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A question of credibility and approachability
Levesque catches Neuheisel in a white lie
By: Richard Linde, Posted 13 February 2003

According to the Seattle media, Rick Neuheisel now admits that he met with 49ers management on Sunday to discuss the 49ers head-coaching job vacated by Steve Mariucci. He issued a statement of affirmation last night, following an article printed by John Levesque of the Seattle P-I, in which Levesque claimed that he overheard a cell phone conversation between Neuheisel and his mother in a San Francisco airport, the subject of which concerned the 49ers’ job.

Levesque said that Neuheisel told his mother, “It went well,”

On Monday, the day after Neuheisel’s meeting with 49er management, he issued this statement:

We talk (Donahue, 49ers’ GM) occasionally about a number of subjects. I consider him both a mentor and a friend, but we have never discussed the opening with the 49ers.”

Then yesterday, after the revelation by Levesque and by anonymous sources in the 49er organization, Neuheisel issued this statement to the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

"I replied I had not had any contact with them when in reality I had, and I regret that a great deal. At the request of the 49ers I had traveled to San Francisco on Sunday and met with (general manager) Terry Donahue, (owner) John York and (consultant) Bill Walsh. I feel badly that I've misled anyone. I was only trying to keep the confidentiality I had agreed to, but in the past couple of days that confidentiality agreement weighed against my character and my credibility. I made the decision that I need to set the record straight."

This outing couldn’t have come at a worse time for the beleaguered head coach, who some call “Slick Rick,” a sobriquet he carried at Colorado; Neuheisel is coming off a disappointing 7-6 season and a year of censure and punishment. Since his arrival at Washington in 1999, Neuheisel has had two run-ins with the NCAA concerning his recruiting tactics. The latest peccadillo, his recruitment of quarterback Carl Bonnell, a WSU grayshirt, is being reviewed by the National Letter of Intent Steering Committee for clarification.

During the course of one year, he has been censured by the Pac-10 for a negative recruiting spat, along with Oregon and ex-UCLA coach Bob Toledo, prohibited from leaving campus to recruit because of secondary recruiting infractions incurred while he was Colorado's head coach, and censured by the American College Football Association for failing to express remorse while explaining the Colorado infractions to them.

Seemingly, Neuheisel’s name is continually linked to head coaching vacancies, the most recent ones prior to this one involving job openings at UCLA and Notre Dame, both coming within a year's time. In each instance, Neuheisel stated he wanted to remain at Washington and finish the job he started.

Neuheisel is caught between a rock and a hard place with each job opportunity that mentions him as a coaching prospect. If he tells the media he's interviewing for the job and is turned down, it makes him look bad. If he nixes the job, it makes the coach eventually hired look like a second choice. It's human nature to want to provide better living conditions for one's family, so why pass up a golden opportunity?

Or in this latest instance, Neuheisel could have been returning a favor to an old friend, Terry Donahue. Bringing in a litany of solid choices for interviews can't hurt Donahue's status with the team's owner. The more the better, and Donahue is doing his job.

Three questions remain:

What will UWs AD Barbara Hedges say about her head coach’s dalliance with a suitor, since she has worked very hard to keep him at Washington, upgrading his salary this Fall with a loan and future signing bonus?

And are we to believe that Levesque was just coming off vacation, needing to write a column for Monday's newspaper, "when Neuheisel plunked himself down in a chair about 6 feet from” his? Coincidentally, they were on the same return flight to Seattle.

Levesque’s paparazzi-begging scenario must make Princess Di stir in her grave.

And then there's the lingering question about Neuheisel's credibility.

For future job openings that mention Neuheisel as a candidate, he will have to be candid and forthcoming about his suspected interest, as the press will hold him to a double standard, one for him and another for college coaches who will continue to tell white lies about coaching opportunities. That makes Neuheisel less approachable as far as prospective suitors are concerned because it's de rigueur to keep such interviews secret.

And that's good for Washington.


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