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Firing Neuheisel will likely cost UW millions
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
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
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
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
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
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