Settlement reached in Neuheisel's lawsuit
A settlement was reached this morning that will pay former UW football coach Rick Neuheisel $4.5 million in his wrongful termination suit against the university and NCAA.
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A settlement was reached this morning that will pay former University of Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel $4.5 million in his wrongful termination suit against the university and NCAA.
The settlement, announced in King County Superior Court this morning just before closing arguments and after five weeks of testimony, would give Neuheisel $3 million cash — with $2.5 million of it to be paid by the NCAA and the remaining $500,000 by the UW. The UW would also forgive a $1.5 million housing loan paid to him in 2002.
Neuheisel also would be relieved of any interest on the loan, which Neuheisel's team estimated at $200,000. An amount was not mentioned in the three-page settlement document, however, and UW officials confirmed their part of the deal at $2 million.
The university's portion of the settlement will be paid out of the athletics department operating reserve fund. The settlement would not impact budgets or operating expenses of UW sports.
Neuheisel could have realized twice the amount had the jury found in his favor and awarded him the full benefit of his claim. The two parties tried to reach a mediated settlement the day before the trial began, but failed their last ditch attempt.
"I feel vindicated but the whole episode is a rather sad story," Neuheisel told College Sports Television, where he worked last season as an analyst. "I have great respect for the NCAA and the University of Washington and filing the lawsuit against both was the hardest decision I have ever made. Ultimately I had to stand up for myself and I'm glad the matter is over."
After his brief announcement, King County Superior Court Judge Michael Spearman called attorneys in the case into his chambers.
Neuheisel had alleged the university wrongfully terminated his contract, and that the NCAA improperly influenced his employment by encouraging Washington administrators to fire him.
"The settlement in this case is the result of restrictions placed on the NCAA by the court about how the association could explain the bylaw and defend its rightful interpretation," said NCAA president Myles Brand in a statement. "I have complete confidence that the NCAA enforcement staff acted properly and in compliance with NCAA bylaws with regard to Mr. Neuheisel's interviews. Even so, an independent examination of procedures and processes employed by the national office staff to implement NCAA bylaws will be expanded to review this specific instance."
During the trial, the UW had argued that he had signed a contract that allowed for his firing for acts of dishonesty. School officials have said Neuheisel was fired for gambling on an NCAA basketball pool and failing to be forthright about it with NCAA investigators.
Last week, Spearman left open the possibility of declaring a mistrial because the NCAA had failed to provide Neuheisel's legal team with an updated version of its bylaws during discovery. In a statement Monday, the university said it agreed to settle because a mistrial could be declared.
"The university presented the grounds for that decision in court and is confident of its position," said UW attorney Lou Peterson said. "However, during the final days of trial, events outside the university's control raised the serious threat of a mistrial or reversal. The university is pleased that the NCAA assumed responsibility to help resolve the difficult situation that had developed around changes in its procedural rules."
In four seasons with the Huskies, Neuheisel compiled a 33-16 record, including a Rose Bowl victory in 2001 and a No. 3 national ranking. Former athletic director Barbara Hedges fired him in June 2003 after she said Neuheisel lied to her about interviewing for a job with the San Francisco 49ers and about his participation in NCAA men's basketball gambling pools in 2002 and '03.
Neuheisel has since been hired as quarterbacks coach for the NFL Baltimore Ravens.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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