You know things have changed a little when we are looking over to the football front for some good news.
We have another Matt Hayes article from the Sporting News to share today. Matt posted kind of a fun (did we ever associate the word "fun" with our football program in last 5 years?) write-up on CRN yesterday that everyone should read. Based on his first weeks in Westwood sounds like its dawning upon everyone in the Pac-10 (including Pom Pom) "it's a different game" :
"Pete may say he's not worried," says one Pac-10 coach, "but I'm telling you right now, it's a different game."
No one does it like Carroll. No one sells a program, no one connects with the boatload of talent in Southern California, no one feels it any better. Nothing is different with Carroll, but already there are signs of change at UCLA.
A year ago, a handful of media members filed into the J.D. Morgan Center -- where those record 100 NCAA national championships are celebrated in the school's Hall of Fame -- to discuss the beginning of the season. At one point, Dorrell, who would be fired in December after five seasons, jokingly popped, "Wake up!"
Fast forward to last week, and the buzz is utterly palpable as Neuheisel announces his first recruiting class. Chasing USC is a tough job. Every school is doing it -- it's just that Neuheisel will have to work a little harder to stay out of the Trojans' backwash because he's so close to their back door.
Wasn't so long ago that the Bruins owned this city rivalry, winning eight straight in the 1990s and sending waves of talent to the NFL. Former coach Terry Donahue was one of the game's best recruiters, locking down legendary L.A. city schools then just like Carroll does now. One of those schools, Dorsey High, is among a handful of programs at the epicenter of the area where UCLA must compete with USC.
That's what makes defensive backs Rahim Moore and Johnathan Franklin so important to Neuheisel's first recruiting class. The Dorsey High players were among the best in the city, and both committed to Walker in March of 2007. And both wavered when Neuheisel got the job.
But here they are on signing day, celebrating with 18 or so other UCLA recruits at The Serving Spoon, a soul food diner near the old Forum in Inglewood where the Lakers once ran wild. They're eating catfish and grits and calling Neuheisel, declaring the beginning of something special.
"Coach Neuheisel," Moore says, "is all about family."
Walker not only stayed after hearing Neuheisel's pitch, he turned down more lucrative job offers from heavyweights Texas and Notre Dame in the process. "We have unfinished business here," Walker says. "This isn't about me -- it's about us."
The us that almost wasn't. After Chow was fired by the NFL's Titans, he could have easily moved back to Los Angeles, walked the sands of Manhattan Beach every day and lived off his guaranteed contract. Then Neuheisel called, and everything changed.
If the first meeting wasn't intriguing enough, the second sealed the deal. The first was simple X's and O's: It's your offense. You call the plays. You have complete autonomy. The reason Chow left USC three years ago: Carroll wanted more control of the offense. It's no coincidence that USC, despite having the nation's best talent, hasn't won a national title since Chow left.
Maybe that's what made this meeting so tempting. Here was Neuheisel, one of the game's bright offensive minds, telling Chow he wouldn't even sniff the meeting room. The next morning, Neuheisel returned to Chow's home unannounced with a bottle of champagne and the keys to a BMW.
"After the first meeting," Chow says, "he could've come back with ice cream and I would've been sold."
Two weeks later, Neuheisel stood on the court at Pauley Pavilion, in front of a packed house at halftime of the Arizona game, and spoke about his Bruins family. When he introduced Chow, the place went nuts.
Now you know why we went all out to campaign for CRN during the coaching search process. He gets it.
Yeah we know we have a long way to go. We know next year is going to be difficult given the inexperience in our depth chart and the difficult schedule. Yet for the first time in some of our life time (didn’t get to watch the coaches before Donahue) we are going to have a head coach who is going to lead our family without giving an inch. He has an entire (Bruin)Nation ready for him to run through the wall.