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Thursday, August 21, 2003
Tapes support notes claiming former coach lied

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Former Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel told NCAA investigators he never gambled, then later acknowledged his involvement in neighborhood NCAA basketball pools.

Audio tapes released Thursday showed Neuheisel lied when initially questioned by the NCAA about gambling. The organization considers gambling a major rules violation.

The tapes support handwritten notes, released last month, from the meeting. Neuheisel was fired July 28 as Washington's coach for participating in the pools and for not being forthcoming with NCAA investigators.

"I never placed a bet on anything," Neuheisel said early in the tapes, recorded June 4 when NCAA investigators first met with him.

A short time later, he was asked whether he had any concerns about going to the event in 2002 and 2003. Teams of neighbors pooled money and bid on NCAA Tournament teams in an auction-style setting.

"I won't go again, if that's the question," Neuheisel said, laughing. "No, I didn't have any concerns at all. I know we can't gamble. I know I can't place a bet or anything like that, but I wasn't. I was just there watching."

The university released three NCAA-produced tapes, which also were given to Washington athletic officials and Neuheisel's lawyers.

The tapes were obtained under public disclosure laws by The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The nearly 60 minutes of recordings covered three separate interviews on June 4. The meetings eventually led to Neuheisel's firing. Keith Gilbertson was named coach the next day.

Attorney Bob Sulkin said Thursday he plans to file a lawsuit against the NCAA and the university, challenging the firing. He wouldn't disclose when a filing is expected.

He expressed little concern the tapes would affect their case.

"The tapes are consistent with what we have been saying all along. There's no news here," Sulkin said.

He also criticized Washington and NCAA officials for mishandling a tape that includes the first portion of the interviews. Sulkin contends it contains key information.

"The NCAA is conducting an investigation and can't even keep evidence from being lost," he said.

According to a statement released by the university, NCAA officials had "a problem in the recording procedure during the initial part of the first interview. Side one of the first cassette tape did not record."

NCAA officials didn't immediately respond to telephone messages.

Sulkin said Neuheisel's responses would seem much different if the original context was available because the questioning implied a possible connection to illegal organized gambling.

"I find it incredible that key evidence has been ... lost or destroyed," Sulkin said. "Not all the facts are out. When they're all laid out on the table, people will see the truth."

Notes by university administrators, released last month, showed most of the missing questioning centered on potential NCAA violations.

On the tapes, NCAA investigators told Neuheisel that others had corroborated a tip from a confidential source, who reported his involvement.

When investigators asked for names of people who could support his story, Neuheisel told them he wanted to talk to an attorney.

"Obviously, somebody's got some witch hunt here," Neuheisel said. "I want to know why, and I want to know who and then I want, then I'll be totally candid with you."

Offered the opportunity "to come clean," Neuheisel asked to speak with an attorney and his partners in the gambling pool. The interview was stopped, but Neuheisel explained his involvement after the meeting reconvened.

"I did not consider it gambling on college sports, although now that I'm sitting here, I realize it may be contrary to other opinions," he said.

He said on the tapes that his team's winnings were "around $5,000" but didn't know for certain.

In later interviews with reporters, Neuheisel said he invested $6,400 and won $12,123 in his two years participating in the auctions. He said he donated some winnings to charity and the parent teacher association at his children's school.

In the tapes, Neuheisel never mentions a March 13 memo from Washington compliance director Dana Richardson -- also present at the meeting -- informing athletic department employees they may participate in off-campus pools.

Three days later, Neuheisel made the memo public. It has been the basis for his defense.

On the tapes, Neuheisel is told investigators have information that he took part in NCAA pools the past two years, in which he responds: "I was at both of these events."

But when told of information that he bet $7,000 and won $25,000 on Maryland in 2002, he denies it.

"That is incorrect," he said, later noting, "I was just watching" when the auctions took place.

At one point, Neuheisel acknowledged participating in basketball office pools while working at UCLA and Colorado and that he may have done so at Washington. He later said he may have participated in a $5 March Madness pool in 1999, his first year at Washington.

Neuheisel started Wednesday as a volunteer assistant at Rainier Beach High School. He refused to discuss his legal situation during brief remarks at the school.

"That's for another time, another place," Neuheisel said.