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Archive for Thursday, October 21, 2004

Ex-Washington coach Neuheisel cleared

NCAA extends Huskies’ probation two years in case resulting from participation in gambling pools

October 21, 2004

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— Former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel was cleared of wrongdoing by the NCAA Wednesday for gambling in a college basketball pool, but the university had its probation extended two years.

Washington's NCAA probation -- initially imposed because of men's basketball recruiting violations -- now runs until Feb. 9, 2007. The school also was reprimanded for failing to monitor the football program.

Thomas E. Yeager, chair of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, said that Neuheisel avoided punishment because the school's compliance officer had written memos mistakenly saying that participation in gambling pools was allowed.

"Sports wagering is a problem that continues to threaten the well-being of student-athletes and coaches and the integrity of intercollegiate athletics," Yeager said. "If not for unique and unusual mitigating circumstances in this case, the outcome certainly would have been different. This case should not be interpreted in any fashion as a softening of the NCAA's antigambling position."

Neuheisel coached four seasons at Colorado before compiling a 33-16 record in four seasons with the Huskies, including a Rose Bowl victory.

Neuheisel was fired in June 2003 by then-athletic director Barbara Hedges after he acknowledged taking part in a high-priced NCAA college basketball tournament pool.

The NCAA said in its report it was "very troubled" Neuheisel initially lied, but said that because of the memos, it could find no evidence that he intentionally broke the rules. Neuheisel never was charged with ethical violations for lying because he told the truth later the same day, Yeager said.

The outcome could lead to Neuheisel's return to college coaching. It also might help the wrongful termination lawsuit he filed against the university, set for trial Jan. 24.

"Rick and I are pleased the NCAA found he was not in violation of NCAA rules," said Neuheisel's lawyer, Bob Sulkin. "It's what we've said all along."

Washington escaped serious penalties that may have resulted if the NCAA cited the school for lack of institutional control. The NCAA did, however, find repeated instances in which the school failed to monitor the football program.

In addition to Neuheisel's gambling violations, the NCAA cited pool betting by other members of the athletic department, including former compliance officer Dana Richardson, who wrote the memos that cleared Neuheisel.

The NCAA also cited the football program for undercharging recruits and their parents for rides in a 65-foot yacht and other private boats between 2000 and 2003 and for allowing impermissible contact between a football booster and recruits.

Washington already had imposed several punishments on itself following an internal investigation of the football program.

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