|Thursday, February 13
Updated: March 25, 4:45 PM ET
His credibility at stake, Huskies coach explains denial
SEATTLE -- Washington Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel has acknowledged that he was interviewed for the San Francisco 49ers coaching job, saying his initial denial was based on a promise of confidentiality.
Neuheisel told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times on Wednesday night that he decided to give the real story out of concern for his credibility.
"My knee-jerk reaction was to protect an agreement of confidentially I had with the 49ers," Neuheisel told The Times, "but the life of the story that has followed has raised the question about who I am. It has questioned something more important, my credibility, and that isn't worth it.
"I want to correct the situation and apologize for not being more candid. I will work hard at repairing those relationships I have damaged."
UW athletic director Barbara Hedges said Thursday night the university would not censure Neuheisel.
"We've accepted his apology," she said at halftime of the Stanford-Washington women's game. "He's very embarrassed by it."
Hedges said Neuheisel never told her he planned to be interviewed by the 49ers and the NFL club never contacted her and asked permission to talk to Neuheisel.
Neuheisel, 33-16 in four years at Washington and 66-30 in seven years as a college head coach, would not say whether he was interested in or had been offered the 49ers job, which went to Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson on Tuesday.
"As I have explained, we had to maintain a level of confidentiality with the college coaches we were interested in speaking to," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said in a statement issued on Thursday. "We handled each of them the same. No college coach can be exposed to the media during a search."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist John Levesque overheard Neuheisel on Sunday at the San Francisco airport while the coach was talking by telephone with his parents about the 49ers job.
To Levesque and in interviews Monday with The Seattle Times and KJR Radio, as well as in a news release, Neuheisel said he flew to California only to play golf and discuss a business deal in the Napa Valley.
"I thought first about what the 49ers had asked of me," Neuheisel said. "I was trying to protect them, when I should have told the truth."
The truth was that he met with 49ers team executive John York, consultant Bill Walsh and Donahue on Sunday at a hotel near the club's headquarters.
"I cut short my vacation to Sun Valley (Idaho) at their request," Neuheisel said.
Neuheisel previously was mentioned as a potential candidate for coaching jobs with Notre Dame, UCLA and the Cleveland Browns.
"I don't want people to think that Washington is a steppingstone for me," he said. "I am very fortunate to be the coach here and am very excited about next season.
"I'm sorry all this happened."