Public report surfaces of Rick Neuheisel being forced to retain coaches from previous regime when he took the job at UCLA. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
ESPN's Ted Miller writes about the Neuheisel being on the "hot seat". That is not news any more. What is news though is first public confirmation of a really disturbing speculation we have heard in the background for a while:
When Neuheisel was hired before the 2008 season, part of the deal was retaining Bruins defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker -- who was a candidate for the job Neuheisel got -- and hiring Chow to run the offense. It was sold as a coaching superteam. One suspects, though Neuheisel doesn't explicitly say so, that it was a condition for his being hired as head coach.
The celebrated arrangement, however, proved a failure. Walker bolted after one year to become head coach at New Mexico State, which is like saying he ran off to Hades to relieve Sisyphus. Chow and Neuheisel divorced this offseason.
"It was a different way of putting a staff together than I'd done at either Washington or Colorado -- this was the first time I ever worked with people that I didn't know," Neuheisel said of the ill-fated troika. "No bad guys. Just philosophy. You can sit in one room and agree that we are all together but when you splinter off, are you really?"
We have heard for a while that one of reason Rick Neuheisel ended up taking the UCLA job was because he was the only one who was OKAY with the "deal" of "retaining" DeWayne Walker as the DC. Miller doesn't say it, but presumably Dan Guerrero - as he was in charge of looking for a head coach - wanted Karl Dorrell's replacement to retain Walker in a bid to save UCLA's incoming recruiting class.
Norm Chow was Neuheisel's hire but you can't really blame him too much for that. Chow always had the reputation and given his firing from Tennessee he had a golden opportunity to bring him in and jump start offensive recruiting. It just did not work out. It will be interesting to see if it works for out for Utah. But the part about Neuheisel being forced to retain Walker - most likely against his wishes - is very troubling. It also gives us a window into dysfunctional management culture run by Dan Guerrero.
That was never a good idea and it probably discouraged coaches like Al Golden and John Harbaugh, who were interested in the UCLA position at the time for pursuing the opportunity. Neuheisel on the other hand was desperate for an opportunity and he was willing to do anything to get the job. UCLA as a result ended with a coaching mix which had an awkward chemistry from the very beginning.
If it was Dan Guerrero, who forced this arrangement on the new UCLA head coach - Rick Neuheisel - than this raises even more disturbing questions about his football acumen. It also raises troubling questions about his management skills. How could he possibly think that a football program which was badly damaged by years of below average leadership was going to function well in such an awkward arrangement?
Neuheisel is going to face a lot of pressure this season. I think he will give it his best shot. If he does not get the job done, I think it will make sense that UCLA makes change at the very top. That means changing the leadership of the entire athletic program so that we have people in charge who "get" college football and also have basic management skills. The overwhelming sentiment here right now is that Guerrero should not get the opportunity make next head coaching hire if Bruins are in that situation at end of this upcoming season.