As any Bruin - or College Football fan - not located under a rock for the last 24 hours now knows, after Friday night's game at Oregon, Rick Neuheisel will no longer be UCLA's head football coach. After telling the media after The Saturday Night Massacre in south central that Neuheisel would coach the team this week, something changed Chianti Dan's mind on Sunday. We pushed hard of course, and Tracy Pierson outlined the problem with waiting to announce the inevitable decision to terminate Rick, but a single tweet from a major UCLA donor summed up much of what we have all been thinking.
Only thing worse than losing is apathy about losing...UCLA Football can't be that way, and it didn't used to be...
That tweet came from Casey Wasserman, who is if not the biggest of donors to Morgan Center, is likely the most visibly powerful. Among other endeavors in support of UCLA Athletics, he was one of the driving forces behind Ben Howland coming to UCLA nearly 9 years ago. If he feels that way about the culture infecting the football program, he is not the only big donor feeling that way. And if Chianti Dan listens to anyone or anything outside of his yes-men, it is money and the people that control it. Keep an eye out for Casey's name in news of the coaching search; wherever he pops up, there is likely something to look out for.
Speaking of money, it is of course one of the main factors in the coaching search. As we have blogged in the past several weeks and months, UCLA has the resources to offer a significant salary to a head coach - at a level consistent with the top 10 or 15 programs in D-1. Early reports coming out of the search back this up: The LA Times reported that Chris Petersen is the early leader in the game of 'name the next UCLA Head Coach', with UCLA ready to offer a salary exceeding $3 million/year, plus at least an additional $2 million for assistant coaches and facility upgrades. ESPN's Rick Reilly talks of an imminent 5 year/$20 million offer for Petersen (the $4 million average is consistent with what we have heard from other sources).When specifically asked about the financial resources available for a new coaching staff, Chianti Dan talked about the new media contract as well as support from supporters.
"We will have obviously more resources at our disposal to be more competitive in the marketplace. The new Pac-12 contract will provide some resources in that regard. Have had wonderful support from external community that they're willing to help in that regard."
Chris Petersen has been the most talked about name so far. As the biggest name currently in the coaching market, it makes sense for folks to talk about him and for Chianti Dan and those holding power over UCLA Athletics to talk with him. With that said, the editors here have made our thoughts clear as far as the criteria for hiring a new coach. Following the right steps in identifying a pool of candidates is more important than simply going for big names - Petersen certainly may (or may not) fit the criteria, as is true of others in the market. Other names that have been floated since Neuheisel's firing became official - retreads such as Mike Bellotti, Herm Edwards and Tom Cable, as well as inexperienced and/or overrated coaches such as Steve Sarkisian and Kevin Sumlin - we already know are not acceptable. While this hire might not fit Chianti Dan's need to not make the smallest of waves with his fellow administrators and possible future employers, Vincent Bonsignore of the LA Daily News makes the case for Mike Leach.
In addition to the newfound ability and willingness to spend money for a coaching staff, Dan told Jon Gold of specific upgrades to the football facilities that are now being planned, particularly to the undersized Spaulding Field.
"Spaulding were looking to improve. We've already met with campus architect about facility that can be utilized for a training table, possibly academics for football, really to augment what we have existing in the football program. We're not sure whether the footprint of Spaulding enables to do that. The constraint that we have in a lot of respects is we're on a postage stamp, and there's a master plan for every square inch of this place. But we're working on what we can garner on campus for additional facilities."
Peter Yoon wrote about maybe his final extended talk with Coach Neuheisel with him in that role at UCLA, talking about among other things, how he found out that he would no longer be the Bruins' head coach.
He showed up to tape a television interview Sunday at UCLA and the questioner asked him about a newspaper report that said he would be fired.
"I said, ‘What does it say?’ and it had sources close to the top said I would be dismissed," Neuheisel said.
Neuheisel said he then asked athletic director Dan Guerrero for a meeting, and that took place Monday morning. The school issued a news release immediately after.
As much as I hate to credit the LA Times, and Bill Plasche in particular, even that trojan-loving outfit gets that UCLA can and should hire a game changing coach. In making the case that UCLA can and must hire a great football coach, he echos the case that we have been making ever since the debacle in the desert.
First, there will soon be an infusion of millions from the new Pac-12 Conference television contract, money that can be used to lure a star head coach and his staff.
Second, the Rose Bowl is undergoing more than $160 million in renovations, shining up the old jewel and countering Neuheisel's recent comments that UCLA officials care only about basketball.
Finally, with Stanford proving that tough academic standards can be hurdled by tough football players, the Bruins can no longer claim that coaches are afraid to come here and recruit.
The search committee has run out of reasons to fail. And after the dreadful hirings of Karl Dorrell and Neuheisel, the athletic director running his first college football program is nearly out of strikes.
... No more apologies. No more leftovers. No more back slaps for beloved coordinators like Bob Toledo, or homecoming parties for popular former Bruins like Dorrell and Neuheisel.
The next Bruins coach has to be an accomplished coach, period. He cannot be somebody's buddy. He cannot be somebody's favorite former player. He cannot be some other school's coaching search leftovers.
In terms of the upcoming week and beyond, UCLA has now applied for an NCAA waiver to allow the football team to play in a bowl game this season in the event that the Bruins lose to Oregon on Friday night, causing their overall record to fall below the threshold for bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, the football program picked up another verbal commitment for 2012 on Monday; Justin Combs, a CB out of New York and the son of P-Diddy.