Almost two dozen college head coaching jobs have come open since October and Rick Neuheisel hasn't even gotten an interview.
Almost two dozen college head coaching jobs have come open since October and Rick Neuheisel hasn’t even gotten an interview.
The former Washington coach was fired by the university in June 2003 after it was learned that he bet in a college basketball pool. The NCAA investigated both Neuheisel and the Huskies football program and in October cleared the coach of any wrongdoing.
Now he wants back in the coaching business. But unlike other coaches felled by scandal such as UTEP’s Mike Price and Central Florida’s George O’Leary, the doors have not opened for Neuheisel.
“It has tarnished me and made it difficult for me to get an interview in the open marketplace,” Neuheisel told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday.
Neuheisel has sued Washington for wrongful termination. A trial is set to begin Jan. 24.
“I’m eager for it to begin and for the facts to come out,” he said.
The university argues that Neuheisel broke his contract by being dishonest.
Neuheisel was also frustrated by how long it took the NCAA to finally make a decision on his case.
“It was 504 days, but I wasn’t really counting,” he said. “I don’t mean to convey anything by that except that’s a long time to be in limbo.”
Neuheisel’s name often gets tossed around when jobs come open, but he says he has never been a candidate for any openings.
“It hasn’t been for lack of effort,” he said.
It’s hard to argue with Neuheisel’s record.
He is 66-30 in eight seasons with Colorado and Washington. After four seasons with the Buffaloes, he was wooed to Washington. In Seattle, where he still lives, Neuheisel was 33-16 with a Rose Bowl victory.
Since his messy departure from UW, the Huskies have fallen apart and sweeping changes were made throughout the Washington administration.
The Huskies are coming off a 1-10 season under Keith Gilbertson, Neuheisel’s replacement.
“I suffered along with them,” said Neuheisel, who hired Gilbertson and recruited most of Washington’s players.
Washington hired former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham earlier this month to repair a program that not long ago was one of the best in the Pac-10.
Neuheisel said one of two things needs to happen for him to get another shot as a college head coach.
“An athletic director or a president or chancellor at a university has to be willing to sit down and talk to me and find out what took place,” he said.
“If that doesn’t happen, I’ll have to go though the legal process and get the story out there on the table.”
When Neuheisel was fired by former Washington AD Barbara Hedges, she said he initially lied about betting in the high-stakes NCAA basketball pool and wasn’t immediately forthcoming with NCAA officials.
Not long before the betting scandal, Neuheisel admitted to lying about interviewing with the San Francisco 49ers.
Maybe the closest thing Neuheisel has had to an interview came after Mississippi fired coach David Cutcliffe.
Ole Miss AD Pete Boone said he had two telephone conversations with Neuheisel about the coaching vacancy.
“We decided not to pursue it,” Boone said Wednesday. He declined to give further details or speak specifically about Neuheisel’s situation.
Ole Miss ended up hiring Southern California assistant coach Ed Orgeron.
Boone did say that a sketchy reputation would not necessarily keep him from interviewing a coach.
“The unfortunate thing about a situation like that is perception is usually so much worse than reality,” Boone said. “I would not preclude someone from being a candidate if I could ascertain the facts of the situation.”
Of the 21 jobs that have come open this season, only the two latest – at Syracuse and LSU – have not been filled. Most by coaches with far less credentials than Neuheisel.
“It’s extremely frustrating. I’ll leave it at that,” he said.
Neuheisel spent this season working as an analyst for College Sports Television. His contract is up next week.
After that, “I’m back in as a free agent,” he said.