Neuheisel Is Cleared by NCAA

Times Staff Writer

The NCAA on Wednesday announced it would not punish former Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel for participating in a basketball pool, but it extended the university's probation by two years, until 2007, for failing to monitor the football program.

"I'm happy that the NCAA has concluded that I didn't violate the rules," Neuheisel said. "I felt that all along."

Neuheisel, 43, a former UCLA quarterback, was fired in June 2003 for participating in a high-stakes NCAA basketball pool and, school officials said, because he initially lied about it to investigators. Neuheisel, who has filed suit against the NCAA and Washington, said the school tacked on the rationale about firing him for lying only after it became clear the gambling charge might not be enough.

In 1999, Washington's compliance officer at the time circulated memos to members of the Husky athletic department mistakenly saying participation in office pools was allowed. Thomas E. Yeager, chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, suggested Neuheisel was saved from punishment by that erroneous memo.

"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 the 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 anti-gambling position."

The decision could make Neuheisel a top candidate to fill any college coaching vacancies after the season, although he said he also would look at NFL possibilities. He called the last 17 months of waiting for an NCAA decision "a real hardship for me."

The school's probation, which now ends Feb. 9, 2007, was initially prompted by basketball recruiting violations.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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