Coach Neuheisel just needs to win games

Coach Neuheisel's latest spat with the press which resulted in his confession that he had lied to members of the media is just another in what appears to be a never ending battle for his integrity and good name. No question he screwed up and certainly regrets his decision to honor a confidentiality agreement. How important was this indiscretion? Is it reflective of a dishonest man? Will it affect recruiting? Not important, no, and no.

I personally think it is stupid. Stupid on his part, and even worse, (stupid on our part) for making such a big deal out of it. Really, outside of the Pacific Northwest, it had little or no significance and received little coverage because it was so meaningless in the first place. So what if he interviewed for the 49'ers coaching position. It's really an honor that the Washington coach would even be considered in the first place. However, after watching how interviewing elsewhere negatively affected Bob Bender's career, Coach Neuheisel probably preferred to deny interviewing for any position. The fall out over Bender's looking into both the Texas and Vanderbilt positions was so severe that it obviously was detrimental to his tenure here at Washington. Why? Probably because we are so provincial up here in our little corner of the country that we find it downright offensive to ever consider leaving. Look at A-rod and Junior. How can anyone even consider leaving our pristine little Emerald City. In hind sight, Bender should have taken the Texas job because there is a heck of a lot more talent in that state than there is in ours. No question either that the 49'er job is one of the most prestigious coaching positions in all of football. To not accept an invitation to interview would have been just as stupid as to deny it. It seems to me that if you are talking on your phone that the conversation is private. If a member of the media can overhear you, does that give them the right to make your conversation public.

Unfortunately, Coach Neuheisel has had a continuous string of just such stupid things happen to him from the very start of his Washington experience. He is now a target for not only the media, but the NCAA, Pac-10, as well as the American Football Association. The answer to his problems is quite simple. Just win, baby, just win. I'm talking about the 2003 football season with an appearance in the 2004 Rose Bowl. He would do well to limit his exposure to the media because he is so glib and off the cuff and circle the wagons with his coaches and players. It is with that group of people that the answer lies. Go out and take advantage of Cody and Reggie's last years and take no prisoners. The time is now. The cast is set. He has made some excellent coaching hires and only needs to go do what he was hired himself to do. Get the Dogs back in the Rose Bowl and bingo, all this crap will disappear.

Having personally recruited against him as well as coaching against his Colorado team, I admit to having the same negative impression of Rick that many still hold. The "Slick Rick" moniker seemed to apply. He was just too young, too good looking and too good at recruiting to be real. He wasn't just good with the kids but also with the fans and media as well. No way should that he be paid what he was getting because he wasn't old enough to deserve it. This opinion, I admit, was based upon his reputation, a reputation which made him out to be just another devious lawyer. All is so unfortunate to him and his family not to mention his team and his university. Little is ever said about his excellent graduation rate, his many charitable contributions, his compassion for his players, or his loyalty to his coaches. No, all we ever get is what a rule breaking slime dog he is, how he always operates in the grey area and how much Colorado resents his leaving, enough to smear him all the way out the door.

It's not as though he and I have become good friends or anything but I know he realizes I loved the players and they felt strongly about me. It is a respectful friendship because I have chosen to continue to embrace the program despite being ceremoniously dismissed from it. Honestly, I sincerely believe Jim Lambright should never have been fired. He was an old school winner who had devoted him entire adult life the Washington Huskies. He never had a losing season and his teams were good enough to qualify for a bowl game every year. Had he had an athletic director who supported him, he would still be the coach today. However, that's old history and we know that firing coaches is not the answer anyway. Rick at least enjoys the unwavering support of his boss and with a little help and guidance will get through all this mess and be a great coach someday. Coach Neuheisel is still a developing head coach. I know he has a good feel for the game and I know he is a great guy to work for. He cares about his coaches and families and does the little things to make the work environment a positive place for all involved. He is also very forthright and straight forward and is quick to admit his mistakes. He is committed to doing things the right way and despite his reputation is very knowledgeable and on top of the NCAA rules with regard to recruiting and institutional operations. When I look around the country and see the flagrant cheating taking place at schools like Maryland, Alabama, Cincinnati, Minnesota, and California where payouts are being made to players and recruits, it pains me to see all the attention being paid to the Washington program. This man is not a cheat. He is not dishonest. Sure, this lie was stupid. He admits it and regrets it.

Any implication that he can't be trusted now because of this lie is short sighted, unfair, and as stupid as the lie itself.

President Clinton lied about Monica. President Nixon lied about Watergate. President Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin. History lied about the Native Americans. Many people are right this minute lying about their income taxes. For cripes sake, so what if a coach lies about interviewing for another job. Put it into perspective. I know you never have lied, and you all know I never lied (except in recruiting), and by all means we all know the media never lies. The only lie which is not acceptable is when our team lies down on the field. Otherwise, it's time to move on and hopefully it will be towards another Rose Bowl and guess what, Coach Neu's little lie will be totally forgotten. columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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