Gene Wojciechowski

2002-03 Bowls
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Monday, June 9
Updated: June 18, 11:54 AM ET
Neuheisel doesn't deserve yet another chance

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine

Let me get this straight: We're supposed to give Washington's Rick Neuheisel a Get Out Of Pink Slip card because he can work a locker room, because he had a Homer Simpson "Doh!" moment, because Final Four pools are America's March pastime? Is that it in a Neuheisel nutshell?

If I'm U-Dub AD Barbara Hedges, I tell Neuheisel to take a very long hike on a very short trail. I Eustachy him. I give him the Harrick heave-ho. And if I can't get the administrative green light to can him, I suspend him for the first three games of the season and fine Mr. Brain Cramp that $5,000 he wagered on college basketball, as well as the $20,000 he won, courtesy of those same student-athletes.

Neuheisel reminds me of Tom Grunick, the William Hurt character in "Broadcast News." Remember? A handsome, smooth-talking TV reporter works his way to the top of the network ladder by nudging the line that separates ethics and gray area. That's what Neuheisel has done, first by his collection of secondary recruiting violations that resulted in the NCAA's version of house arrest (he couldn't recruit off-campus), then with his denial and subsequent admission that, yes, he had spoken to the San Francisco 49ers about their head coaching job, and now this latest knucklehead move, betting on college basketball.

My buddy Ivan Maisel, who's forgotten more about college football that most of us will ever know, says Neuheisel is guilty of stupidity, nothing more. . . that he's "Clinton with a whistle." A Slick Rick, so to speak.

But since when is stupidity a defense? If anything, it's another reason to dismiss him. I talked recently to a commissioner of a major conference and asked him what he'd do with Neuheisel.

"You have to know your times," said the commissioner.

And these are the times: NCAA anti-gambling posters in every locker room, including the one Neuheisel has walked through at Washington, that read, "Don't Bet On It." . . . The State of Florida v. Adrian McPherson. This little legal doozy, which could be seen on Court TV last week, featured the former Florida State starting quarterback and misdemeanor charges that he bet on college football, including games in which he played. Not much was at stake -- only his NCAA eligibility. . . . Iowa State hoops coach Larry Eustachy getting canned for partying hearty with co-eds. . . . Alabama football coach Mike Price being drop-kicked out of Tuscaloosa for Lapdancepalooza. . . . Georgia hoops coach Jim Harrick submitting his resignation after academic fraud on his watch.

Neuheisel might know his X's and O's, but he doesn't have much feel for common sense, for the climate of his times. It is one thing to plunk a fiver down on the office pool, fill out a sheet in three minutes, and hope for the best. It is something altogether different to attend a calcutta auction and and bid 5-large for an NCAA tournament team or teams, and eventually cash a ticket worth $20,000. One is a wink-wink rite of spring, the other is 100 percent pure gambling.

Sure, Neuheisel's $5,000 is our $5. He makes a million-plus a year, so what's the harm if wants to drop some money-clip cash?

Here's the harm: What if one of his players did the same?

According to a UW compliance department memo, Neuheisel technically didn't commit an NCAA violation by participating in this particular calcutta auction. But that doesn't make it any less wrong. It only means Neuheisel keeps doing figure eights around professional ethics.

College football needs Neuheisel more than Neuheisel needs college football? Hardly. The last thing college football needs these days is a Clinton with a whistle.

Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at

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