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
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
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?
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
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.
Because a man's honor would have been at stake.
Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at