KENT -- Pausing only to quell his tears, Rick Neuheisel yesterday described the circumstances of his "devastating" termination and the consequences of losing his job.
Neuheisel described a setting on June 5, 2003 when former athletic director Barbara Hedges confronted him with a black and white ultimatum -- resign or be fired. Hedges came to this conclusion after speaking with the NCAA and learning Neuheisel was looking at a two to five year suspension for participating in gambling pools.
"Rick, this is just not going to work," Neuheisel quoted Hedges as saying. "Gambling is very serious and the NCAA is going to come down very hard."
Under questioning from his attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., Neuheisel depicted the circumstances in which the NCAA was influencing Hedges' decision. Hedges then told Neuheisel he would have to make a decision by the next morning on whether or not he wanted to resign or wait and be terminated.
Neuheisel then described his conversations with friends and family, growing emotional as he talked about the encouragement he received from close friends.
Later on June 5, assistant athletic director for media relations Jim Daves approached Neuheisel, asking the coach if he had seen then-compliance director Dana Richardson's memo on gambling. Under late afternoon cross-examination, Neuheisel admitted that he did not consider or recall the memo before Daves reproduced the e-mail for him.
"I just knew in my head that this (form of betting) was different," Neuheisel said.
But with the new e-mail -- which Neuheisel deemed his "Holy Grail," -- in hand, the coach had tangible permission to participate.
On the morning of June 6, Hedges called Neuheisel into her office. She presented him with prepared letters of resignation and termination, urging him to resign. She said Neuheisel would be fired for violation of the NCAA gambling bylaws as well as for not being forthcoming to the NCAA, Neuheisel recalled.
At that point, Neuheisel grew angry.
"Barbara, you were there, you saw what happened (at the interviews)," Neuheisel said, agitated, referring to how he explained that NCAA investigators had not told him he would be questioned about participation in gambling pools.
After showing Hedges the memo, Neuheisel said Hedges was "defiant" that the e-mail was incorrect, telling Neuheisel that he needed to take responsibility for his actions.
Neuheisel responded by asking who was responsible for the memo, noting that the ultimate authority in the athletic department was Hedges herself.
Neuheisel didn't accept either letter, and was fired June 11.
"It was devastating to my family; devastating to me professionally," he said, noting that he had difficulty acquiring work after the termination.
He described being beaten up by the media, treated like a "zoo animal" and compared to Pete Rose, a baseball star who was implicated in high-stakes gambling. Despite negative publicity, Neuheisel described an emotional positive from being fired.
"I've gotten to be a better dad," Neuheisel said with tears in his eyes. "A football coach can be a selfish profession."
Neuheisel recently joined the Baltimore Ravens as the quarterbacks coach.
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