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Warning From the Future

You may not know it, given my humble lifestyle, and serious demeanor.  But I'm set for life.  Ever since inventing my Gizmotron 3000, I've been able to see glimpses into the future.  And people thought I was an idiot when I was unloading my Internet stocks a few years ago and bought a ton of real estate.  Well, what do you say?  Oh yeah, thanks Gizmotron.

Occassionally, and I mean very occassionally, I use the powers of the Gizmotron for something other than enhancing my already vast wealth.  It's also handy for seeing how things will go in sports, which, frankly, serves the same purpose.  (You wouldn't believe how much money I've made betting against the US national basketball team the last decade.)  Anyway, I found this while trying to find out who won the post election legal battle over malfunctioning electronic voting machines in New Mexico in 2008.

Coming off Rebuilding Year, UCLA Coach Promises Progress -- Associated Press, by Brian Lebovich.

Dateline:  January 4, 2009.

Westwood, California.

Influential alumnis and university officials held a closed door meeting yesterday at the Morgan Center to discuss an emerging crisis affecting UCLA's football program.

Three years after head coach Karl Dorrell survived a grass roots effort to have him fired, Bruin faithful are once again embroiled in bitter debate regarding the direction of the program.  After a second consectutive sub-.500 season, a growing faction of alumni have again demanded that Dorrell be terminated.  Meanwhile, a competing group of Bruin faithful have rallied to Dorrell's defense.

Dorrell is coming off his seventh campaign as head coach (45-40 overall; 25-30 Pac-10), a season in which the Bruins finished 5-7, roughly in line with preseason expectations.  The Bruins also struggled to a 6-7 finish in 2008, after raising hopes in some quarters following a 9-3 record, and Sun Bowl victory, in 2007.

The latest round of tensions flared this past month after crosstown rival USC increased its record winning streak against the Bruins to 12 games.  The 54-6 victory on November 23 marked the fourth consecutive 20+ point Trojan win, and angered many UCLA fans.

John Starkinson, one of just over 9,000 blue-clad fans at the sold out Rose Bowl, echoed criticism common in Westwood: "Dorrell just stood there... I don't think I saw him speak into his headset even once.  At one point, I think a saw him watching a butterfly."

Disaffected Bruin fans have voiced concerns that Coach Dorrell is "disturbingly disengaged" from games.   As recently as last Saturday's 13-10 loss to Sacramento State in the Bisquick Bowl, fans were heard booing after a vicious 2nd quarter late hit on UCLA quarterback James Carlyle failed to elicit any noticeable response from Dorrell.

Dorrell, known for his statuesque sideline demeanor, and fondness for "staying the course" despite the apparent need for in-game adjustments, dismissed the criticism.  "I've got a young team out here," Dorrell explained, "and while these kids are still growing, they need to know that they have a Coach who isn't going to be effected in any way whatsoever by what's going on on the field."

The seventh-year coach has also endured criticism for his play-calling throughout his career.  Against USC, the Bruins managed only 11 first downs, and drew questions from some media members for running the ball on 89% of 1st downs against the conference's leading rushing defense.

"We needed to establish the run, and I was determined to do that," said Dorrell, apparently responding to criticism following UCLA's 21-20 win over Nevada the week before.  That victory gave the Bruins their bowl qualifying 6th win, but raised questions after UCLA threw the ball 56 times against a defensive line devastated by injury.

The dismal performance against USC erased hopes that the Bruins would open up the offensive playbook.  Having set an NCAA record for the most consecutive punts on 4th down (214) against Stanford on September 12, coaches promised to be more aggressive.  However, the disappointing 22-20 loss raised even more questions, particularly after a late game decision to punt on 4th and 1 deep in Stanford territory.

"Sure, we could have gone for it," said Dorrell, "but they had 8 men in the box and were obviously expecting that."  "They also somehow sniffed out that we were thinking field goal, so that wasn't an option either," the coach explained.

First year offensive cooridinator Bud Dwyer, acknowledged problems after the Stanford game, but said the staff was "working hard" to find a solution.  "The coaches certainly have to do a better job," said Dwyer, "particularly when we have players like Chase Donnell who singlehandedly cost us games by not running the right routes."

Outside the Morgan Center Thursday, Dorrell supporters called the coach's critics unreasonable and short sighted.   "People just don't understand," said Mark Lillyfoot, "Coach Dorrell is a really nice man, and once his current rebuilding project is complete, I'm betting we'll see that eighth win everyone seems so worried about."

David Lightbra, standing nearby with a handmade "Stop the Hate" sign, added, "We want to win too, but we are also realistic, and know that every year can't be as good as those great Donahue years."  Lightbra went on to explain that academic restrictions on potential recruits, financial constraints, injuries, poor officiating, and "the voices" were to blame for Dorrell's lackluster performance.

Across campus, Eric Klein, a 20-year old student wearing a Ben Howland "three-peat" t-shirt, expressed frustration with Coach Dorrell.  "This guy's an idiot," said Klein, "No, really, this guy just plain sucks, and we should have done something about when we had the chance in 2006."

I don't know if it's too late to change what the Gizmotron foresees, but it seem like it's worth a shot.