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Coffee is for closers and men of honor
By Richard Linde, Posted 1 February 2004

Two weeks ago, with just eight public commitments belonging to a class ranked sixty-ninth in the nation, Husky fans were in fits -- were lachrymose – were moaning about the state of the Husky nation. Furthermore there were still vacancies to fill: no offensive coordinator, no running backs coach, no receivers coach, and no special teams or tight ends coach.

At that time, Ted Miller of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote, “That total (8 recruits) relegates the Huskies to the sewer of the Pac-10 recruiting rankings…”

Being in the “sewer” of the conference rankings wasn’t the kind of metaphor Husky fans had expected to read so close to signing day.

To many Husky adherents, the taciturn Willingham lacked the “pizzazz” that AD Todd Turner had promised the program. Fans were looking for a more scintillating head guy, like an Urban Meyer or a Jeff Tedford. Instead, they got a head coach who was fired from his last job, a "retread," as some fans like to say.

"Why are they (fans) worried?" Willingham was quoted as saying. "We seem to want everything to happen right now, at this moment. I want to make sure we do things right."

Did Willingham feel like the beleaguered salesman played by Jack Lemon in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, when Alec Baldwin went off on him, talking about leads, steak knives and coming in second place? “Coffee is for closers,” Baldwin told Lemon.  

Pour the java. Coach Willingham got the leads and proved that he can close with the best of them.

In the last two weeks, he’s brought in two four-star prospects (linebacker E.J. Savannah, and running back J.R. Hasty), two three-star prospects (safety Marion Wood and defensive end Daniel Te’o Nesheim), and JC transfer Quentin Freeman (two stars), who is slated to play corner back.

Realdawg.com quoted Hasty as saying that “Coach Willingham was real excited” about his commitment. If indeed the calm, cool, and collected Willingham got “real excited,” Hasty must be better than his four-star ranking indicates. Hasty just may be the power running back that the UW needs.

Hired less than two months ago, Willingham got off to a late start in recruiting, and he still needs to fill the four assistant coaching vacancies. As he said, he wants to get things right.

The UW is now ranked fifty-second in the nation by scout.com and ninth in the Pac-10. That’s an improvement of 17 positions nationally and by one in the conference, the latter meaning that the Dawgs are out of Miller’s “sewer.”

Speaking of a regrettable choice of words like “sewer” and “pizzazz,” add Barry Sulkin’s (Rick Neuheisel’s lawyer) newly coined word, “dodgeball.” to our list of verbal incontinences. (See “Verbal laxity: is it contagious?.”)

Neuheisel is suing Washington for wrongful termination and the NCAA for tortious interference.

In yesterday’s courtroom proceedings, Sulkin said Neuheisel was merely "playing dodgeball" when initially questioned by the NCAA investigators.

On that day, June 4, 2003, Neuheisel allegedly lied to NCAA investigators about his participation in two neighborhood betting pools. Later that day, Neuheisel admitted that he had wagered money in the two pools, one occurring in 2002 and another in 2003.

"This wasn't technical dodgeball," UW lead attorney Lou Peterson said. "This is denial and making up stories to try to cover himself."

Score one for Peterson.

Which brings us to Hugh Millen’s article that appeared in yesterday’s P-I, entitled, “Neuheisel has a lot of nerve basing lawsuit on question of honor.”

In his column, Millen provides a bulleted list, the contents of which question Rick's honor. He writes that Nueheisel “was the highest-paid state employee in the history of Washington;” that “he was found to have “committed well more than 50 NCAA infractions…,” that “…he was censured by the American Football Coaches Association;” that “he was reprimanded by the Pac-10 Conference;” that “he reportedly had secret discussions with four other teams regarding coaching vacancies;” and that “he reportedly committed five separate acts of dishonesty to either his boss or the governing body of his sport.”

“And he has raised the question of honor?” Millen writes.

I have some questions for Millen, along with a few facts.

How does having been the highest-paid state employee affect one’s honor? Was Neuheisel being paid under the table?

Yes, Neuheisel was reprimanded by the Pac-10 conference for the negative recruiting flap occurring in February 2003, but so were the University of Oregon and UCLA’s Bob Toledo. So, what’s the big deal? In fact, Oregon apologized to the University of Washington, and to Neuheisel, for its Jumbotron incident.

How do Millen and his sources know that Neuheisel had secret discussions with four other teams about coaching vacancies when the discussions were all secret? We all know about the 49ers discussions, which were made public. And he was just rumored as a candidate to fill jobs at Notre Dame and UCLA, the ones vacated by Bob Davie and Toledo, respectively. I'm not sure about the fourth vacancy. Frankly, other than the 49ers interview, which Neuheisel lied about, I don't see how those other three "reported" openings and alleged "discussions" affect his honor?

Millen says that Neuheisel was found to have committed well more than 50 NCAA infractions.

Since a Neuheisel's honor is at stake, let's examine 51 of the violations that occurred during Neuheisel's tenure at Colorado.

At least 30 of the 51 violations were committed by assistant coaches, 18 of them involving bumping violations of which Neuheisel was not aware. Also, the assistant coaches were responsible for monitoring the equipment room during the stay of prospective student athletes. Twelve of the 51 violations involved missing equipment, e.g., cold-weather gear lent to PSA's.

Seven loans of cold-weather gear occurred over two chaotic weekends, one of them when Neuheisel accepted the Washington job, another preceding Colorado's appearance in the Aloha Bowl. Neuheisel assumed the assistant coaches would ensure the return of hats and cold-weather gear during his absence.

Eight charges alleged that Neuheisel and his assistants improperly used the jet and pilots of a booster for recruiting and personal use. Proper documentation of its use was not provided to the NCAA. Apparently, former coach Bill McCartney used the jet as well.

Forty-five years ago, during John Kennedy's time, this picayunish stuff would have been swept under the rug and filed under the dustbin of human frailty.

Why?

Because a man's honor would have been at stake.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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