I was commiserating with a SUC fan and friend about our seasons when, like an epiphany, the difference between the state of our two programs was all too painfully obvious. It was a three step kick in the pants. It was made all the worse because it was absolutely unintended and non-malicious.
By that I mean he's a great guy who would love to see UCLA return to the days when it was the equal of or even the better of SUC. In fact, as long as both were competing for National Championships he'd be happy to see the two teams go 5-5 against each other in one decade. Share the wealth in a good way, right?
So after the jump, you can read about the three step kick in the pants.
In the first kick, he complained that Kiffin should be fired because he was such a lousy coach.
I said, how can you fire a coach that went 8-5 his first year and was competitive in most of his losses?
He laughed. "The stupid schmuck should have been 10-3, at least. He didn't even play Alan Bradford for six games until he finally let him loose against UCLA and he ran for 235 yards. And his Dad's defense was terrible all year. We need to fire his ass and get a real coach because he and his Dad suck! Too bad SUC didn't lose to UCLA. Haden would have fired him for sure."
[So 8-5 is UNACCEPTABLE. At UCLA, that would be cause for a celebration.]
Then came the second kick.
"So it's a big deal to beat UCLA, huh?" I replied.
"Unfortunately, no," said he. "You guys haven't been good for so long that beating you has no meaning right now. I remember I was so disappointed you lost to Miami after the hurricane and missed out on the National Championship when you were kicking our butt back then. Someone from the PAC-10 besides us was going to win it all. It would have been great for the conference and great for our rivalry.
"But losing to you guys the way your program is now, that's a different story. That's firing time."
[Wow. We only matter if they lose to us.]
And then came the final and third kick in the pants.
"So if Neuheisel got canned who would you pick to replace him?" he asked me.
I thought about it. "Mmmmmmm. I don't know all the candidates, but off the top of my head a new, up and coming coach like, say, Brady Hoke at San Diego State. He sure turned that program around with Al Borges and Rocky Long."
"Yeah," he said. "I like him, too."
So I asked him if Kiffin was fired who would he pick to replace him.
"Jeff," he said.
"Jeff who?" I asked.
"Fisher," he replied.
"The Tennessee Titan coach?" said I. "He'd cost five million dollars."
My friend smiled. "We pay Kiffin over four. Sounds like a no brainer to me."
[I'm praying for a diamond in the rough. He's talking about buying the best proven commodity like I would buy a sack of potatoes at the supermarket.]
Whether Fisher would even come or is available does not matter. Whether my friend is right about anything doesn't matter. Whether he's spoiled or not doesn't matter. Whether we at UCLA can make smart choices and right our ship someday and kick their butt again down the road doesn't matter.
The point, which hit me smack in the face out of nowhere because my friend was simply being matter of fact and not spinning or taunting in any way, is that the the differences in expectations and the choices of coaches at private SUC are dramatically different from what we even think about here at public UCLA. It's a different universe, a different playing field. Not even close.
We're clearly in the John Wooden or Joe Paterno world, meaning we're looking for a younger coach who is loyal to our school first, and maybe not the hottest commodity, who will learn and grow and stay with us forever on the relative cheap for decades once he becomes successful. I think that describes the Dorrell and Neuheisel picks perfectly.
It hasn't worked so far, and we're never going to go the SUC route. So what's the answer? Stand pat like now or roll the dice quicker with up and comers?
I really believe with the right discipline, schemes and coaching, we can beat SUC and get back to make this a real rivalry again, but for now, as usual, it's just wait until next year.
What do you think? Comments? Suggestions? Ideas?
GO BRUINS! BEAT SUC!