Huskies lasting impact

For those that feel PSU football is an embarrassment, look nofurther than Seattle to find a football program truly on theropes.

The University of Washington football coach Keith Gilbertson wasfired on Nov. 1, effective at the end of the season. The firing didnot shock the coach, who on ESPN referred to the situation as “nota dream job.”

Mid-season firings are uncommon in college athletics, but thissituation is unique. When Keith Gilbertson was hired he was theonly member of the UW coaching staff with any head coachingexperience, making him really the only in-house choice. It was toolate to conduct a genuine search for a replacement, so Gilbertsonbit the bullet and took the job. His tenure has always beenconsidered an interim situation and both he and UW AthleticDirector Todd Turner agreed that it was best to move in anotherdirection. Still, the pill is bitter and not easily swallowed bythe coach or the players he has worked with over the last twoseasons. Making matters more difficult, Gilbertson is a Washingtonnative and has ties with University of Washington spanning severalgenerations.

Former UW coach Rick Neuheisel was fired fifteen months ago forhis involvement in a March Madness gambling pool in 2003. On Oct.20 of this year, the NCAA cleared him of any wrongdoing, though theschool’s NCAA-mandated probation will run through February of 2007.Unfortunately this is only the tip of what has become Neuheisel’slasting legacy at UW.

In his four seasons at Washington, Rick Neuheisel compiled animpressive record, going 33-16 over that span, which included aRose Bowl win. However his much publicized gambling pool gaffe andsubsequent ugly divorce from UW tarnished his reputation and leftthe program in shambles.

Washington’s offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson was hastilypromoted to head coach just before fall camp started last season.He was left with recruits who had committed to play under adifferent coach and an unappealing task of repairing the crumblinghouse that Neuheisel built. Now Gilbertson is the latest victim ofthe Neuheisel regime, his team a sickening 1-8, including a 0-6record in the Pac-10 conference.

According to the Associated Press, Todd Turner is willing tospend big to replace Gilbertson with one of the nation’s risingcoaching stars, someone who will bring credibility and winning waysback to the program. Names that have been mentioned includeCalifornia’s Jeff Tedford and the New England Patriots’ offensivecoordinator Charlie Weis, among others.

No matter who takes over the program and no matter how muchmoney the university spends to acquire him, the unlucky coach willbe walking into a situation that is possibly worse than the oneGilbertson faced in 2003. Graciously, the current Husky coach hasvolunteered himself in any capacity to aid Turner and the programin their search for a new coach and a return to respectability.

As for Rick Neuheisel, he will most likely coach again, now thathe has cleared his name; he must thank a technicality involving theschool’s NCAA rules compliance officer, however. The cost of thissecond chance comes at the expense of Gilbertson’s job and the lasttwo seasons of Washington football. The absolute mess in Seattleright now is a stark reminder that the NCAA has incredible power,and that following the rules (whether or not you agree with them)pays in the long run. In the short term, it is the Huskies who aregoing to pay, probably with losses in their two remainingconference games.