He's back! Neuheisel brings UCLA to Washington Print
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Friday, 14 November 2008 11:42
NCAAF Headline News

 SEATTLE (AP) -His security detail won't be Nick Saban-esque. There won't be a dozen troopers flanked at the sides of Rick Neuheisel when he walks into Husky Stadium on Saturday night for the first time in five years.
Animosity still exists around here for the former Huskies coach, but there is also some support for Neuheisel. Other fans gladly lay the blame for Washington's downfall at his feet.
For the first time since his messy divorce from Washington, Neuheisel will walk down the purple carpeted tunnel on Saturday night - past the poster from the 2001 Rose Bowl championship team he coached - wearing the blue and gold of UCLA.
It's not quite Saban returning to LSU, but it'll be far from a warm welcome back for Neuheisel.
And Huskies-Bruins is certainly no Alabama-LSU. The Huskies remain the only winless team in the country (0-9, 0-6 Pac-10) with lame-duck coach Tyrone Willingham just three games away from unemployment.
-6, 2-4) are winless on the road and have lost three of four. Any hope of a bowl appearance in Neuheisel's first season seems highly unlikely with No. 6 USC still on the schedule.
But what happens on the field Saturday is the sideshow this time around, thanks to Neuheisel's four-year tenure at Washington that brought the highs of a Rose Bowl, and the lows of firings, lawsuits and bitterness.
``In terms of all the outside stuff, frankly it will be best when it's over, because I think too much gets made of it. I have a fond, fond memory bank of great things that happened to me while I was the Husky coach,'' Neuheisel said.
``I've been in Husky Stadium when it was absolutely rocking. I remember many, many late wins that the place was jumping and I remember the Rose Bowl season and great, great things during my time there. That's what I choose to reflect on rather than the unfortunate, messy ending.''
Certainly, Neuheisel took the Huskies on a roller coaster ride as the head man on Montlake.
He befriended his players and brought his jubilant, enthusiastic attitude to the program. Then he guided his team to the 2001 Rose Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the country. He went 33-16 at Washington, a record that would be welcomed by Washington fans at this point, and went to bowl games in all four of his seasons.
Since his firing in 2003, the Huskies are 18-50.
. I enjoyed being around him and he hired me and I worked for him and it was a good go,'' said Washington defensive line coach Randy Hart, who worked on Neuheisel's staff. ``Unfortunately, it didn't end how we all wanted it.''
Neuheisel brought a change in culture from the grinding discipline of Don James and Jim Lambright, a shift that Neuheisel views as more of a decision by Washington's administration when they fired Lambright than anything he specifically did.
He also brought baggage from Colorado, where transgressions in recruiting brought penalties, and his friend-first attitude resulted in some lax discipline for players.
Then there was Neuheisel's final chapter at UW: violating NCAA rules by betting in a NCAA tournament basketball pool; lying about a job interview with the San Francisco 49ers; his subsequent firing by athletic director Barbara Hedges, who brought Neuheisel to Seattle; and his lawsuit against the university and the NCAA that resulted in a $4.5 million settlement.
Saturday's return is the postscript.
``For me, this thing, if there's any emotion it's between the fans and myself, and I just want the fans to know that I am truly sorry for the messiness of how things shook out,'' Neuheisel said. ``Husky football is a great entity and a great program and I believe that good things are in store, and I believe that is also the case for UCLA football.''
too grim for some to have fun with it.
Neuheisel said he was asked by his assistants what color outfit he planned to wear so they could avoid dressing like the head coach. When asked what kind of reception he could expect, Neuheisel joked, ``If my family comes there will be some people clapping when I come in.''
Willingham cracked a slight grin at the idea that for one week the spotlight wouldn't be on the conclusion of his tenure with the Huskies, where he is just 11-34 in his four seasons.
Willingham will coach his final game at Husky Stadium on Saturday. He is 6-19 at home, lately playing before a half-full stadium.
``When you look out and you are coming to your final one in this stadium, you have a lot of thoughts,'' Willingham said. ``I don't know what all of them will be at this time but obviously it will be emotional for me also.''
 

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