SEATTLE -- Former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel was cleared of wrongdoing by the NCAA on Wednesday for gambling in a college basketball pool, but the university had its probation extended two years.
Washington's NCAA probation -- initially imposed because of men's basketball recruiting violations -- now runs until Feb. 9, 2007. The school was also reprimanded for failing to monitor the football program.
Thomas E. Yeager, chair of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, said that Neuheisel avoided punishment because the school's compliance officer had written memos mistakenly saying that participation in gambling pools was allowed.
"Sports wagering is a problem that continues to threaten the well-being of student-athletes and coaches and the integrity of intercollegiate athletics," Yeager said. "If not for unique and unusual mitigating circumstances in this case, the outcome certainly would have been different. This case should not be interpreted in any fashion as a softening of the NCAA's antigambling position."
|The NCAA said it found no proof Rick Neuheisel intentionally broke the rules. (Getty Images)|
Neuheisel was fired in June 2003 by then-athletic director Barbara Hedges after he acknowledging taking part in a high-priced NCAA college basketball tournament pool.
Neuheisel twice told Hedges that he had never taken part in gambling pools, when in fact he had won $11,219 in two of them - winnings he donated to a local school.
"The important thing is to realize that, not only did they not impose any penalties on me but also, they came to the conclusion that I did not violate any rules, which is the way I had felt all along," Neuheisel said in an interview with College Sports Television, with whom he works as an analyst.
The NCAA said in its report it was "very troubled" Neuheisel initially lied, but said that because of the memos, it could find no evidence that he intentionally broke the rules. Neuheisel was never charged with ethical violations for lying because he told the truth later the same day, Yeager said.
The outcome could lead to Neuheisel's return to college coaching.
"My hope is that someone will see this as vindication and that they will give me an opportunity. I think that, in the past, I've shown that I can do the job, and do it well," Neuheisel told CSTV.
University attorney Lou Peterson said it would likely have no impact on a wrongful termination lawsuit Neuheisel filed against the university, set for trial Jan. 24. The university argues that Neuheisel broke his contract by being dishonest.