I don't want to pile on. I'm not even angry. I've had time to adjust ever since that punt from the 37 yard line symbolized everything that has always been and was to come. I just want to report here on what it was like to be at the Rose Bowl yesterday.
I've been at UCLA games before when the difference between losing or winning didn't seem to matter. I've never been at such a game when EVERYONE in the stadium seemed to feel that way. It was the most depressed crowd I'd ever seen. People were leaving early in a tied game, like they were changing the channel. They didn't know why they came, what they were watching, and why it somehow felt less "real" than seeing something on a screen from miles away. It did not feel like a game; it felt like some basic cable B-movie that nobody could quite understand why they made so much trouble and paid so much money to see on the big screen.
We've talked about the eye test. Yesterday did not only fail the eye test. It failed the soul test. It failed the heart test, the spirit test, even the existence test. It was not like watching a train wreck, which would elicit real emotions. It was more like watching an empty track, waiting for something, anything to pass through. I brought 3 friends who would love to take a ride but who, unlike me, wouldn't spend months and days and years of life just idly waiting for one to show up. They represent the difference between 40k and 80k at the Rose Bowl.
Yesterday's game was Lavinesque. It was Dorrelian. I do not drop those words lightly. It was an event in which the most important matter at hand was not the win or loss but the absolute necessity for a change. It is literally better to change coaches every single year than to ever go through another game like that. Nobody who was there yesterday has any excitement about going back. The game was poisonous to the program.
In his fourth year of serving poison, the chef has to go. If we pull out enough games in the fashion of the last 13 years to finish 6-6 or 7-5 or 8-4, I honestly don't think it'll matter to recruits, fans, or the program. I don't think it'll change the feeling we all have that Rick Neuheisal is capable at best of putting on an imitation of football. Sometimes it'll be a good imitation; sometimes a pathetic one. And the sooner we hire someone who converts our program to the real thing the less damaged we'll all be.
THIS IS NOT A CALL TO FATALISM. In a way, this letdown is worse than Dorrelavinian because we had hope for CRN whereas we never really had hope for the former. But CRN's tenure could turn out to be an ultimately productive one if it ends at the end of the season having proven that recruiting is possible at UCLA, and the only thing missing is coaching and leadership. All it takes is the right hire, and we haven't even come close to trying hard enough (by offering real money, really going after a great pool of candidates, etc.) If we accept the need for a change NOW, we can even take some pleasure in the remainder of the season without worrying if some ugly win might extend the overall mediocrity for yet another year.