This is what a winning coach looks like. This is what a winning mentality looks like. This is what being a ruthless, refuse-to-lose, play-to-win champion looks like. This is not anywhere close to what UCLA looks like. And it's sad.
That was flat-out embarrassing. I could live with losing to Texas, even though they aren't that good (and despite the fact that with the talent and experience on our roster, we should have won, easily). The way we lost was inexcusable. It makes me wonder why Dan Guerrero continues to sign paychecks for Rick Neuheisel and his coaching staff.
I mean, how do you get penalized for having too many men on the field after just taking a freakin' time-out to make sure you have the right men on the field?! How do you continue to start a quarterback who completed as many passes (3) as he threw interceptions (3) in the first quarter alone?! Shouldn't the second interception in the same quarter been reason to bench the guy?! I could go on and on and on, but we've already discussed how pathetic this UCLA program was yesterday under Dan Guerr-error and Rick No-heisel's Reign of Error here, here, here, and here.
Two things are abundantly clear after yesterday's debacle:
- Dan Guerrero has COMPLETELY FAILED at managing a top-tier Division I athletic department with a BCS football program.
- Rick Neuheisel has COMPLETELY FAILED at turning around a program mired in a decade of mediocrity due to a cheap administration that refuses to invest any real resources into the athletic department's top revenue generator, boneheaded oversight by an incompetent athletic director, and a culture of conservative, limp-dick, playing-not-to-loss mindset.
Let's make an interesting comparison and talk about this diseased culture after the jump.
This morning I watched my favorite football (the original version, not the American style) club, Man United put down one of their top rivals for the Premier League title this season, Chelsea, in clinical fashion, 3-1, to maintain a perfect 100% start to their season. This came after they clinically destroyed Tottenham, Arsenal, and Bolton by a combined score of 16-2 (over just three games). For the season, they've smashed face to the tune of 21-4 over five games in a sport marked by games that are usually low scoring affairs (2-1, 1-0, 2-0, for example).
It brought me to a certain realization. Sir Alex Ferguson is a winner. The guy just wins. Sometimes he is absolutely ruthless, but the man wins. He turned Man United from a solid, but unspectacular side with occasional forays into European glory, into one of the, if not the, most powerful and dominant franchises in any sport across the entire globe.
The man is a winner. And his players believe in him. They know he's a winner and his teams grab on to that winning mentality. He plays the best players, not the most senior. He famously sold off big name stars that had started (and won trophies) for United in Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis, replacing them with a group of young, unproven, but talented kids. Fergie's Fledglings, as they're known now, are a little group of guys named David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, and Paul Scholes. Even the casual soccer fan recognizes those names.
In today's side, Mexican youngster Javier Hernandez finds himself in the starting line-up on a regular basis while last year's joint top-goal scorer, Dimitar Berbatov, spends a lot of time on the bench along with Michael Owen, who only 5 or 6 seasons ago, was considered one of the world's top strikers. Soon enough, Rio Ferdinand, one of England's best central defenders, briefly captain of the English national side, and once the most-expensive transfer in the English game, is going to find himself spending more time on the bench due to the emergence of Fergie's newest crop of youngsters, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.
Now, think about what would have happened if United adopted the UCLA approach: play the senior guys, regardless of talent level. We play Kevin Prince for reasons that are beyond me.
Brian Poli-Dixon Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree still get regular action, despite having done nothing noteworthy in their UCLA careers and not providing any kind of big play threat. Justin Edison sometimes starts on the defensive line despite a career of being destroyed on the Division I level. Sean Westgate still starts despite consistently being targeted by opposing offenses since he's not a Division I, BCS conference level linebacker.
Had United followed UCLA's path, young Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, etc., would have languished on the reserve side, the bench, or been sold off to other teams. Could you imagine how different United's history would be if Beckham was plying his trade for Tottenham instead of United, or if Scholes has been sold to Newcastle, or Gary to QPR?
Sir Alex is a winner. Dan Guerrero is not and neither is Rick Neuheisel. Both men are conservative, play-not-to-loss lame duck chumps. But the problem goes farther than just Guerrero and Neuheisel. It goes to the very top: to Chancellor Gene Block and the culture of conservative mediocrity that has festered at UCLA since Terry Donahue and his sycophants took over at Morgan Center.
United play open, flowing football. They attack from all angles and all sides, whereas many other sides pack the back-end, try to defend and play the counter-attack. On any given day, you don't know who will score, be it Rooney, Chicharito, Ashley Young, Nani, etc. Great sides, like United, play to win. As a result, they win the big trophies and have dominated the game. Also-ran sides, like Arsenal or Tottenham, play not to lose, and as a result, always come up short.
UCLA doesn't play to win. We play not to lose. Our coaching staff is afraid to go for it on 4th and short in San Jose State territory. We refuse to open up the playbook or get the ball into the hands of kids who can be playmakers if given the chance. We let mediocre players like Embree get regular minutes while guys like Shaq Evans, Randall Carroll, and Devin Lucien sit and watch. Our program's motto is "punting is winning." That's f**king loser talk. You know what the slogan for a winning team is?
- "Scoring mother-f**king touchdowns is winning."
- "Dominating you on defense and putting your QB on his ass is winning."
That's not the kind of talk you see out of Morgan Center. Dan Guerrero is a FAILURE. Rick Neuheisel is a FAILURE.
However, the problem isn't just DG and RN (that's right, the acronym CRN died yesterday, because there was nothing resembling coaching on the UCLA sideline). The problem is that UCLA has been mired in a culture of mediocrity due to the complete saturation of the Terry Donahue conservative, play-not-to-lose mindset at Morgan Center. The problem is that Chancellor Gene Block has shown zero interest in taking the drastic steps necessary to turn UCLA football around. This isn't a complicated deal. Football is the big money program in college athletics. Football is the engine that keeps athletic departments going: it provides the lion's share of revenue that supports other college athletics, and as we all know, successful college athletics raises a school's profile. It helps attract people to a university, even an already great university. Stanford is one of the world's greatest universities and even they understand that successful athletics, and especially, a successful football program is a big deal. It helps build their brand, raise their profile, and at the bare minimum, it gets the alumni base fired up and excited, which leads to an uptick in donations. And, at the end of the day, what college president or chancellor doesn't like having more money on hand to spend?
Gene Block needs to wake up. He needs to be bold and make UCLA great, not just in the classroom (where he's doing an admirable job), but also great on the athletic fields. He needs to take the drastic steps necessary to clean house at Morgan Center, purge UCLA of the diseased culture of mediocrity we've suffered through for the last decade plus, and he needs to set the tone that UCLA is going to be a winner.
At the bare minimum Gene, it's a matter of mother-f**king pride. Right now, I'm not very proud of my Bruins. Every day someone from UCLA calls me to ask for a donation. And until I feel proud of the Bruins again, I will keeping ignoring that call. I'm not proud that we always will settle for "barely good enough."
That's not the UCLA way.