The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of the Rick Neuheisel Era

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 20: Head coach Rick Neuheisel of the UCLA Bruins needs to shake hands and get out of town. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

I usually support my case with facts but today I am going to write with emotion because that is the way Rick Neuheisel coaches.  When UCLA hired Rick Neuheisel people were burned out from years of Karl Dorrell, not just as a failed coach and bigger failure as a recruiter but as a person with a personality that, to be blunt, did not inspire. 

The Good

By contrast, Rick was a charismatic Hollywood hire.  A guy who went from walk-on to Rose Bowl MVP.  Rick was the only Rose Bowl MVP to also win the Rose Bowl as a coach.  The guy who threw down the gauntlet in his first days as football coach with that famous full page ad (or let himself be part of that effort).  This was a guy who not only brought back hope but brought back emotion.   He talked to the crowd after games.  His first game as coach was a huge upset at the time over #15 ranked Tennessee.

There was so much to hope for in Rick, there was so much excitement and reason to be excited.  Even if you had doubts about the other less pleasant aspects of Rick's past, you wanted him to be the first Rose Bowl MVP to lead his alma mater to a Rose Bowl victory. 

The Bad

Rick Neuheisel name is/was a dirty word in Colorado.  The Buffaloes won a national championship and finished #3 with one loss in his predecessor’s Bill McCartney last year.   Colorado fans thought they were going to a perennial national champion contender.  Coach Rick’s first and second year were his best but Colorado fans turned on him in his third year as McCartney recruits graduated and left.  It was a train wreck.  Colorado began with National title hopes but ended with its first losing season in 12 years.  It all started with a debacle in a blow loss on national TV in a "revenge"  Michigan game.    

As one person I respect described Rick’s time:

But he had the impossible task of filling McCartney's shoes, who won an NC 5 years earlier (with 5 downs...) and who essentially hand-picked [the 34 year old] Neu as his successor.  Anything less than competing for the NC was going to be a failure, and Neu frankly wasn't up to it at the time.  . . . People questioned his maturity, as he was known for singing and playing guitar on player retreats and taking the team rafting.  Also, being his first gig and being so anxious to maintain the level of his predecessor, he took some well documented short cuts with recruiting. 

It ended bad for Rick but you had to hope he grew up.  But more and more you have to doubt.  Is he more show than substance? 

The Ugly

Obviously I could detail a bit of what happen at UW here.  But I will go a different route.  Instead let’s talk about his first PAC 10 road win was against UW.  That first one was against an 0-12 UW team.  The problem is in four years he has only two more PAC 10/12 road wins.   The second was against a 1-11 WSU team in his second year.  Last year UCLA did not win at all on the road in the PAC 10/12.  This year is our best season on the road in the PAC 10/12.  OSU actually has two wins.   Of course, they still have 4 walk ons starting on the offensive line and are not a good team.   

But on the road the emotion of Rick usually does not work.  We usually lose and all too often it is a blow out like the Arizona debacle, especially if it is a Thursday night road game.  If the other team is up, we lose.  Check out the games against SUC.  Check out the road games in the PAC 12.  We have talent, we can win on emotion at home but we are all too often out coached and blown out on the road.

Rick brought back emotion and gave us hope.  But four years is enough.  He has failed and it is over, just like it was after four years in UW and Colorado, it is time for Rick to go. 

 

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