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Did Tom say yes to Rick?
Richard Linde, 20 January 2007

Like a jack-in-the box, the more you shut the lid on a talented person, the more he or she seems to pop back up in the news. Somehow charismatic, charming, creative people never disappear completely from sight, no matter how much suffering they endure.

Former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel is one such person, having more lives than the proverbial cat. At the age of 45 he is still youthful in appearance and telegenic. Arguably he is the most intelligent of Washington’s past and present coaches.

About eight months ago, we suggested that Neuheisel deserved another chance to coach college football. (See our article, "Neuheisel deserves anther chance at coaching college football.")

When you wash the mud off his career as a college football coach, his core attributes and values shine through, no matter how much their glitter has been tarnished.

Rick has clawed his way half-way back to landing a head coaching job after his controversial, complicated termination at Washington.

Rick supposedly was dismissed at UW for misrepresenting the truth, among other reasons. But commonsense and testimony at his lawsuit in Kent, Washington suggest he may have been fired for participating in two March Madness auctions with neighborhood friends, even though an internal UW e-mail gave him permission to participate in such activities. Neuheisel was awarded approximately $4.7 million as part of a settlement to the lawsuit. But that's another story.

Recently, the Baltimore Ravens promoted Neuheisel to offensive coordinator, as well as being the quarterback’s coach, which was his prior position.

"Rick's abilities are well-documented. He's a very established coach,” Coach Brian Billick told the Baltimore Sun. “He's got a great rapport with the players and he's very creative."

Reportedly Neuheisel was making $250,000 (plus a $6,000 car allowance) as the quarterback’s coach. If memory serves me right, the average salary for an offensive coordinator in the NFL is around $580 thousand per year. If so and if he gets a few bob from coaching the quarterbacks, Neuheisel may be earning half of what he made at Washington ($1.4 million guaranteed annually).

If Neuheisel performs ably in his new role, he is likely to return to college coaching, where we feel that he’s best suited.

Apparently Bill Dwyer of the LA Times (Jan 17) agrees with us in an article titled, "He's a good bet to get a head coaching job.”

Dwyer writes:

"And when the Arizona State job opened, it prompted a thought, even though Neuheisel wasn't applying. He called Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen and asked, were he ever to get another shot in the conference, would he be welcome? He said Hansen said yes.

"One of Neuheisel's best coaching memories is of a game at Washington against a first-year USC coach named Pete Carroll.

"'We won, and I head out toward the middle of the field and I see Pete sprinting my way," Neuheisel said. 'He shakes my hand, looks me right in the eye and says, 'We'll be back.' I remember going into the tunnel and thinking, 'OK, it's on.'

"'The next year, he's really got it going and USC wins. I run out to the middle of the field, grab his hand, shake it and say, 'We'll be back.' You should have seen his big grin.'

"Expect more of those meetings in the years ahead."

(See "A small slice of history" for the opening salvo in the war between Carroll and Neuheisel.)

Neuheisel’s battle with Carroll prematurely ended on June 4, 2003, when the NCAA scuttled the Washington fleet in a sneak attack at Union Bay.  (*)

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Going back to 1929, Neuheisel's four-year record (33-16, 67%) at Washington stands as the second best winning percentage of any coach at Washington. Since his termination that record has been reversed over the last four years (14-33, 30%).

He is one of three UW coaches to win the Rose Bowl. 

He is the only coach at Washington who recruited an athlete for football that morphed into an NBA first-round draft pick.

He's the last Washington coach to beat Pete Carroll.

(*) The NCAA blindsided Neuheisel on June 4, 2003 in violation of its own bylaw. The fact that an outdated version of that bylaw was entered into discovery prompted a settlement of the lawsuit on behalf of Neuheisel against the University of Washington and the NCAA.

Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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