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Firing Neuheisel will likely cost UW millions
An apology needed?
By Malamute, Updated 9 March 2005

By our reasoning, firing Rick Neuheisel may have cost the University of Washington millions of dollars. As a settlement of the lawsuit that just concluded at Kent, Washington, the UW is required to pay Neuheisel $500,000 and forgive the $1.5 million dollar loan it gave him in 2002, plus interest. But the sum of $2.2 million cited by the media is paltry considering all the monies the UW likely will lose.

The University of Washington needn’t have fired Rick Neuheisel. The UW could have supported him during the gambling investigation and fought the NCAA on the terms of its Bylaws. The wording of NCAA Bylaw 10.3 (the one on gambling) is vague about bets wagered in sports pools, such as a March Madness basketball pool. And Neuheisel wasn’t betting in a pool, he was bidding in an auction to complicate matters. Various legal scholars have offered varying opinions as to the Bylaw’s vagueness and clarity. Hence, by our reasoning, by virtue of those weighty differing opinions, Bylaw 10.3 is ambiguous about sports pools. Germaine to all of this, former UW compliance director Dana Richardson, who is an attorney, thought the Bylaw permitted the participation in sports pools as long as it was done outside of the intercollegiate athletic department.

My interpretation is the same as Dana's. My credentials? Those two logic courses at the UW still stir my dreams at night, awakening me at times in a Hugh-Millen-ish nightmare. (Certainly, Hugh doesn't deserve anyone's courtroom bird.)

In turn, NCAA Bylaw 32.3.7, in part, states that investigators must disclose their purpose “prior to an interview.” Apparently the NCAA blindsided Neuheisel and former AD Barbara Hedges in violation of its own Bylaws when its representatives met with them on June 4, 2003 at a downtown hotel.

It is uncertain whether the UW could have beaten the NCAA in an all out brawl involving its Bylaws; however, it could have given them a kick in the integrity reflex, as former acting-UW President Lee Huntsman said when describing Neuheisel's honesty. If the UW had slain "Themis," this psuedo-Greek Titan of justice and order, its fame would be without parallel in collegiate football's mythology -- but had it lost, alas, quixotic.

The NCAA will walk those questionable MYLES to BRAND a coach a liar. (Inspiration from NCAA head honcho Myles Brand).

To support our hypothesis that the UW lost millions of dollars by giving him the heave ho, let’s assume the UW hadn’t canned Neuheisel,

On August 12, 2002, Neuheisel received a $1.5 million loan from the University. If he had remained head coach through January 1, 2008, the loan would have been forgiven. According to an addendum added to his contract, he was to have paid interest only on the loan, at rate of 5% per annum, payable semiannually to the University on June 30 and December 31 of each calendar year.

The UW claims that the forgiven interest was worth $125,000 to Neuheisel; Bob Sulkin, Neuheisel’s lawyer, says the figure was more like $230,000. The actual interest may lie within the bounds of the two numbers cited.

By my calculation, Neuheisel, would have had to pay the UW $403,830.65 over the life of the loan, assuming he had stayed for the duration of his six-year contract. We assume Neuheisel made the first interest payment due on December 31, 2002, which would have been about $28,830.65. It is doubtful Neuheisel made the payment due on June 30, 2003, in that he was fired on June 11. The total interest due the University from the period beginning August 12, 2002 and ending March 7, 2005, the date the trial concluded, give or take a day or two, would have been $192,741.94, according to my calculations. Subtract the interest payment Neuheisel most likely paid and that amounts to $163,816.35 in interest that the UW lost.

The buyout of Keith Gilbertson’s contract was around $800,000, according to media sources. Neuheisel’s 2002 contract addendum required that he participate actively in fund raising activities with the Director of Athletics to “account for the receipt by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics of donations totaling a minimum $500,000 per year.” That would have amounted to almost $3 million over the life of Neuheisel’s contract. I doubt whether current head coach Tyrone Willingham’s contract carries such an addendum, as did former coach Keith Gilbertson's. The former coach didn't seem like a fundraiser to me, as does Willingham now -- Gilbertson having been somewhat stale and Willingham taciturn. I doubt if anyone else at the UW will pick up the slack in fundraising thanks to the UW's negative publicity over the last 22 months.

Firing Neuheisel may have cost the UW as much as $6,203,830, as shown by the Table below. By the end of 2004, the UW had paid $898,000 in attorney's fees, a number expected to rise to about $1.5 million. The table's total doesn’t include UW’s the compound interest lost on the $1.5 million loan. Coach Willingham is making nearly what Neuheisel did, and although, Gilbertons's yearly salary was less than both of them, he most likely would have remained on as a highly paid assistant coach  – a quasi-Norm Chow – had Neuheisel stayed.

The table below doesn’t account for the lost revenues from the decreased attendance that accompanies poor performance on the playing field, as well as potential TV money that could be lost. Neuheisel's 66-30 record overall and victories in the Rose, Cotton, Aloha and Holiday bowls would rank him among college football's coaching elite if he were coaching at Washington today. Neuheisel always recruited well, regularly picking off the state of Washington's blue-chip prospects. One of his last, Nate Robinson, has helped, ironically, restore the Huskies' basketball fortunes.   

Not many football coaches have an IQ as high as Rick Neuheisel’s. His inspirational talk given at the C-Dub memorial, without notes or a prompter, speaks volumes about his high intelligence and charisma. "The University of Washington lost a brilliant coach, and we're all moving on," his mother, Jane Neuheisel, told Seattle P-I columnist Jim Moore yesterday.

Neuheisel says he feels fully vindicated by the settlement. Branded as a liar for life, it is doubtful he really feels fully vindicated, as does Paula Jones who was awarded $800,000 in her settlement with Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, no apology given. Someone at the UW needs to apologize to Neuheisel, as does Hillary for Bill to Paula. In the long run, an apology must be worth $500,000 to a man, who in a certain future, will be making millions again.

Table: Money UW likely lost by firing Neuheisel. *

Total interest due UW: $403,830.65
UW legal fees: $1.5 million (estimate)
Lawsuit award to Neuheisel: $500,000
Fundraising lost (Neuheisel alone): $3,000,000
Gilbertson’s buyout: $800,000
Lost revenues because of declining program: perhaps millions

Total lost: millions of dollars

* Note: If Neuheisel had stayed for the life of the contract, the $1.5 million loan would have been forgiven. If Neuheisel had left the UW on his own volition, he would have had to repay the $1.5 million loan, plus liquidated damages of $600,000. If UW had won the lawsuit, it might have reclaimed the $1.5 million loan, depending on the jury award.

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

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