BACK IN SEPTEMBER, when the phrase “structurally unsound” actually referred more to Husky Stadium than the team that played inside of it, the thought of Rick Neuheisel’s scheduled return to ­Seattle on November 15 as UCLA’s football coach was enough to make some Dawg fans foam at the mouth. Five years after his recruiting violations, NFL flirtations, and high-stakes hoops wagerin’ got him booted from UW, just mentioning Neuheisel’s name was still enough to whip the campus up into a seething cauldron of beer and loathing. “There is a small section of UW fans that actually like him,” says Nathan Ware, of TheDawgBlawg.com, “and I think they are certifiably insane.”

It didn’t seem possible, but current UW coach Ty Willingham has managed to make Slick Rick look good—and it may go down as his biggest accomplishment in Montlake. Yep, as Willingham limps into his last game in the Dawghouse after four of the most anemic seasons in recent UW history, he has officially replaced Neuheisel as the Scourge of Seattle.

What would have been Hate Bowl ’08 may just become the 1-800-Flowers We Miss You and Want You Back Bowl. Heck, don’t be surprised if Neuheisel gets a round of applause when he jogs onto the field. “He was a really nice guy,” says UWDawgPound.com’s John Berkowitz, one Husky blogger who’s ready to pardon the ethically challenged coach. “He just had a kind of Clintonesque thing going on.”

So it may be a tall order for you remaining Neuheisel haters, but it’s time to try, as local anger management therapist (and admitted Neuheisel fan) Lou Orsan says, to “work at the deeper core levels of your anger, which is usually around childhood hurts.” In other words, stop pointing fingers at Rick and start blaming your parents.

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