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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 13, 2008 at 11:01 PM

Will you boo or cheer for Neuheisel?

Okay, so a question for the night owls — will you boo or cheer Rick Neuheisel Saturday?
Or will you care enough to do either?
I’ve actually sensed an unusual apathy about the whole deal this week. As I noted earlier today, ticket sales so far are no better than they were for Oregon State and won’t be come gameday barring a large walk-up crowd, which no one really anticipates.
And I know the reaction to the stories I’ve written about it has been pretty ho hum.
For a few minutes there, it felt like 2003 again with Hugh Millen teeing off on Neuheisel on KJR-AM, and Neuheisel’s picture gracing the front pages of every newspaper in town.
But otherwise, I get the sense UW fans are more concerned with who the next coach is going to be than reliving one who is now two coaches removed.
Still, while it would be incredibly unscientific, I’m curious what the pulse of Husky nation is out there regarding Neuheisel as the game nears.
Do you still hold him accountable for the mess that is UW football right now? Or do you remember more the 33-16 record and a Rose Bowl win?
I interviewed Neuheisel on Monday for 20 minutes or so, then listened to him do a 28-minute interview on KJR the other morning, and read every other story written about him this week here and elsewhere — here’s a big one appearing in the Orange County Register today.
It seemed like Neuheisel got a little less contrite with every interview he did after his group conference call at noon on Monday with Seattle-area reporters when he said he was sorry for the messy ending to his tenure. As the interviews wore on, it appeared he was sorry more that it happened than for his role in any of it.
I was also struck that he kept saying there was so much we still didn’t know about it. What could there be that didn’t come out in a five-week trial?
Whatever there is, I get the sense it will never be known now. After this weekend, I think it all starts to become ancient history.
His last remaining fingerprints on the UW program are wiped away after this season with the graduation of Juan Garcia and the few members of the Class of 2004 that he originally recruited —- Casey Bulyca and Walt Winter each committed while Neuheisel was still coach and guys like Trenton Tuiasosopo and Jordan White-Frisbee committed shortly after he was fired, with Neuheisel laying the initial ground work for their recruitment.
Neuheisel’s defenders say he gets blamed for all that has happened, which I think is overstating the case. I’ve gotten plenty of e-mail through the years laying a lot of it on Keith Gilbertson, and obviously Tyrone Willingham has taken a ton of heavy hits along the way, as well.
It’s been a group effort to get to this point, no question about it, with Neuheisel deserving his share of the blame — you can’t ignore that UW went 8-9 in his last 17 games and had the lowest-rushing average and the second-most penalties in school history in his final season — but not all of it.
On the other hand, as Neuheisel said this week, you can’t really know what would have happened had he stayed. Maybe the culture clash between the old-school Jim Lambright players and the Neuheisel recruits that created some shaky chemistry his last couple of seasons would have evaporated once it would have been all solely his players, as would have been the case in 2003. And maybe he would have found a way to shore up the talent base and prevent the 2004 falloff — or simply gotten those players to play better than they did (and certainly the simple continuity likely would have helped a lot, as well).
One thing is for certain — Neuheisel can’t be blamed going forward. And maybe that’s why it feels like such a muted reaction to his return — people are more concerned with what’s going to happen next than what happened five years ago. After Saturday, maybe it all gets put to bed for good.

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