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Following the rules?

Neuheisel claims NCAA pool had Washington's approval

Posted: Monday June 09, 2003 10:27 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 10, 2003 3:18 AM
  Rick Neuheisel Rick Neuheisel still has five years left on his contract at Washington. AP

SEATTLE (AP) -- Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel contends a school e-mail gave him permission to participate in an NCAA basketball tournament betting pool, an apparent infraction that has become the focus of an NCAA investigation.

The coach didn't return telephone calls Monday. Nor did athletic director Barbara Hedges, who spoke by telephone with NCAA investigators.

Last week, investigators received a tip that Neuheisel participated in a high-stakes gambling pool on the past two NCAA tournaments, putting up $5,000 and winning about $20,000 by picking Maryland in 2002.

The NCAA prohibits gambling by college coaches on college sports, and doing so can be considered a major rules violation.

It seemed an open-and-shut case, until Neuheisel produced the e-mail late last week.

The four-paragraph e-mail, dated March 13 and attributed to Dana Richardson, assistant athletic director for compliance, was released by the Washington athletic department on Monday.

"With 'March Madness' upon us, it is important that you keep in mind that NCAA regulations and UW policy limit the extent to which ICA [intercollegiate athletics] staff can bet on college athletics," the memo said.

The last paragraph reads: "The bottom line of these rules is that if you have friends outside of ICA that have pools on any of the basketball tournaments, you can participate. You cannot place bets with a bookie or organize your own pool inside or outside of ICA."

"I have followed the University of Washington's rules, and I believed and still believe that the University of Washington's rules are in compliance with the NCAA's rules," Neuheisel said Sunday.

The NCAA won't comment on pending or specific cases, but any gambling episode involving a coach would raise immediate concern. The organization has worked over the last five years to make gambling a priority issue.

"We've been very clear over the years that participation in pools involving money would be a violation of NCAA rules," said Bill Saum, the NCAA's director of agents, gambling and amateur activities.

If NCAA investigators decide to target Neuheisel individually, the school wouldn't be penalized. Any action against the coach likely would be severe.

"The committee on infractions has instructed us to treat athletic department staff harsher than student-athletes," Saum said. "If there is a significant amount of money involved, there likely would be a significant penalty."

School officials wouldn't comment further.

Ultimately, Hedges will need to explain how an athletic department manager apparently misunderstood the rules and issued the memo. The NCAA often cites "lack of institutional control" in handing down penalties.

"We take violations of gambling legislation very seriously," Saum said.

Neuheisel has said he has spoken with school officials about the NCAA investigation.

He said he released the e-mail because of a newspaper report that indicated all athletic department personnel were warned by e-mail against participating in any NCAA basketball pools.

Neuheisel would not say why he didn't mention the e-mail when reporters asked him about the betting pool last week.

"I think what's important to do here is let the process run," he said. "I want to coach here. It's been my first, second and third goal."

Neuheisel has five years left on a contract that guarantees him at least $1.2 million a season. He has a 33-15 record in four seasons at Washington, including 7-6 last year.

 
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