The education coach

UW/Neuheisel pact shows how to win without playing.

The freshly inked 17-page contract giving new University of Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel $7.8 million in real and potential income over the next seven years includes this important reminder: The academic performances of UW student-athletes "are of paramount importance" and "although this employment contract is sports-related, the primary purpose of the University and this Agreement is educative."

Did we see hands go up from school teachers everywhere? You say you make $39,000 a year handing out lessons for life while "the education coach" averages $1.1 million teaching the up-and-out route?

More telling, perhaps, is Neuheisel's exclusive licensing agreement allowing him to use his name, image, and signature on assorted products "for commercial exploitation." Now we're talking learning experiences.

Despite Neuheisel's claim that his agreement to a five-year pact with a two-year extension option is "not about money," he's on course to become a sports-industry millionaire seven times over, with free cars to boot. Rather than an educator, he'll in effect be a top executive in a dawg-eat-coug business with a self-generated $30-million budget. If college football is only a game, it has no-nonsense goal lines: ticket sales, radio/TV income, product marketing, and customer satisfaction (read: winning). Clearly, should Neuheisel fail to instill mastery in his student-athletes and gratitude in his alumni, his firing will bring no cry of solidarity from the teacher's union.

The UW's generous math speaks for itself: by just his second day on the job, January 10, Neuheisel had made more than some teachers make in several years: $88,335. On that day, he was already eligible for a retirement check—one of two $75,000 annual payments—and for one of his dozen annual $13,335 monthly housing allowance payments.

By the end of January—after he and his coaching/recruiting staff had tripped over the NCAA rule book 30 times (see "The coach fumbles," SW, 2/18)—he also became eligible to receive a twelfth ($18,750) of his $225,000 base salary. Along with embarrassing headlines and school-imposed sanctions on future recruiting, he earned over $100,000 that first rocky month.

On July 10 Neuheisel also picked up the first of two $112,500 annual media compensation checks for being forced to talk to reporters and the second of his $75,000 retirement fund payments. He has also broken in his Broadmoor Golf Club membership, taken the wheel of one of two cars provided him and his wife, and dipped into expense accounts that include travel money for his family.

Just days ago, Neuheisel received a check for $320,000, part of $800,000 he will receive to pay off a home loan he was forced to reimburse the University of Colorado after breaking his contract there.

Altogether, by next week when the Huskies open the season at Brigham Young, Neuheisel will have been paid $1 million before his team makes its first down.

Win or lose, he is guaranteed $1.8 million his first year. And if he was fired today, he'd still walk away with $2 million.

Now that's educative: When forecasters are saying you'll finish sixth in a ten-team league, get the money up front.

 
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