New year; no job for Neuheisel
Former Washington University football coach Rick Neuheisel is making headlines again and, no, it’s not because he’s getting an early jump on organizing this year’s March Madness pool.
This time he’s in the news to complain that he isn’t able to land even an interview for the 21 head football coaching opportunities in Division I-A football that opened since October.
Let’s take a minute to revisit why it is that Neuheisel is in this position to begin with.
It all started in March 2003, when Neuheisel entered a NCAA Tournament gambling pool with friends, betting nearly $11,000 on the NCAA college basketball championship. Upon being questioned about his participation, he lied about his involvement. He eventually admitted to participating in the pool and Washington Athletic Director Barbara Hedges fired Neuheisel in June 2003.
The NCAA is firm in its policy that no coach may wager on college sports, even if it is not the sport they coach.
Neuheisel violated this rule.
Some of you may be thinking, “It’s only a basketball pool – heck I enter one myself every year. What’s the big deal?”
The big deal is this is a matter of integrity, a matter of following the rules, it wasn’t just a matter of picking Georgia Tech over Kansas.
Reality is, once people start to question your integrity, your reputation will begin to crumble.
If this had been the first incident with Neuheisel, the punishment may not have been so severe, but remember he did not come to Washington from Colorado squeaky clean.
Neuheisel coached at Colorado from 1995-1998. His record stood at 33-14 with three bowl victories when he left. However, nice records were not the only things he left. The NCAA found Colorado guilty of recruiting violations in ’96, ’97 and ’98.
Allegations included: football coaching staff under Neuheisel’s direction regularly making in-person, off-campus contacts with prospective student-athletes outside of appropriate contact periods, failure to recover athletic apparel provided for campus visits, inadequate equipment room monitoring and use of a private jet without proper documentation for recruiting.
Neuheisel’s past before Washington was not without blemishes, which was why his failure to abide by the no gambling policy became an even bigger deal that it already was.
As each day passes, it’s obvious that Neuheisel becomes more upset with not being given a second chance.
He watched Mike Price, who was fired from Alabama after nasty allegations involving Price, a stripper and a $1,000 hotel room service charge, given another chance at University of Texas-El Paso.
He watched George O’ Leary land a job with the mid-major university of Central Florida after being fired from Notre Dame five days after being hired, for lying about his academic and athletic background on his resume.
But yet, Neuheisel continues to wait for another chance.
And athletic directors across the country have continued to ask themselves if he does, indeed, really deserve another chance and if their schools are willing to take a chance on him.
After all, he only made a few bets in a college basketball pool – right? If Price and O’Leary can be forgiven for their transgressions so should Neuheisel – right?
In my opinion the answer is no. College football is obviously not the right place for Rick Neuheisel. He has already shown a scary pattern of disregard for rules, no matter how big or small they may be.
After watching the recent Colorado scandal unfold, I think it’s easy to see that disregard for a few rules here and there can turn into a huge problem for an entire program and the reputation of its university.
If I were an AD, I would be extremely uneasy hiring a coach with questionable integrity and honor. It is a big risk I would never feel comfortable taking.
Sure Neuheisel’s resume includes a 66-30 record with a .688 winning percentage, a Pac-10 championship and Rose Bowl victory, but it also includes a pattern of questionable actions and motives.
Wins and losses become useless, however, when years down the line a program finds itself under fire for rule violations. At the end of the day, hiring a man with solid and commendable integrity is the only path to take.
The actions of a football coach at a major Division-I school have the ability to affect an entire community.
By hiring Neuheisel, a school may see an improvement in the win column, but will always be looking over its shoulder wondering if everything going on behind the scenes is ethical.
College football should do itself a favor and let Neuheisel coach where rules and regulations aren’t as rigid: the NFL.
Stacy Hicklin is a sportswriter for The Union. She may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4244.
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