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Neuheisel alleges he was wrongfully fired

SEATTLE -- Rick Neuheisel contends he was wrongly fired as
Washington's football coach, and his lawsuit blames the NCAA for
igniting the whole process.

The former coach sued the university and the NCAA on Thursday,
saying the school fired him in an effort to avoid an NCAA
investigation.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges breach
of contract by the university. Four other causes of action in the
12-page document are aimed at the NCAA -- including claims of
defamation and conspiracy.

"There are certain high-ranking members of the NCAA who were
seeking to harm Mr. Neuheisel despite the fact that he was never
involved in a major violation and had among the highest graduation
rates," the lawsuit said.

NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard said Friday he couldn't comment on
specific allegations in the lawsuit because the organization hadn't
received a copy of the complaint.

"The NCAA has done nothing wrong in this case and the
association is confident a favorable ruling will be issued on its
behalf," Howard said.

"You can't run away from something that's just wrong, in your
own mind," Neuheisel told KING-TV in an interview aired Thursday
night. "So I chose to take 'em on. It would have been easier to
run and look for something new."

The coach, who started work this week as a volunteer assistant
at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, is seeking unspecified
monetary damages.

The lawsuit was filed on the same day the university released
audio tapes of a June 4 meeting between Neuheisel and NCAA
investigators, who questioned him about his involvement in NCAA
basketball tournament pools in 2002 and 2003.

Athletic director Barbara Hedges has said Neuheisel was fired
for gambling on the tournaments in violation of NCAA rules and then
lying to NCAA investigators when initially questioned.

Neuheisel maintains a Washington athletic department memo gave
him permission to participate in neighborhood pools with friends.

The lawsuit accuses NCAA president Myles Brand and NCAA gambling
director Bill Saum of making improper public comments about the
coach through the media, leading to an atmosphere where the school
feared it would be punished.

"Such statements were made recklessly and with an incomplete
and inaccurate knowledge of the facts," the lawsuit said.

It also claims NCAA officials asked an unidentified Seattle
newspaper to delay a story about Neuheisel's involvement in the
pool "so that the NCAA could catch Mr. Neuheisel unaware at the
June 4, 2003, interview."

In a report Friday, The Seattle Times identified itself as that
paper.

Neuheisel has claimed he was blindsided by investigators, and
the tapes back up that contention. However, the tapes also support
the university's position that Neuheisel initially lied about his
involvement.

"I never placed a bet on anything," Neuheisel said early in
the tapes.

Later that day, after Neuheisel was given time to speak to an
attorney, he acknowledged his involvement in what he considered a
friendly neighborhood pool. He said it didn't involve organized,
illegal gambling.

"I never bet anything, just participated in an auction,"
Neuheisel said on the tapes. "I don't know much money was involved
because, frankly, I was just enjoying the evening."

Bob Sulkin, Neuheisel's lawyer, said the NCAA targeted his
client in "an unfair and flawed investigation."

"What is clear is that Mr. Neuheisel fully disclosed his
involvement in the March Madness pools on the first day of the
investigation," Sulkin said in a statement accompanying the
lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims the NCAA was publishing an outdated
version of gambling rules on its Web site as late as June 7. It
says the NCAA failed to use the terms "pool" or "auction" in
defining what constitutes gambling.