Saturday, June 14, 2003

Neuheisel's gone: here's the termination letter (many thanks to my crack investigative team, led by Prof. David Johnson, who's been on this story like stink on the Clippers; he needs to start a blog). In order to justify terminating Neuheisel with cause, and thereby save itself a few million, UW is now claiming that he lied to investigators when they first asked him about the charges that he had participated in a pool. As with the Martha Stewart and Henry Cisneros prosecutions, the university is using a prosecutorial bully's favorite tactic: charging the defendant not with the more serious but difficult to prove charge (in this case, gambling), but on a much more selective charge used to intimidate witnesses before the law.

Don't be surprised if the parties agree to a confidential "settlement". Neuheisel has the NCAA dead to rights on this one. The NCAA knows that its regulations, while clearly spelling out whole areas of prohibited conduct involving gambling, do not mention pools. A prolonged legal battle based on the regulation in question is one they cannot win, and the letter from the compliance official at Washington okaying participation in tournament pools is going to be hard to ignore in any wrongful termination suit.

The NCAA also wants this story out of the papers A.S.A.P.; without gambling, college basketball would be followed with all the intensity that college baseball is now, and the popularity of their showcase event largely stems from the participation of millions of people in pools, most of whom have never set foot in Vegas, telephoned a bookie, or set up an off-shore account. Making a common activity seem sinister, and implicity calling many of its devoted fans criminal, are not in the best interest of the NCAA.


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