School reacts to Neuheisel-spurred investigation

SEATTLE -- The University of Washington announced
disciplinary action Tuesday against 12 athletic department
employees, including football coach Keith Gilbertson and compliance
officer Dana Richardson, for participation in gambling pools on
college basketball.

The disciplinary actions were included in the university's
response to an investigation by the Pac-10 Conference regarding
gambling by athletic department employees. The investigation was
launched after allegations of gambling by fired football coach Rick
Neuheisel first became known.

Other than Neuheisel's gambling, "we believe the other
violations are minimal," athletic director Barbara Hedges said.

Neuheisel won as much as $12,000 in basketball pools over the
past two years. However, he refused to characterize it as gambling
to NCAA investigators, saying he took part in an auction and
donated some winnings to charity.

Neuheisel claims he didn't know it was against NCAA rules to
gamble in neighborhood pools. He has cited a memo from Richardson,
which authorized such pools for athletic department personnel, as
the key piece of evidence in his case.

Gilbertson and other assistants acknowledged participating in $5
basketball pools in 1999. Investigators couldn't verify reports by
a former graduate assistant of pools in subsequent years.

The NCAA has said all gambling by athletes, coaches and
administrators is against its rules.

Washington officials agreed with a Pac-10 finding that
Richardson made an erroneous interpretation of NCAA rules in her
memo about off-campus pools, but they argued one mistake does not
constitute a failure to educate staff about gambling rules.

They also announced several corrective actions in addition to
Neuheisel's firing last summer:

  • A letter of reprimand, the most serious of three levels of
    disciplinary letters, sent earlier this month to Richardson for her
    participation in three basketball pools. "In her place as
    compliance officer, she should be held to a higher standard,"
    Hedges said.

  • Letters of admonishment to Gilbertson, four assistant coaches,
    two women who worked in the football office and three trainers.

  • A letter of caution to an equipment manager.

    Additionally, the school acknowledged a minor recruiting
    violation for undercharging 13 football recruits for a boat trip to
    Neuheisel's Lake Washington home. The boat was captained by a
    booster, another minor violation.

    As a corrective action, the recruits in question repaid $10
    each. The money was donated to Children's Hospital in Seattle.

    The university is reducing the number of official campus visits
    by recruits for the 2004-05 season by eight, from 56 to 48. The
    football program also will not be allowed to use any boat as
    transportation for that season.

    Washington officials will go before a Pac-10 compliance
    enforcement committee Dec. 15. The conference then will either
    accept Washington's corrective actions or recommend others. The
    conference should conclude its portion of the investigation
    sometime in March, then turn it over to the NCAA.

    Earlier in the day, Neuheisel launched a pre-emptive strike at
    his former employer, claiming he was wrongfully terminated.
    Neuheisel is suing the NCAA and the university over his firing.

    Neuheisel's lawyer released a 38-page statement and an 1½-inch
    stack of supporting documents.

    Lawyer Robert Sulkin argued that the university failed to
    properly educate its staff regarding NCAA rules. He claimed the
    betting pools involved more employees over a longer period than the
    UW acknowledged.

    "As explained herein, over 20 members of the football program
    alone participated in NCAA basketball pools in 2001 and 2002,
    including trainees, coaches, staff and compliance officers,"
    Sulkin's statement said. "This problem apparently has not occurred
    at any other NCAA member university."

    Sulkin also argued it was wrong for Hedges to fire Neuheisel
    when the university had given its blessing to neighborhood pools.

    "To sanction Mr. Neuheisel for following the advice of his
    Compliance Office would send a crushing and incorrect message to
    coaches throughout the nation," Sulkin wrote. "It would undermine
    the very system that has been set up to ensure that NCAA bylaws are
    interpreted by people most capable of doing so."

    Norm Arkans, special assistant to the UW president, said there
    was no comparison between Neuheisel's actions and those of the
    other employees.

    "They are light years different," Arkans said. "It's somebody
    putting a couple of bucks in their brother's pool versus a highly
    visible coach of our most prominent program going into a public
    place to secure the rights to NCAA tournament teams."