Bruin Blue lays out the issue that everyone in BN agrees on: Walker is not a credible candidate for the permanent position of UCLA head football coach. GO BRUINS. -N
Rumors, suggestions and more rumors. Who knows what is really happening? Petersen may well have removed himself from consideration. It is said that Mariucci's monetary demands are too high for UCLA to meet. Are we ready down to Plan C? Some say that Leach is the clear front runner; others mention Florida's OC Mullen. We still hear about Chow and Neuheisel. I certainly have my ideas about all of these; and I'm sure you do, too. We may disagree on some of them. But there is one thing that I would like to think that all of us at Bruins Nation can agree upon.
NO DEWAYNE WALKER
Walker for head coach is almost a worse idea than Karl Dorrell. Walker may (or may not) have more coaching ability than Dorrell; but coming after the misery of the Dorrell experiment, the very fact that he is even seriously mentioned is absurd. The man has been an assistant coach for over a decade and no one ever made him a coordinator until Dorrell decided to. And we all know how much acumen Dorrell has shown in his coaching hires. Now he has been a coordinator for two years. UCLA's record in that period is 13-12. Is that to be attributed to Walker? No, but coaching is always a team effort. Somehow UCLA scored less points than their opponents in 12 of 25 games. And it wasn't as if there weren't plenty of offensive explosions by the other teams. Cal's 45 last year. Oregon's 21 points in the first quarter last season. An offensively impaired Florida State's 44 in the Emerald Bowl. This year, injury-riddled Utah got 44. Washington 31. Washington State 27, with 541 yards and 31 first downs. Arizona 34 (27 in the first half). You know, I don't even think that Walker is a good defensive coordinator. Some will point with pride to the Cal game. We held a severely immobile Longshore to 21. In the other games after Longshore was hurt, Cal got 20, 20, 17, 23 and 13. We held Arizona State to 24, with Carpenter having all sorts of problems with his injured thumb. ASU also fumbled on our five-yard line. We held USC to 24, exactly what they got against Oregon State and Cal in two of their last four games. Oregon was playing with fourth- and fifth-string quarterbacks against us.
This work is not disgraceful by any means. It is better than the defensive work of Larry Kerr. But of course Walker had a veteran defensive unit this year and was expected to have a nationally ranked defense, and he had nothing of the sort. And as often mentioned, he has still never stopped one spread attack. The spread is becoming very much the mode in the Pac-10, and unless he can stop it, we are going to have one bad defensive effort after another. So I am far from confident that Walker is even one of the top thirty defensive coaches in the country. But even if one wants to make the case that he is, this is hardly enough to recommend him as a head coaching prospect. And so far no other school, no matter how woebegone its program, has ever actually interviewed him for a position. So why in heaven's name is he even being mentioned for the UCLA job? The answers are: because he is here, and UCLA can often not think beyond its own doorstep; because he has a cult of followers with their own agendas who continue to push him at every opportunity; because it makes some people feel better about firing a minority coach to want another minority to replace him; because in all the detritus of the Dorrell era, the defense at times was the only thing people could see as a positive, so they somehow want to latch on to that to start a new regime. And because far too many UCLA fans simply don't understand winning football very well.
If you think it's bad now, wait until and if Walker wins the Bowl game. It's far from impossible, since we beat BYU earlier this season with Dorrell coaching. leading 20-3 at half. I would never have made Walker the interim coach for that reason; but apparently there is a big effort afoot to keep Walker as DC. I am not in favor of that idea; and we may see why as early as next season. But I could live with it, if he attended to his job only, and did not attempt to gain his own sphere of power. The bottom line is that Walker should absolutely not be even considered for the head coaching position. Another problem with Walker's constant angling for this job is that it will make it almost impossible for UCLA to even consider another assistant coach for the position, no matter how dynamic or well-recommended. You would have the outcries from the Walker cult, and of course accusations that UCLA had bypassed an African-American assistant for a Caucasian one from another school. That means to me that UCLA is limited to current or former head coaches only. Far better if UCLA had simply let all the assistants fend for themselves (their salaries are guaranteed through next June), and assumed that the new coach would choose his own staff.
Before closing, I will add a few sentences about more credible coaching prospects. I realize that everyone has their own preferences, which is as it should be. But I would suggest that the favorable article about Mike Leach, while fun to read, could have been written in its own favorable context about any one of dozens of fairly successful head coaches. I am no big fan of Mike Riley, but his records at talent-challenged Oregon State favorably compare with Leach's at Texas Tech. Similarly, Mike Price is not a high choice of mine, yet he took WSU to two Rose Bowl games. I wonder exactly what Leach has accomplished down in Lubbock, with a 5-20 record against ranked teams. He has scored a lot of points with an offense which murders bad teams but often struggles against good ones; and he has given up a lot of points to almost all effective offenses, of which of course there are plenty in the Pac-10. I think that there is a very good chance that Leach ends up as our coach, so I do hope that everyone will go back and look at the past game-by-game results of him and some of the other coaches we might be considering. It's an effort, but we have made many efforts over the last five years, and this is the time for one last great push.
A few coaches not being mentioned at all, but certainly worth considering: Paul Johnson, with almost impeccable credentials. George O'Leary, tarred by lying on his resume, perhaps; but a very successful coach at Georgia Tech and now at CUSA winner Central Florida. Jim Grobe, who took Wake Forest to a BCS Bowl. David Cutcliffe, who actually went 44-29 at Mississippi, taking them to five Bowl games. Todd Graham, who had a winning season at woeful Rice, and just finished a 9-4 year in his first at Tulsa. Just some other suggestions during this rather unsettling time. The quicker we can get past this Walker nonsense, the quicker we can focus on the proven records of much more credible prospects.
- Bruin Blue