There is a lot more to Rick Neuheisel. You read about only a fraction of the man in my Thursday piece.
Did you miss the college game?
Neuheisel: "I was always hopeful that I'd be able to get back in. I always had to deal with the fact that it may not happen. Saturday's were hard for me the last five years. I did a little stint in high school football which was a blast. But that was Fridays, then I'd watch college football all day (on Saturday). I'd have my kid's Pop Warner game … but I couldn't keep turning on the radio. Then I'd come home and watch, all day. It was very hard."
Do you think you were being blackballed?
"I don't know if blackball was the right term. I certainly knew there was an image of who I was, that was (possibly) going to keep me from having this opportunity.
"The other thing that was going on was the search (firm) stuff. That's kind of a new industry the last five, six or seven years to college athletic directors. It used to be an athletic director had a list and called you in. The first two jobs I had with Colorado and Washington I never talked to anyone with a search firm. Now search firms are the way.
Did you call Chuck Neinas?
(Note: Former Big Eight commissioner and NCAA executive Chuck Neinas is arguably the most well known and powerful coaching head-hunter in the nation. He works out of his office in Colorado.)
"I called Chuck. He just said, 'You have to understand here's what our business is. You have to ask yourself, what is the president of the University of Washington going to say about you?
"I said, 'I understand that but you're not going to get both sides of the story that way.' He was very friendly and he's a very important person in that industry.
"With respect to the NCAA, at first I thought they were just out to get me. When you start to learn who the people are, they're not just behind this badge, a lot of them were just trying to do their job.
"There's this image of they and we, and who are those guys. In particular (enforcement director) Dave Didion and (vice president of enforcement services) David Price, I got to know. They were not bad guys, they were good guys.
"I remember sitting down one time with David Price during the litigation. You have breaks. He walks by and we kind of have eye contract and I patted the seat next to me. I said, 'I hope some day we can be pals, that this isn't forever.' I'll never forget it. He said, 'I hope, Rick, that's the case.'"
(Note: When I checked with the NCAA about this anecdote they sent back a note that it is not uncommon for opposing sides in enforcement cases to form a relationship after the case is concluded.)
Would things have gone quicker for you had you not sued (the NCAA and Washington)?
"I don't know. It was a very, very difficult time. What was being said about me and what was being labeled as the reasons for my firing I couldn't live with, they weren't right. Their side of the story was not correct.
"The University of Washington settlement offer to me was not close to being fair from my standpoint. Obviously, there's a lot of pride that goes into these things. My family weighed in heavily. My dad weighed in heavily saying, 'You can't let them do this to you.' As I look back, I felt like I was pushed into a corner where I didn't have a choice."
How does it feel to be back?
"Unbelievable ... It's a magic carpet ride. There are stacks of stuff, notes to return. You can never catch up. I've said this before, I've got this sense of calm about this deal. Having done it twice at CU and Washington, I know there is time. You don't have to hurry up. I think you make mistakes when you hurry.
"You've got the guru of all coaches, the Yoda of all coaches here, John Wooden. One of his mantras is be quick, don't hurry. Nothing could be truer about taking over a program."
How about the NFL vs. college?
"It might have been Dick Vermeil who said being in the NFL is like going to graduate school. I think that's right. The scheming of the game is great for you because it's a 24-7 football job. This job, you wear so many different hats. It's a great experience for those of us who love football. That being said, it's a really, a within-the-box league. I think people are afraid to venture out and try anything for fear of scorn or somebody will tell their owner why would you do something stupid like that?
"I like (wearing) the alumni hats, I like the recruiting. I like the interaction. I swear to you there's more to that in pro football than meets the eye. Bill Belichick gives the impression that it's all business, but I think he's one of the great communicators. He just doesn't want to show it.
"It's a three-headed monster no matter where you are. It's the owner, the head coach and it's the general manager. If those three guys don't have a bond ... you don't have a chance. I would say that two-thirds of the teams have that issue at the beginning of the year. Two-thirds of the teams have a trust issue in that triumvirate. That just filters.
Are you happier in college?
"I'm happier in college because I'm around the kids. I like recruiting. I like going out to different homes and meeting the families. It was like riding a bike. You take off your coat, whip it down and let's get down to business.
"There was a time when a (recruit) was giving me a hard time, I just kicked off my shoes like it was my house and I laid down on the couch. (At that point Neuheisel grabbed the remote) I said, 'Unless you like country western music you're going to make your decision fast. I'm going to turn it up every 30 seconds.'"
Did you get him?
What was Karl Dorrell’s downfall?
"I have a theory on coaches. Sometimes they fit programs and sometimes they don't. You have to be your own personality. To Karl's credit, he didn't change his personality, he was who he was.
"I called him right after the game. They just beat USC (in 2006). There was a point when they stopped them on fourth-and-1. You saw the fire in his face. I said, 'Watch the TV and look at yourself. You've got to do that more.'"
"He agreed but he is who he is."
Have you run into Pete Carroll?
"I called him early on when I got the job. I wanted permission to talk to Ken Norton Jr. Pete's great. Pete is that guy who will compete at everything. When you do something well, he's going to look at you and say, nice job. But the very next thing out of his mouth is going to be chin up, 'I'll see you next time.' There's going to be no concession. That's the way it's going to be.
"We'll respect each other. We'll fight tooth and nail. Maybe when we're eating on the rubber chicken circuit how many years down the road we can act like we're buddies, but right now it's going to be grind it out."
The power has shifted to USC, how do you get it back?
"One day at a time. Keep doing the right things, keep stacking one good decision on top of another good decision. Eventually we will get to that day where there is balance again."
But they've got a stranglehold on recruiting.
"What they've been able to do is get their recruiting classes done so that when we're out there in the contact period they're really in junior recruiting. When you're out there in December and January, they're going a lot of junior recruiting so they're ahead. And they've got this image of glamor that they're parlaying into great recruting."
In Seattle you took a lot of heat for not recruiting great defensive players. Did you miss on some defensive players?
"Everybody evaluates players to the best of their ability ... I know we had a list of guys who were great players. Whether or not we actually ended up with those great players I'd have to go back and look at the list ...
"I think they (critics) spent too much time talking about me and it hurt the performance of the players rather than championing the players. They were too busy wanting to blame me for lack of performance. My point was, to the people who were asking, if you just sit there and start talking about players being good you're going to get better performance. The more you chastise, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
How did you get (offensive coordinator) Norm Chow?
(Note: Chow was fired recently from the Tennessee Titans. The former USC offensive coordinator then became available to coach against the program where he tutored two Heisman Trophy winners)
"The stars aligned. I had wanted to talk to Norm before. We got word from Tennessee's attorney that he was under contract and I couldn't talk about him anymore. Fortunately for us, he became available.
Who's going to be your quarterback?
"It's an open competition ... I told our guys the most important thing is that there be no more exciting place in Los Angeles than our practice field. If you want entertainment you come watch UCLA practice ... That's exactly how Pete runs his. I give credit where credit is due. That's what has to happen."