Ciao, Ciao, Ciao?

Bruin Blue brings the heat. For your part if you haven’t done it, please email Dan Guerrero at dguerrero@athletics.ucla.edu and Chancellor Gene Block at chancellor@conet.ucla.edu, and let them know respectfully and politely that neither CHOKER (Chow + Walker) nor Walker will be acceptable at UCLA. If you are an alum or student, please make sure to indicate your graduating class in your emails. GO BRUINS. -N

That's what it's going to be for me and many other UCLA alumni and fans if Norm Chow ends up being the UCLA head coach. It is not looking good for the good guys, which is all of us who have hoped for and expected that UCLA would finally secure the services of a proven, top-rung head coach, after all the misery and disappointment of the last decade. It is looking good for the usual suspects, which are the Morgan Center bureaucrats who want to save every nickel, and who are afraid of any powerful football coach being able to dictate to them instead of kowtow. It is also looking good for that part of the UCLA fan base which much prefers wishful thinking projection hires to people with a track record, because the former can be imagined as anything you want, where the latter always have a few flaws or losses on the slate. And it is looking good for those national media pundits who love to talk about how UCLA is a basketball school, and how we are too cheap and too unappealing to ever be able to obtain a proven coach.

It's never over until it's over, they say. But too many of us have seen this process before, and do not hold out much hope, given the past. In 2002, Dan Guerrero said that he was looking for someone with head coaching experience to get us into BCS Bowls and win conference championships. His short list then consisted of two mediocre assistant coaches and one guy who had done okay at Oregon State, though never had a winning record there. This time, after five more lousy years, he said that he was definitely looking for a coach with experience, to make us a national power. So far, his short list appears to consist of his own assistant coach, some unknown NFL assistant whose brother is a head coach, another career assistant who may or may not have been offered one head job in 35 years and who has not even interviewed for one in the last three, and a current NFL assistant who was a head coach a few years ago.

I have seen people searching for ants at picnics who have shown more imagination. We can always hope that there is something going on under the radar; but there wasn't last time, and there well may not be this time. If so, then UCLA has "searched" for their own defensive coordinator who desperately covets this job; the aforementioned career assistant who everyone knew months ago wanted this job; an alumnus who has always wanted this job; and some other guy who I think is only in there to make the first three look better in comparison. Now, that's some search. It must have taken all the acumen of Guerrero, the redoubtable Bob Field,, and that high-priced search firm to have unearthed these nuggets.

And what of all the big names that we lovingly rolled around on our tongues for the last few months, when we were hoping against hope that we would get rid of our dreadful head coach and make a fresh and exciting start? Mendenhall, Petersen, Grobe, Leach, Johnson and more? Too expensive for our self-imposed restrictive budget? Just not interested, or was it because our athletic director was not persuasive enough; or was it the demand that the coach accept the mandate of DeWayne Walker being his defensive coordinator, or else no offer? Not someone we were familiar with, because he coaches east of the Mississippi? Not the "right fit" here? Too demanding about how a successful program should be run?

I am pulling my punches somewhat because maybe somehow it will turn out all right. But if it doesn't, believe me, I'm not waiting around for the aftermath. All the excitement from the same people who were ecstatic over Dorrell, thrilled over Lavin. All the idiocy about how because Chow is mad at Pete Carroll, he'll exact some terrible revenge. (Actually, the reverse is likely the case; that Carroll would love for the opportunity to conclusively show that he, not Chow, is the person who won those national titles; and would try to humiliate us on the field at every opportunity. It appears that our inferiority complex in terms of USC may now lead us to trying to use disaffected Trojans to beat them; sort of like USC hiring Henry Bibby was supposed to really stick it to us). All the nonsense about here we go toward national titles, behind our inspiring team of Chow and Walker. And, oh, yes; the inevitable Guerrero press conference.

"Dan, when you said a few weeks ago that you were looking for a proven head coach, did you then change your mind?" "No, I did mean that, but I always said that if the right assistant came along, we would look at him, too; and in Norm Chow...(blah, blah, blah)"

"Dan, did you have any contact with any current head coaches?" "Well, as I said in my opening statement, I will not discuss any contacts I may have had. What is important is that I am sure that we have hired the right coach for UCLA....(blah, blah, blah)"

"Dan, was the keeping of DeWayne Walker made a non-negotiable demand to the coaching candidates?" "I did not make any demands, but of course I am thrilled that DeWayne is going to stay with us, because he is a great young defensive coordinator, and...(blah, blah, blah)"

"Dan, when you look around and see Michigan hiring Rich Rodriguez, Arkansas getting Bobby Petrino, and Georgia Tech securing Paul Johnson, do you think that your hire matches up to those standards?" "Yes, I do. As I have said, it is not about getting the best coach, it is about getting the best coach for UCLA....(blah, blah, blah, blah, blah)."

No, I will skip all of that, because I have heard it all too many times before. Chow would be the fifth straight head football coach hired at UCLA without one day of head coaching experience. DeWayne Walker, who would clearly then be in line to be Chow's successor in four or five years, would be the sixth. And thus, whether it hurts to hear it or not, those people who laugh at UCLA for its inability and unwillingness to hire a big-name, proven coach, and say that it will always be the same in Westwood, will be proven right once again. I have two friends who are big USC fans, and when I told them that it was lkely that we would hire Chow, they both laughed and said that we had done it again. Both of these were actually hoping that we would hire someone credible, because they do not fear us anyway, and wanted the rivalry to at least be more interesting. No one really cares what USC fans think, but it just reflects the general view of good old sanctimonious and cheap UCLA, and the way we always go about things in the end.

Could Chow work out? Well, it depends what one means by that. He could have a winning year or two. Bob Toledo had two 10-2 seasons. Karl Dorrell had one, and averaged seven wins a year. SInce Dorrell was the worst coach imaginable, it is easy to see Chow or an even average coach like Toledo was doing better. But getting us to the level we have all dreamed about? No way. And even at the very best, Chow would only be coaching here for four or five years, anyway. What is the point of that? Then we get Walker, and he would have to be a great coach, or we are where, or worse than where, we started, ten years or so from now. What an absolutely disastrous and inane way to do things. Words are not sufficient to express it, really.

My greatest fear all along was that what is wrong with UCLA is endemic and deeply ingrained, and can't be fixed anytime soon. This same process and these same attitudes have gone on for so long that it becomes hard to imagine us ever proceeding in a different way--the way that Michigan or even Georgia Tech have. If Chow becomes our coach, I will absolutely believe that UCLA is the worst program in the country when it comes to selecting and hiring head coaches. Can you think of any worse? Any that follow a Toledo with a Dorrell, and then a Dorrell with a Chow, and a Chow with an already pre-selected Walker? I certainly can't. So that gives us some perverse mark of distinction, anyway. Well, as I said, it's not completely over. But I cannot sit around and let it happen without expressing my feelings in advance. Is anyone in Westwood willing to listen?

- Bruin Blue

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