Another argument you hear against Rick Neuheisel is that he recorded over 50 NCAA violations during his time as the head coach in Colorado and Washington. That sounds like a shocking number and nobody wants a coach who is a cheater. But when you look further into the details, you'll discover that there is a whole lot of hoopla over some very minor rules violations.
The following information comes from a number of websites:
University of Colorado,
University of Washington Magazine
The first set of violations was due to over compensating recruits during visits. Here is the list:
- Excessive reimbursement for mileage to recruits ranging from $3.20 to $35.76
- $15 in excessive entertainment money to each of three student hosts of recruits
- Use of a hotel game room at a cost of $3 over the limit for some recruiting week-ends
- Provision of TV station tours and a gift of a mock interview tape
- Allowing a newspaper reporter from a recruit's hometown to be present during a campus visit.
- Failure to recover athletic apparel provided for campus visit week-ends and inadequate equipment room monitoring.
Just this year, Colorado got in trouble again for not charging walk-on players enough money for meals over the course of 5 years. Their punishment? They lost 3 scholarships and the school will pay a $100,000 fine. They also got two years probation. Now you have to ask yourself, is it Colorado that has a problem with keeping track of money spent on players and recruits or is it Neuheisel? Because it sounds to me like the University has the problem.
The next set of violations were the more serious stuff. All related to recruiting:
- A CU staff member phoned a walk-on player after he had transferred to a different institution.
- Football coaching staff under Rick Neuheisel's direction regularly making in-person, off-campus "contacts" with prospective student-athletes outside of appropriate contact periods. The staff contacted 26 recruits.
- Use of a private jet without proper documentation by then-coach Neuheisel for recruiting.
- Attendance at a prospect's baseball game by an unauthorized athletic department staff member.
- Neuheisel also made improper contact with several of his former Colorado players after going to Washington
- Engaged one UW recruit in a a game of H-O-R-S-E, deemed an improper tryout by the NCAA.
The improper contact with his former recruits when he went to Washington comes from him calling those players and "wishing them good luck". Was he also recruiting them to the UW? Maybe, but it is very plausible to think he also was honestly just wishing them well. Coaches get to know their recruits over the course of a few years. They build relationships and some even look up to their coaches as father figures. To just walk away without even a goodbye seems cold and heartless. But that's the NCAA rules.
Calling a game of HORSE an improper tryout is so ridiculous it is absurd. Attending a baseball game of a recruit is rules violation? I mean seriously. I understand that the NCAA is trying to protect the kids, but some of this stuff is so draconian. The private jet one sounds bad, until you read it closer. It wasn't a violation that he used the jet, just that he didn't have the proper documentation and approval.
Fallout and Sanctions
In the wake of these minor violations, the University of Washington self-imposed penalties including reducing Neuheisel's off-campus visits in 2000 from 29 to 9. They also agreed not to accept any of Neuheisel's former Colorado players as transfers.
When the NCAA completed its investigation of the violations at Colorado, they prohibited Rick from off-campus recruiting for a few months. For lack of institutional control, the NCAA placed the Buffaloes on probation for two years, reduced the number of scholarships by two and restricted off-campus recruiting by Colorado coaches. Neuheisel also got censured by the American Football Coaches Association earlier that year for "demonstrated lack of remorse for such violations" in the Colorado recruiting infractions..
At the end of the day, Rick did break some rules while he was a head coach. But let's put them in perspective. He was a very young coach, at the age of 34, when he took over the reigns at Colorado. He only had one year of experience as an OC before being pushed into the limelight of one of the best programs in the Big-8. Colorado had gone 11-1 the prior season and the Buffs were just a few years removed from a National Championship. There was immense pressure on him to preform and he probably felt that he had to work twice as hard to impress his critics.
He was an aggressive recruiter, no doubt. There is a fine line between been aggressive and violating the rules. Rick stepped over that line a few times. He didn't cheat, he didn't steal signals, he didn't break the rules of the game. No, he just went a little too far in trying to get the best talent into his program. In NASCAR they have an expression, "if you ain't cheating you ain't trying". In the same way, recruiting is a dance that has coaches going as close to the line as possible and finding "creative" ways to interpret the rules.
He was young and obviously didn't realize that, while each violation was minor, that as a whole it could hurt the University. If anyone in the college ranks understands the repercussions of pushing the NCAA rules, it is Rick. I think now that he is older and wiser, he'll learn form these mistakes. He has recently expressed that he is sorry for the incidents that occurred and he takes ownership of them. There isn't anything he can do now to make up for those mistakes, except run a clean program and stay out of trouble.
I'm all for giving Rick a second chance. It has been almost 10 years since his last violation was committed. He is, after all, a Bruin and member of the UCLA family and that should be enough reason to give him our support. He is definitely one of Westwood's wayward sons and It's time for him to come back home and prove that his past is just that... in the past.