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Crying Foul! : Hobert Says the Pac-10 Treated Huskies Unfairly

August 24, 1993|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sunday, the Pacific 10 Conference had its say.

Monday, it was Billy Joe Hobert's turn.

Still reeling from the news of the penalties levied by the Pac-10 against the University of Washington, Hobert, a former Husky quarterback and current Raider rookie, responded from the club's El Segundo training headquarters.

The Washington scandal had started with Hobert, but he didn't dream it would end this way. The revelation that Hobert had accepted an improper $50,000 loan was the first in a series of violations involving various players and boosters that resulted in the penalties.

"I'm a little shocked," Hobert said. "I read in the paper that the Pac-10 is the only league that institutes its own charges on cases like this.

"I'm not one to--well, yes, I am going to say it: I think that it was totally biased. I think the Pac-10 is sick and tired of the University of Washington kicking their hind end every time we play them in a game. They should have had some other unbiased institution come in, maybe somebody from the Big Ten or the Big Sky.

"I don't think the penalties levied fit the crime. . . . The NCAA isn't that tough. That just blows me away. I can't believe it. Coach (Don) James doesn't deserve this. The university doesn't deserve this. It's just disappointing."

Perhaps most disappointing of all for Hobert was James' announcement Sunday that he is stepping down after 18 seasons as the Huskies' coach.

"You can't blame him," Hobert said. "I understand exactly where he's coming from. The guy--he's more like a god up there--has had a phenomenal career. He's done great things for that university. He's accomplished so many things. For him to leave like this is not right. He doesn't deserve this. He deserves to go out on a silver cloud."

Hobert, who grew up in Puyallup, a Seattle suburb, said he's not worried about returning home in three weeks when the Raiders play the Seahawks in the Kingdome.

"I'll be wearing a lot of pads," Hobert said. "You take into consideration the mitigating circumstances for all these things, all these allegations, and you talk to the people who said they were witnesses to all these crimes and I think you'd find these people are about as honest as a forked tongue.

"There's been a lot of things said about me that aren't true, and they tried to prove them. . . . If a guy says Billy Joe Hobert did this and I say, 'No, I didn't,' well, they're going to believe that guy because they'd rather believe that guy.

"That's just the way it is. Everybody is that way. They'd rather believe the negative than the positive. . . . Look at televangelists. You don't see them having the highest ratings for the week. It's just, nobody wants to hear the good stuff. Let's just watch '20/20' and see how many bad things we can come up with."

Hobert does not deny that he took a loan from Charles Rice, an Idaho nuclear engineer and the father-in-law of Rudy Finne, a friend of Hobert. For collateral, Hobert used his future earnings as a professional. That is a violation of NCAA rules.

"The way we had structured it initially was wrong, and we thought we had changed it," Hobert said. "In my mind, I thought I was doing everything right. But it turned out, because we initially thought about paying it back on the future earnings as an NFL player, that's what made it illegal."

When the Seattle Times made the loan information public, Hobert was suspended from the team. It was later revealed that Hobert had also accepted free meals and a job at a local golf course, receiving wages higher than the norm for the job.

"I've felt remorse ever since this whole thing started as far as the university is concerned," Hobert said. "I don't feel bad about me leaving, because I know that I can make the best of any situation. But I'm not sure about all the other guys (involved in violations). I don't know what their plans are. I don't know where their heart is."

Hobert left the team in midseason last year but he couldn't leave his troubles behind.

He said his family got a death threat, a fire was set at the golf course where he had worked, his car was stolen and vandalized and he was booed by classmates.

"It was a phone call to my dad," Hobert said of the threat. Hobert's father, Terry, and stepmother, Lorraine, still live in Puyallup.

"A guy called up," Hobert recalled, "and said, 'Are you the father of Billy Joe Hobert?' . . . and says, 'Well, I'm going to hurt your wife and I'm going to hurt your family.' "

Nothing ever happened, and the senior Hobert has refused to move.

"My dad's not one to run away," Hobert said. "He'll protect himself, but he's not going to run away from anybody."

One of the cars Hobert got through the loan money was stolen. When it was found, according to Hobert, there were bullet holes in it, the seats were slashed, the stereo was gone and, written on one side was "You can't afford this, Billy Joe."

He finally left the area, moving to Phoenix.

"I just decided it was time for me to get away so I could focus on what I needed to focus on," he said.

That was a pro career. At first, Hobert couldn't even afford to send for his wife, Carol. He finally got the money.

"Actually, what I did was to take out a loan," Hobert said. "Another one."

But this one was on the up and up.

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