Bumped. Bruin Blue on the endgame, which means all of us saying an emphatic NO to DeWayne Walker from getting any consideration to replace Dorrell as the next HC of UCLA football. GO BRUINS. -N
Karl Dorrell is gone. No, I do not have inside word that this is true. And he at least theoretically has the chance to win out and make the Rose Bowl, so it is not official. But it is essentially all over. There is no way that even our administration is going to keep Dorrell another year, even if the decision is simply predicated on the need to preserve the season ticket base. I don't know whether Dorrell is going to win none of the next four games, or one, or somehow two; but it won't be enough. I know that for those who have shared my years of frustration and misery following our football program, it seems as if there is always some awful scenario that saves our incompetent coach; so you hate to count on it until it happens. But-- putting aside the unbelievable possibility of us winning out--I think that this is as close to a certainty as we have had in this realm for quite a while. So be of good cheer in that regard.
Of course, as I have written over the last few weeks, that is only a part of the battle. A necessary part, of course, but far from sufficient. Now, we have to fend off the natural tendency of our athletic department to always hire the easiest and most comfortable candidate. That of course would be DeWayne Walker. To me, Walker is a decent defensive coach, not much better than that. I've yet to see him stop a spread offense. Giving up 544 yards (and perhaps more significantly, 31 first downs) to Washington State was simply a bad defensive effort, just like the efforts against Utah and Washington were bad. But it shouldn't even come to the discussion of whether Walker's defense did a good job in any particular game. I don't care whether he somehow shuts down Oregon or Arizona State. All that would mean is that he did a good job in that one game, not that he should be the UCLA head coach. There are defensive coordinators all over the landscape in college football, many of whom are doing better jobs than Walker, with lesser personnel. Who is the Kansas DC; does anyone know or care? How about Arizona State's DC, or the one at UConn or even Ohio State? Do we hear anyone mentioning any of those for our head coach? I wouldn't want any of them, so why in the name of heaven should we want Walker? The only possible reasons for the pumping of Walker are the fact that he is here, he is now considered "a Bruin," and most of our alumni and fans can't think of anyone else, because they don't follow college football very much outside of this conference. Let us pray that our Athletic Director does not fall into this group, or we are going to end up with Walker.
I have said before that if Walker ends up being the choice, I am giving up. There would be no reason to go through this anymore. Walker would be UCLA's ultimate capitulation, their implicit statement that we cannot compete for BCS trophies. It's a guarantee that with Walker, our program would take a backseat in our own league to USC, ASU, Oregon, Cal, and then perhaps other programs, if they make more significant hires. Never forget that--as perhaps opposed to thirty years ago--the better coaches almost always guarantee a better program. Years ago, when talent could be hoarded, there were several coaches around who were not that good, but who had so much talent that they could win a lot of games. There were others who were better, but who were always stuck with lesser players. Now, with more players and more parity, any good coach can bring sufficient talent to his school. Thus, for example, if Washington were to hire Chris Peterson (and it's possible), the Huskies would end up with a better program than UCLA, if we hired Walker or someone equally average. Washington State would actually have a better program if they somehow hired Peterson. If Arizona finally decides to go big-time and hires someone like Mike Price or even TCU's Gary Patterson, they would have a better program than we would. In the Donahue days, those schools could have better coaches than we did, and we would still usually eke out victories with vastly superior personnel, but no more.
So we are at a crossroads right now. I'm not sure if our athletic administration realizes it, or most of our boosters and alumni base, but it's true. Virtually every other major program in the country is now willing to do whatever can reasonably be done to bring a highly successful football program to their school. If we continue to do our usual thing, we are going to be submerged to a spot where it may be almost impossible to ever find our way to the surface. In fact, while Walker would probably be a better coach than Dorrell (by definition, if nothing else), we could actually do worse in his tenure, because of the improvement of the other Pac-10 programs. Just because we once beat most of them purely because of our talent advantages does not mean that this will continue. Dorrell hasn't finished higher than third in the league. Walker might end up burying our program in the second division, and wouldn't that be fun? Again, if Dan Guerrero ignores all of this and still hires Walker, he will be showing everyone in the country, that he is unqualified to be Athletic Director at UCLA., because any barely competent AD would not make such a move.
Here is an interesting trivia question to highlight the way that UCLA has gone about hiring coaches. Since 1950, UCLA has hired eight football coaches and seven basketball coaches. How many of them, when hired as head coach here, had never previously been either a player or an assistant coach at UCLA? Think about it for a few seconds...and the answer is three--all in basketball. Yes, every one of the eight football coaches we hired had either been an assistant coach here (seven of them) or a player (Dorrell). The three basketball coaches without prior UCLA ties were Bartow, Brown and Howland. Of course, before 1950, both Sanders and Wooden had no UCLA background, and what jackpot hires they were. But time and again, UCLA seems almost hypnotized into hiring a football coach who is familiar to the administration and the alumni by having been here before. Our candidate base is thus always the most narrow and limited of any major program, and it is thus no surprise that we end up with poor hire after poor hire. One would think that we would learn this lesson someday, but it appears that we still have not; witness the various people who keep pushing for Walker to be hired.
Now--and this is very sobering--it may actually be that the administration is doing exactly what it wants to do. It is possible that the people in the Morgan Center, and many of the big donors, are actually happier with a coach that they know and like as a person, and can hang around with and feel important. They actually do not want a more driven, less amiable type, who would be more concerned with winning and building a football power, than with hanging around and being nice to all of them. In other words, 7-5 seasons, which are nightmares to us, are actually perfectly acceptable to them, as long as they can feel like bigshots, hang out in the coach's office, get to go to all the big events and impress their wives and girlfriends. The administration is happy enough with a profit and no scandals. If this is the reality, as some have suggested, then there is no need for us to even care anymore. For my part, I will give it this one last try, in the hope that someone in a high place at UCLA actually wants to field a big-time program. If not, we'll know soon enough, and then we can do other things in the Fall, until the start of basketball season, anyway.
I think that everyone should do what he can to express our demands to Guerrero that we hire a major coaching talent. Now, whom should we go after? Well, again, I think that it not only is not premature that we decide this, it is imperative. Because unless I completely miss my guess, Guerrero will have his list made in the next couple of weeks. I could easily see no real coaching search at all, just the facsimile of one, while the AD has already essentially made his choice. I hope I'm wrong about that, but I'm not confident that we'll do what most schools do, which is to systematically develop a list, and then carefully sift through it, talking to potential candidates as well as potential sources of recommendation, to make the best possible choice. As I have noted before, UCLA seems to have an absolute terror of being turned down by someone; which of course reduces our prospects almost at the outset. Why, oh, why, do we not take a risk and ask a big name like Bob Stoops or Mark Richt, for example, just to see what they might say?
Given that we will almost certainly not go after one of these expensive talents, then I still will recommend Chris Peterson. Watching his team play almost every week now on TV, one can see how complex and effective an offense he employs. He has all the earmarks of someone who will be one of the best coaches in the country in a few years--do we want to see him go to Washington or Michigan or Nebraska, while we continue to suffer? There are other possibilities, of course, but none which seems as appealing to me. Maybe Jim Grobe of Wake Forest or Randy Edsall of Connecticut, or Paul Johnson of Navy, to name three lower-tier coaches who yet have held their own against some major competition. Or maybe we can take a shot at Bobby Petrino, if, as rumored, he wants out of the NFL. Should we take a stab at Marty Schottenheimer? Let's put it this way: we had better hire someone at least of the caliber of the above suggestions, or we will have failed once again. I know that if we here at Bruins Nation had the opportunity to make the choice, I would feel a lot more sanguine about the process than I do knowing that it is in the hands of the man who hired Karl Dorrell.