Yes we are all in a state of delirium from last night’s Ben Ball action. However, we cannot lose sight of what is going on in the universe of other major athletic program. If anything Coach Howland once again showed what we don’t have in the world of Dorrellian football. Yet again Bruin Blue steps and gives us a little reset on the state of UCLA football. GO BRUINS. –N
There is so much to say; where does one start? First, in my opinion, we are now seeing the unpleasant side of this whole Karl Dorrell experiment, which was always there, but had been obscured. I always believed that the race issue would become significant as soon as Dorrell's job tenure became seriously at risk. This is such a delicate subject with so many people, that one hesitates to express a straightforward opinion, for fear of being misconstrued; but I think that there is too much cowardice and political correctness in the way we express ourselves with regard to important issues, so I will at least try.
It is clear to me that Karl Dorrell was hired in no small part because of his race. Jason Whitlock said it; other respected commentators have as well; referring to the famous interview with Chancellor Carnesale, in which Dorrell talked at length about UCLA's laudable record in advancing the cause of racial equality. Dorrell was entitled to say anything he wanted to help himself get the job; but UCLA should never have hired someone as unqualified as he simply to burnish a political or social image. As Whitlock courageously and intelligently pointed out at that time, doing so was almost an insult to the African-American minority; a sop which said, "Well, we know that this person doesn't have much in the way of the usual necessary qualifications for the job, but we will hire him anyway, because you guys need some extra help." Of course the unqualified candidate will fail (there are no miracles in coaching; unqualified people don't suddenly become good just because you would want them to), and then the whole thing becomes an unmitigated embarrassment and disaster, as well as excruciatingly uncomfortable in social terms.
The pathetic thing is that far from not getting a "fair shake," Dorrell seems to have been extraordinarily gifted with friendly and favorable treatment during his entire career. His first job came from ex-Donahue offensive coordinator Steve Axman, at Northern Arizona. (Dorrell later returned the favor by bringing in Axman as his own OC, for one disastrous season). :Later, Dorrell's friend and ex-teammate Rick Neuheisel brought Dorrell along with him to Colorado, when Neuheisel became OC there. When Neuheisel suddenly became the head coach at a young age, he made Dorrell his offensive coordinator, a title which belied his actual duties, since Dorrell never called a play there, as Neuheisel totally ran the offense. Then, when Neuheisel left for Washington, he brought Dorrell along, again as OC in name only, thus making his resume look much better than it actually was. Then Dorrell decided to leave college and got a job as wide receivers coach for Denver. Some have opined that he got this job through a particular affirmative action program designed to place Black coaches in assistant positions in the NFL; but I cannot absolutely verify that fact. Then of course he somehow got the job at UCLA, with less concrete credentials than any coach I have ever remembered being hired at any major football program. And this is "not getting a fair shake?" He has been allowed to stay here for five years, compiling the worst record of any UCLA football coach in 70 years--and he feels that he has not been treated fairly because of his race? Quite the contrary, I would say. And now heaven knows what damage he is doing to UCLA's reputation, its long-term recruiting prospects, or even its ability to attract topflight coaches, by making his comments. And yet I had always felt that such was inevitable, though others may not have.
There is much more that one can say, but after a point, it becomes futile. It is sickening to me that so much of the Los Angeles media is so pathetically weak; and virtually disinterested when it comes to UCLA sports. Believe me, in other college cities, bad coaches are excoriated. Here, I have not seen one major writer say it out plainly: Karl Dorrell is a terrible football coach and should be fired. That's it. It's not about being nice to him; it's not about his race; it's not about demanding fans; it's about a very well-paid football coach who is not even coming close to meeting expectations, and thus should be summarily dismissed. But instead of being able to have intelligent speculation in the media as to whom UCLA should hire as the new coach, we have all this lamenting. In the last days of USC coaches Smith, Tollner, Robinson and Hackett, we didn't see any of this. We actually saw USC grads like Alan Malamud bitterly criticizing the coaches and calling for new ones. Why is it that when it comes to UCLA, there must be all this guilt, this pleading for more time, this writing about what a wonderful guy the coach is, and how terrible it is that the alumni and fans are so demanding, that he might have to be let go? Do you think everyone felt guilty in Lexington that Tubby Smith was forced out? Or in Chapel Hill, when Bill Guthridge, who had taken two teams to the Final Four in four years, was pushed out the door? Or when Lloyd Carr, winner of a national title and five conference championships, was in essence forced to resign at Michigan? So why is it that when incompetent coaches such as Lavin and Dorrell are under pressure, it must be accompanied by all this soul-searching?
Now that this has been said, is there still a chance that Dorrell can save his job? Rumors and hearsay seem to indicate that he won't; that it has already been decided. But what if he beats Oregon (not at all unlikely now, with Oregon minus virtually every offensive weapon) and USC (much less likely but certainly not impossibility, given that USC has lost at home to Stanford, and barely beaten Washington and Arizona)? Then he ends up 7-5. That shouldn't do it; but given the media's reaction so far, we could expect that he would be hailed as a conquering hero if that occurred. And of course with two wins UCLA could somehow slink into the conference title, if a few other things occur. We would of course lose the Rose Bowl game to Ohio State by 40 points; but can you imagine the furor which would result if Dorrell were fired under those circumstances? One can only try to put such things out of one's mind, and assume that he will lose one of the next two, even if it is to the hated rival; or that if he does win both, someone else wins the conference anyway. The best case, of course, would be if Dorrell were fired after this weekend but allowed to coach the finale; and then we could all happily root for a stunning win over USC; just like the Florida fans who knew that they were likely to get Urban Meyer, could root for the already fired Ron Zook to coach them to a big win over FSU.
Finally, we return to the issue of the coaching search which we still assume will take place. Everyone has his favorite, of course; but I am gratified to see that my top choice, Chris Petersen, heads the Bruins Nation poll. There is not a Howland-type choice out there--someone who has won big at a major program in a major conference (Paul Johnson is the closest; but we have to admit that Navy doesn't beat too many big-time teams). Thus we have to look for the next best thing; and that to my mind is Petersen, who out coached and out executed Bob Stoops last year in a memorable Bowl game; and who has lost just one game in two years. People can talk all they want about former Boise State coaches Koetter and Hawkins disappointing; Petersen is simply better. He could well be the next Urban Meyer, though it is obviously not a sure thing. The problem is that I continue to see people saying that Petersen would not come--either he loves Boise, or he is waiting for a more prestigious job. (Thank you again, Karl Dorrell and Chancellor Carnesale, for helping to lower the stature of this program). We are going to be competing for our head coach with the likes of Michigan, Nebraska, Arkansas, Texas A&M, maybe more. It's not going to be easy, since every one of these schools can apparently pay more money for a coach than we will. Why this is, I am not exactly sure; since three of them are state schools; and our alumni are no less well-heeled than theirs. Of course, UCLA has always been averse to taking alumni money to fund a coach's salary--maybe it's long past time that this sanctimonious attitude changes, since it is hardly venal to do so.
If not Petersen, who next to consider? We all agree here that we need a real homerun hire; though other people on other forums seem inured to the attitude of "Let's just get someone in here who is better than Dorrell; and then (through some magic alchemy?) we will be really good." It doesn't happen that way; UCLA is no magical place where average-to-above-average coaches suddenly win national championships...okay, it almost happened once with Toledo, but water usually ultimately finds its own level. If we want to be a major player on the national scene, we had better hire a major coach. Even if we somehow got better talent than most of the teams in the league, that would not guarantee us powerhouse status--see the Terry Donahue era for proof of that. And I again insist that Mike Leach, who pulled a nice upset over an Oklahoma team which lost their excellent quarterback in the first quarter, is no more than a slightly above average coach whose teams usually play no defense at all, and who will find himself as likely as not on the losing end of 56-52 scores in this conference, as Bellotti's, Erickson's and Tedford's teams move the ball at will against him.
Who is Dan Guerrero going to consider? No one knows for sure; and it appears that there is not going to be a committee set up to sift through candidates, perhaps leaving Guerrero and possibly (please, no) Bob Field as the "deciders." If we want to speculate and extrapolate, I think it is fair to say that Guerrero will look for a current head coach, not an assistant. I doubt if he will look to someone like Paul Johnson, though it's possible. UCLA always seems to want someone with a West Coast background. Thus Steve Mariucci and Jim Mora could be possibilities. I am wary of both, but would prefer Mariucci, who I think is more stable, probably more creative, and less likely to bolt back to the NFL. Some have mentioned Gary Pinkel of Missouri, but I would hesitate to hire someone who was 37-34 in six years at that school before finally having a really good team (in a year when the Big 12 is as weak as I have ever seen it). Bobby Hauck of Montana is getting some play; but I am not impressed enough by his work. I do like Bronco Mendenhall of BYU, whose teams carve up their Mountain West opponents with impressive efficiency. In fact, I think that Mendenhall has moved up to my second choice; but again, he is not getting much play, and I wonder if Guerrero is considering him. Other than that, your guess is about as good as mine. Anyone else other than a stunning surprise (Richt, Bob Stoops), though, would be a significant gamble. Never forget that getting rid of Dorrell, as important and gratifying as it will be, is not going to mean too much if we do not get the kind of football coach who will make us all proud. I will never forget how my immense excitement at the firing of Bob Toledo so quickly turned to despair when the hiring of Dorrell was announced.
- Bruin Blue