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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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November 10, 2008 12:58 PM

Neuheisel tells UW fans he's sorry

Posted by Bob Condotta

Former UW coach Rick Neuheisel, now at UCLA, was alternately gracious and self-deprecating in discussing his return to Husky Stadium this Saturday.

And then, at the end of about a 13-minute teleconference with Seattle reporters today, he turned apologetic.

"I just want the fans to know that I am truly sorry for the messiness of how things shook out (at the end),'' 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.''

The return of Neuheisel is an obvious spotlight to this game, even more so with both teams near the bottom of the Pac-10 standings and little else intriguing about the matchup.

Neuheisel said early in his conference call that "I've had lots of time to think about (his return to Husky Stadium). I have nothing but fond memories of my time as the coach at Washington. Certainly it was turbulent in my departure but I truly respect the program. I truly am grateful for the opportunities to coach there. I'm proud of what we accomplished on the field. There are games I wish I could have back but we can't and I learned a great deal from the experience and made hopefully some long-lasting relationships from the experience. I've got nothing but good things to say about it.

"With respect to the turbulent stuff, much has been said so it's probably best to leave it there.''

Asked about the current state of the program he said "it's sad because I know how hard people in program work. I have great respect for coach Willingham. I know how hard he works. My first year in the Pac-10 he was the Pac-10 Coach of the Year and had the Pac-10 champs in Stanford so I know there isn't any lack of effort and I know that they are goinig to play their tails off this weekend and so will our team and even though the records don't indicate it it should be a whale of a college football game.''

Asked what kind of reception he expects, he said: "Oh, I don't know. If my family comes there will be some people clapping when I come in. It will be what it will be. There will be some people angry and look at me as the guy that caused some of the problems that exist and there will be some people that will want to be excited about my being on the field. But the facts of the matter is that hopefully they are coming to watch a bunch of good young kids play hard.''

Neuheisel also joked about his return, saying that "all I can tell you is the other coaches on the team have asked what I'm wearing to they make sure they don't wear the same thing.''

There is only one player on the UW roster remaining who was signed while Neuheisel was coach, center Juan Garcia, who was granted a sixth year.

"I know he's been through some adversity with his healthy and so forth, but to me it's a great story that he's there and he's going to finish school and that's what college athletics is about, giving guys an opportunity and having them make the most of it,'' Neuheisel said. "So heartfelt congratulations to Juan.''

Neuheisel has been through this sort of thing before. When he was coach at UW, the Huskies played his former team --- Colorado --- each of his first two seasons, returning to Boulder in 2000. UW won each of those games. Neuheisel said those were more emotional than he thinks this will be since he had recruited many of the players on those CU teams. This one, he said, figures to be emotional mostly in terms of the fan reaction to him.

"It's going to be what it will be,'' he said. "I want to play well. I want our team to represent itself in the proper way and play hard and if we can we find a way to win the game (all the better). But 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 and 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 and that's what I choose to reflect on rather than the unfortunate, messy ending.''

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