Matt Hayes ♥ Slick Rick

In case you haven’t noticed recently, TSN’s Matt Hayes has a serious mancrush on UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel. Matt really rose to Neuheisel’s defense in this piece that criticized the Seattle Times’ series on problems with the University of Washington’s 2000 football team. You can feel the love:

… Neuheisel says he refused comment to the Times on the investigation because he still feels the newspaper has a personal vendetta against him. He told me the same thing four years ago when I went to Seattle to write about his lawsuit against the NCAA and Washington.

Hayes claims to be skeptical… until he finds the smoking gun.

…Still, I was skeptical about the “vendetta” Neuheisel claimed. Then I read the Times series, and more shocking, the response from executive editor David Boardman in addressing questions from readers. One of the questions: Was this series timed to hurt UW football recruiting …?

Boardman’s answer was, “…We did not intend to impact UW recruiting one way or another, though in retrospect the story seems more likely to hurt recruiting by UCLA, where Neuheisel is the new coach, than it does at (Washington).”

ZOMG! Timing equals intent! The bastards were out to screw the guy!

Never mind that the series seems to have had zero impact on UCLA’s incoming class. Or that the vast majority of complaints the Times received from its readers felt that it would impact UW’s recruiting. Or that Hayes never argues that the problems didn’t exist and that Neuheisel wasn’t there when much of the mess happened (Hayes gives us the political defenses of “mistakes were made” and “nobody’s perfect” as a balance to what he sees as the newspaper’s bad faith).

As further support to his “the man’s been done wrong” position, Hayes points to the blog post from a writer at the competing Seattle paper who felt he had a few scores to settle with the Times’ reporting and has a warm spot for Neuheisel as well.

Here is where the irony gets thick. Hayes claims that some of the Times’ writers aren’t happy with him about what he wrote in 2004 about RN.

Judging from this response, (h/t The Wizard of Odds) it looks like he’s right. It also looks like there was some validity to their complaints. There’s some pretty scathing stuff in there, both with regard to football pundit and head coach. (“I’ll grant this much — when it came to Rick Neuheisel’s time at UW, the truth was often as hard to find as a running game.”)

There are lots of axes to grind here, it seems.

Anyway you look at it, it’s pretty clear that it’s hard to be neutral if you’re a writer covering Neuheisel. Which means that the UCLA football beat writers should be in for a treat in the next few years.

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