- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Rick Neuheisel, the nation’s most famous college basketball handicapper, was purged from the NCAA cesspool yesterday.

Neuheisel lost his football coaching job at the University of Washington because of a system that specializes in hypocrisy, illusion, a cheap labor force and overworked academic advisers.

They should be throwing Neuheisel a parade in Seattle today instead of throwing him to the streets.

He was one of them, one of the system’s polished egotists who reflected the distorted values of the business so well, perhaps too well, guilty of being too obvious. He was a smooth talker with a fat contract who could walk into a recruit’s home and appeal to the teen’s dream.

This is the game within the game, and it is a sordid game in the de facto minor leagues of the NFL and NBA.

Neuheisel was intrigued with the NFL. That is how it usually works. Coaches mostly come and go, cutting deals here and there while breaking young hearts and grown-up promises along the way.

They have a lot of telemarketing in them. They can sell you anything. They can work the phones with the best. They can spin a story and, if necessary, deny and obfuscate at the level of Slick Willie.

Neuheisel was known as Slick Rick in Seattle because of his careless manner with the facts. It seems he always having to talk himself out of a tight spot. He denied he ever interviewed with the 49ers last February, because it was a violation of his contract with the university.

He eventually regained his memory and apologized to the athletic director after the facts became too hard to ignore. This is how it was with Neuheisel, how it is in a system that exploits the young and enriches the golden-throated ones and tries not to notice the corrupting potion.

Neuheisel was always having to explain some act of omission on his part, sometimes a failure to read the fine print in the NCAA morality book.

It was this pattern of behavior that resulted in his dismissal as much as the revelation that he participated in a gambling pool with neighbors the last two years and won $12,123 on the NCAA basketball tournament.

Of course, petty gambling is against one of the NCAA’s laughable bylaws, of which there are a zillion.

The NCAA suits are clear on this.

Their business enterprise flourishes because of point spreads and friendly office gambling pools each March.

If gambling were not the lifeblood of their two entertainment vehicles, their house of lies would take a huge financial hit. Their fixation is on pretense.

You can be one of the slimiest coaches around as long as you have the courtesy to win games and not advertise it.

After word leaked of Neuheisel’s participation in the neighborhood pool with his high-dollar buddies, the glib coach resorted to his spin doctor tactics instead of throwing himself on the mercy of public opinion.

He talked of an athletic department memo in the spring that seemed to permit his participation in off-campus pools with friends. That might explain his participation in the pool this past March. It does not explain his participation in the pool in March 2002.

But they all spin, the NCAA coaches do. That is what they are trained to do. They are so full of it that an EPA-approved, toxin-ridding shower is essential after coming near most of them.

To which they sometimes say: You don’t understand. No, you can’t possibly understand how intricate and complex and intellectually challenging it is to lead a high-powered college football or basketball team into a globe-stopping engagement that decides the essence of everything, life itself.

Neuheisel may be a phony, but at least it is confirmed, and being a confirmed phony is more honorable than being an unconfirmed one.

Unfortunately, university officials have squandered an opportunity to be at one with the system.

Now they have to conduct a search to find a new phony who can maintain the absurd facade.

Haven’t you heard? Books come first.

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