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August 21, 2004

Veteran U-Washington FAR Exits Noisily

FROM THE PAC NORTHWEST comes public a scathing memo from the University of Washington’s 11-year veteran Faculty Athletics Representative, Rob Aronson, who resigned (voluntarily) his post in May after enduring years of marginalization and snubbing during the regime of the now departed AD Barbara Hedges and football coach Rick Neuheisel.

Aronson’s swan song was an 11-page, single-spaced memo in March 2004 that was recently obtained by the Seattle Times under a public records request. The memo (available on pdf at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/local/links/uw20.pdf) is a well-written—though sometimes rambling—diatribe underscored with credibility and impassioned sincerity.

The memo lists all sorts of failings and guilty parties--the system, the arms race, those desiring victory at all cost, opportunistic coaches, evil boosters, unpaid parking tickets, etc.—but Mr. Aronson reserved the thrust of his invective for Mr. Neuheisel and Ms. Hedges.

Shortly after his hire as football coach in 1999, Neuheisel and Hedges became furious with Aronson for recommending that the football program implement self-imposed penalties for recruiting violations.

Wrote Aronson, “Coach Neuheisel would not speak with me for six months, and never once consulted with me on any compliance issue thereafter. My relationship with AD Hedges was shaky for a long time as well. I was considered 'disloyal.' "

Hmm.

This sounds like The Blue Wall of Silence among New York cops, or omerta among the made men of La Cosa Nostra (now known as the Mafia). It’s a common bullying tactic: ostracize the rats and the whistle-blowers.

Under the best of circumstances, a FAR—especially at a Division I-A school—has an incredibly difficult mission. The diligent pursuit of an untarnished compliance record is often seen by less scrupulous stakeholders as anathema to the competitiveness of the teams.

But this is clearly a short-sighted viewpoint that often leads to recruiting violations like those that got the Huskies in trouble.

NCAA and Pac-10 rules require each member institution to appoint a FAR to protect the educational welfare of student-athletes and ensure compliance. An NCAA handbook notes: "Faculty athletics representatives can only be as effective as their institutional circumstances permit."

CollegeAthleticsClips.com contacted two uninvolved FARs to comment on the UW situation.

Rowan University FAR Ed Streb, Immediate Past President of the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association, maintains "It is absolutely essential that faculty athletics representatives have a strong voice in the way that athletics programs are run. Institutions that ignore, marginalize, or—worse yet—view their FARs as 'the enemy' are courting disaster."

Similarly, Mark Gordon, FAR at Barton College, extolled the advantages of being FAR at a small college, “… frequent one-on-one meetings with the college president, athletic director, and student-athletes. In terms of program integrity and institutional priorities, it seems that some of the big dogs just don’t get it yet.”

Wow. No prevarication there. Cheaters, stray at your peril.

Eventually, the shenanigans at UW caught up with everyone. In quick succession, Neuheisel was fired for participating in basketball pools and then lying about it, then softball coach Teresa Wilson was ousted for allowing narcotics to be dispensed to her players. AD Hedges prudently retired.

It appears that these folks had a lot to do with the exit of a good FAR in Rob Aronson.

Collateral damage.


(this 529 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was extracted from a 2698 word article in the Seattle Times of 8-21-04, plus an impassioned exit memo of 11 pages in length [single-spaced] by Rob Aronson, ex-University of Washington FAR, dated 3-16-04)