorial overlooks his good traits. In the words of former Husky Larry Triplett, Neuheisel brought racial unity to the team, and has created an atmosphere of "brotherly love". According to the late Curtis Williams, Neuheisel was a tremendous friend and coach, and "a good person". The magnificent way Neuheisel handled that moribund situation, I will never forget… The gift of a Husky helmet and long, hand-written letter he sent to the paralyzed high school player in Oregon... His current players, including Taylor Barton, Cody Pickett and Braxton Clemen, hold deep respect and affection for him. There are many examples and quotes of Husky players rallying around Neuheisel, in much the same way as the Cougars do around Price.
But in the juxtaposition of Price to Neuheisel, your column seemed to go overboard in praise - almost as if digging at the Husky coach by being so complimentary to his cross-state counterpart. As stated in the editorial: "Cougar coach Mike Price is a different matter. His solid reputation and patient success naturally attracts attention. He has made Washington State University proud, and he has earned the right to seek new challenges and other coaching opportunities."
Just two years ago the Cougars had finished dead last in the Pac-10 in consecutive seasons. Many Cougar fans were calling into question his abilities as a coach.
Now your column anoints Price with such grandiosity, as if you are saying something akin to, "what light through yonder window break? It is the east, and Mike Price is the sun…"
Contrast that with how your column comes to a close: "Neuheisel is the fellow at the holiday party who never quite makes eye contact. He is always looking over the shoulder of the person in front of him, scanning the crowd for whom to schmooze next."
In your anonymous editorial, you shamelessly portray the Husky coach as some sort of traveling snake-oil salesman. It seems to come not from any actual news event, but rather just blatant dislike. Perhaps it stems from the bitter Apple Cup defeat, or perhaps from a perceived snub at some social function that Neuheisel was present.
Whatever the reason, all the perfumes of Arabia could not sweeten this little anonymous editorial of yours.
The views of this column are expressly those of the author. Derek Johnson can be reached at djohnson@Dawgman.com
Open Letter to the Seattle Times
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