On Bruins Nation we've beat Rick up a lot for his conservative playcalling, questionable personnel moves, and blowout losses. While I agree he was rightfully removed, I say that with mixed emotions because he does do a lot of things great (recruiting, representing the university, working with intensity and fire), and he didn't deserve to fail. I desperately wanted him to succeed. Yet he failed. But was it really his fault? That's what I want to explore.
First, there are a lot of things the head coach is responsible for: recruiting, selling the university, schmoozing with donors, interacting well with the media, all of which Rick excelled (ok, he did make some bonehead bulletin-board-material comments to the media). But in general he was top-tier as an ambassador of the university and supporter of the student-athlete system.
Second, was he really that bad at the X's and O's? He was successful at Colorado and Washington. He had a few stunning victories (Tennessee, Texas). Has it in him to win. The playcalling was unimaginative. But the coordinators are the ones who make the calls. He should have played younger, faster, more dynamic players rather than "experienced" players. But the position coaches are the ones who make the personnel decisions. So was he really responsible for that? The only thing I can truly pin the blame on him for is the lack of control over the team, evidenced by the brawl in the desert. The team lacked discipline, and the tone is set at the top. But again, some disciplinarian coordinators could have mitigated that problem.
Third, his four years here WERE snake-bitten. Multiple freak injuries to quarterbacks. Critical O-line players injured or academically ineligible. Ankle injuries from the Adidas shoes.
Which leads to facilities and support by the administration. 80-yard practice field (absolutely ridiculous especially considering the facilities Oregon has built). No purpose-built football facility. The most stringent academic standards outside of Stanford. Beat SC Week turning into Blue and Gold Week. Blah attitude about protecting the bear.
My final point is this: with a few exceptions (Chow by reputation, Palcic, Gansz) UCLA had poor assistant coaches. These guys are the ones who are supposed to do all the grunt work, preparing and teaching the players, so that the head coach can go do the ambassador stuff. Neuheisel was given a shoestring budget and restricted by a heavy-handed politically-correct bureaucracy, which resulted in a debacle of a defensive coordinator search and a set of second-rate coaches. (Why in the hell was Gansz replaced by McLure??? Were we really trying to save that much money?) If Donut Dan's marching orders were "use what money you need to hire great coaches who will WIN" then I'm sure we would have had a successful team. But it's evident that he really doesn't care about football.
If we can't have Chris Petersen, then personally I'd rather have Neuheisel over Mora, but with a hugely upgraded staff and better facilities. The one who really needed the boot was Donut Dan.