Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski recently wrote a column called "The Sports Code." It was a take off on a Jake Gyllenhaal movie called "Source Code" in which Gyllenhaal has to travel back in time eight minutes before a bomb is going to go off, find the bomb and dismantle it. I didn't see the movie myself, but I'm guessing Jake finds the bomb and saves the day.
Posnanski took that premise and asked the following: "What would be my Top 10 Sports Code moments? That is to say: What would I go and change in the world of sports?"
He then added two conditions. One was you can't change a result and as an example he said the kid from Butler (Joe - his name is Gordon Heyward) makes the shot and beats Duke. He also said you can't go back and create a new ending. I didn't get that one actually, you can read it and figure it out yourself, for our purposes, I don't think it matters.
Posnanski's column got me thinking. What would I change if I could go back in time and stop something from happening or make something else happen? Using Posnanski's conditions, I couldn't stop Melsby from fumbling the ball/have the ref blow the play dead and not let it be a fumble at all. But, I could have Bob Toledo call a time out and remind his offense to hold on to the ball - maybe that would have kept Melsby's hands on the pigskin a millisecond longer. Still, that would create a new ending and the challenge is to change something that leaves the results unanswered so they could unfold on their own.
The first thing I came up with was that I’d have Albert Carnesale hire Gene Bleymaier over Dan Guerrero. You’ll recall those were the two candidates about a decade ago vying to replace Pete Dalis as UCLA athletic directors. One was a former UCLA football player serving as AD at Boise State, a "mid-major" football program on the rise and the other was the UC Irvine AD, a former UCLA baseball player who had some successes but had never "AD’d" a football program before. (It actually boggles the mind that we spent a fortune on a search firm and came up with those two candidates. Seriously, you could have done a free poll on a message board site and ended up with those two guys – sometimes I’m stunned at the shit we waste money on.) Anyway, Carnesale went with Guerrero and while I’m willing to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge solid moves like the hiring of Jon Savage and Ben Howland and note we’ve won some national titles during the Guerrero years, I still yearn for football success.
It’s in football that Guerrero has proved himself utterly inept. Our program has gone from being just a couple of seasons off of a 20 game win streak to … well … well … we’ve become mostly irrelevant. Let’s put it this way, no one circles "UCLA" on their schedule and then loses sleep over the game; or, put another way, Stanford blew our doors out last year.
Meanwhile, Boise State under Bleymaier and a succession of coaches including the incumbent Chris Peterson has challenged for the national title almost every year of our slide – battling mostly the stigma of playing in a weak conference and suffering the occasional shocking upset, like last year’s loss to Nevada. Still, I’m pretty sure BSU fans are enjoying the ride, even without the BCS hardware.
The Bleymaier-Guerrero debate that’s been playing out in my head represents a larger question that needs to be asked. That is, does having a "football AD" make a difference? Does it matter if your AD is a former football player with knowledge of how a football program looks? My theory was/is that in any business a manager who has a good boss who can mentor and help him make crucial decisions has an advantage. That’s the way it works in business. So, I wondered how much it mattered to Chris Peterson that he could bounce ideas off of his boss, how much it mattered that Bleymaier was a football guy.
A little research (very little) proved inconclusive. A lot of the top football programs did have "football guys" as their AD, but not all, at least not enough for me to point to the results, jump and shout "Eureka." (That’s actually something I haven’t done since my third girlfriend, but that’s another post.) Still, Oregon has a football guy, USC went from Garrett to Haden – there might be something there, particularly for a school like UCLA where the commitment to football is not as complete as it is at Oregon or USC.
Now, between the time Posnanski wrote his column and I worked on this post, Bleymaier lost his job
. Boise State football is under NCAA investigation and the Broncos decided to fire him
. Bleymaier looks to be taking the fall and for all I know deserves to take the fall. I honestly have no clue what has gone on up there.
But I fear that my Sports Code moment, my desire to get Carnesale to hire Bleymeier instead of Guerrero is now tainted. One of you is going to respond by saying "Sure, Achilles, our football program might have had a better decade, but now we’d be talking to the NCAA." Well, maybe, maybe not. Maybe the conditions at BSU were such that things went a bit astray and UCLA might have had similar success and not bent the rules – which assumes that BSU bent the rules and I don’t even know that for sure.
So, I’ll offer a second Sports Code moment that leaves Dan Guerrero in place. How about this? How about if after Guerrero interviews Karl Dorrell, I have eight minutes to successfully convince him not to let Dorrell interview with the chancellor. Give me eight minutes to convince him that we need a coach with head coaching experience, let me remind him that Mike Riley (his real, first choice) was desired by his own alma mater, Alabama, and they understand winning football. Let me remind him that Riley was willing to pass on ‘Bama to take the UCLA job, all we had to do is offer. Let me remind him that it was fine to throw the former Bruin an interview as a courtesy, but that we can’t take any chances that Carnesale might actually prefer to hire the Broncos wide receiver coach (over a Chargers head coach) and take the decision away and hire the right guy. (If only I was allowed to bring a 2011 media guide with me to show DG the results; alas if he didn’t believe in time travel he might have me locked up before I could make my case.)
So, those are my UCLA Sports Code moments. Give me a time machine and eight minutes and I’d either try to get Chancellor Carnesale to hire Gene Bleymaier over Dan Guerrero or I’d try to get Guerrero not to let Karl Dorrell have an interview with Carnesale, paving the way for a Mike Riley hire.
Now, Bruins Nation, tell me your UCLA Sports Code moments