Had you happened upon a football game involving the Bellevue Boys & Girls Clubs in the Seattle area this fall, you might have seen a rather conspicuous figure barking out plays to the kids in oversized shoulder pads. "There was some question as to why I was doing this," says Rick Neuheisel, the former University of Washington coach and current clipboard holder for the Wolverines, the team of his 12-year-old son, Jerry. "But the coaches are mainly dads who have extra time."
Neuheisel has had plenty of extra time since June 2003, when he was fired from his $1.2 million-a-year job for lying to school officials about interviewing with the 49ers and about his participation in a high-stakes March Madness pool. Because he was gambling on college games--he reportedly won more than $11,000 in two pools--the NCAA launched an investigation. It lasted 17 months and kept Neuheisel from moving on to another job. Last week he was finally cleared of any wrongdoing by the NCAA, which deemed his gambling forgivable because Washington's compliance officer had written memos that said, incorrectly, that participation in the pools was allowed.
The NCAA ruling brings to a close an awkward period for the 43-year-old Neuheisel. "The first year after, I was bitter," he says. "I'd walk around and feel like a zoo animal. I'd catch people looking and whispering." He and his wife, Susan, discussed moving from the Seattle area but decided to stay because he didn't want to give his three kids the idea that they were leaving just because "it was hot in the kitchen." To keep a hand in the game, in addition to coaching his son, he called around to local high schools. Mark Haley, the head coach at Rainier Beach High, took him on as a volunteer quarterbacks coach.
Though Rainier Beach's athletic director jokes that "now that he's cleared, we're going to make him our head coach," Neuheisel is hoping he'll be able to latch on at the collegiate level soon. As of last weekend he had yet to be contacted by any schools, though he had calls from boosters and he's been sending out résumés. ("I'm not above that," he says.) "As long as I get a chance to explain what went on in my life, I think people will understand," he says. "Ideally, I'd like to be a head coach. I understand that the residue of what's gone on in my life might preclude that. If that's the case, I will do what I can to build my way back up."