If you live in the Seattle area like I do, or are a University of Washington Alumni, the chances are that you hate former Huskies Head Coach Rick Neuheisel more than you ever hated Saddam Hussein. How did I draw a line between those two? Well slick Rick just happened to finish up a tour with six other coaches to the Middle East. Neuheisel and the other who’s who of college football head coaches even spent the night in one of Saddam’s palaces, although the sleeping accommodations were a little bit less than what they had expected.
Neuheisel is about to start his second season as the UCLA Bruins head football coach. He definitely has his work cut out for him. The Bruins started the 2008 season with an improbable win over Tennessee, but proceeding to lose the next three. They finished the season with a 4-8 record. Another finish like that and the heat will undoubtedly be turned up on Neuheisel.
Rick Neuheisel joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego to talk about his coaching tour to Iraq and the plush furniture of Saddam’s palace.
On how the whole trip to the Middle East came up:
“There was a nice man by the name of Mike Wahlen who owned a media company in Atlanta that put this whole thing together. There was seven coaches, Troy Calhoun from Air Force, Mack Brown from Texas, Jim Grobe from Wake Forest, Tommy Tuberville who’s not coaching this year but who had the year before, Jim Tressel from Ohio State, Houston Nutt from Ole Miss and I all had the great privilege to go over there and shake the hands of the men and women in our armed forces who are really doing a great job over there. It was a fascinating trip.”
Neuheisel asked what was the most interesting part of the trip from his perspective:
“The amount of commitment we have to our armed forces over there. We build not just bases, we build cities for these people to work out of and to try and create the comforts of home, which is a very difficult thing when you’re that far away and things are so different. There were Kentucky Fried Chicken’s, Taco Bell’s on these bases. It was a remarkable thing. And the amount of expense that goes into making sure we’re doing things the right way. It makes you very, very proud to be an American.”
On if the coaches got to sleep in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces:
“When we got to Baghdad we checked into one of the palaces being used for the same purpose we were there for, and we all thought we were going to be staying in these opulent rooms. When we went down there, they opened the door and there were these bunk beds. So all of the coaches slept in the same room that night. Tressel said as he looked around the room that he was going to sleep with one eye opened.”
On who he had to share a bunk with:
“I was on top bunk. Being one of the spry coaches I was on the top bunk of Mack Brown. I told Mack he was snoring too loud and he refused to admit that he was a snorer.”