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Valley native Rick Neuheisel to coach new Arizona pro football team

Posted at 12:10 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 21:04:11-04

A new pro football team is coming to the Valley -- and it will be headed up by a familiar name.

The Alliance of American Football, an eight-team league that will begin play in February, announced Friday that Rick Neuheisel will coach Alliance Phoenix, which will play its home games at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

The 57-year-old Neuheisel grew up in Tempe and attended McClintock High School. He played football, basketball and baseball at McClintock and graduated in 1979.

Neuheisel has had three head coaching stints at the NCAA level: at Colorado (1995-98), Washington (1999-2002) and UCLA (2008-11), posting an overall record of 87-59.

During his introduction Friday, Neuheisel said he grew up attending ASU football games at the same stadium where he'll coach Alliance Phoenix next year.

"I'm really, really proud to represent my hometown here with this new alliance. This is homegrown stuff, and I think that's the idea behind this league," he said. "We're thrilled. Looking forward to the challenge. Unbelievable amount of work to be done, but (where) better than to do it right here in the Valley of the Sun.

"It couldn't be better. It's almost like serendipity when the phone call came... that this was a possibility."

Neuheisel led the Huskies to an 11-1 record and a Rose Bowl victory in the 2000 season, but was fired by Washington in 2003 after he took part in a college basketball gambling pool and initially denied his involvement before later admitting to it. In 2005, Neuheisel was awarded $4.5 million after filing a lawsuit against Washington and the NCAA for wrongful termination.

Neuheisel served as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens in between his head coaching jobs at Washington and UCLA. He was fired as UCLA's head coach in 2011 and has served as a college football analyst since 2012.

"Our feeling is we want to be a complement to the NFL," Neuheisel said about the AAF. "We're not a developmental league, yet we want to develop players."

Neuheisel was a quarterback at UCLA and helped guide the Bruins to a 1984 Rose Bowl victory over Illinois. He was named the MVP of that game. He played briefly for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers, along with the San Antonio Gunslingers in the United States Football League.

Alliance Phoenix was the fifth team officially confirmed by AAF for its new league beginning next year. Franchises in Salt Lake City, Orlando, Memphis and Atlanta have also been announced.