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Multi-Monikered Poster Sees Potential Light at the End of the Tunnel (If You Read Real Close

If you get past the "I Told You Sos," MavBruin (aka MaverickBruin, aka TheCanadian, aka CaptainHaggerty) wrote a scathing-but-optimistic post on Bruinzone yesterday.

Why did Dorrell fail? The answer has nothing to do with the culture of UCLA or academic restrictions or lack of an on-campus stadium or the tradition of a USC or Notre Dame. That is not to say that these things do not exist, but they are reasons why UCLA might never win a national championship -- they are NOT reasons why UCLA should go 6-6 or 8-5 every year or get blown out by inferior teams. UCLA's natural advantages should put the Bruins in the top 10 every other year and the top 20 every year, with even an average coach. Look what Terry Donahue did, at least in the middle ten years of his career. He wasn't a great game coach but he used UCLA's natural advantages to recruit well and the 8, 9, ands 10 win seasons basically took care of themselves.

Dorrell failed because he was completely over his head, recruited poorly, hired mediocre assistants, made terrible decisions, lacked leadership skills, people skills, and charisma. And that is just the start. He was probably one of the worst hires in the history of Division I football. He simply did not have the aptitude to be a head coach. An assistant maybe; a guy who works at a bank, probably. But not a head coach at this level -- not now and probably not ever. It's just not in him. It was apparent from day one (his press conference) and is apparent today. Dan Guerrero hired Chauncey Gardener.

Thus, replacing Dorrell, assuming that Guerrero even hires just an OK coach, will immediately pay major dividends. Even a flawed coach who has some charisma, a body of work, and a reputation will immediately be able to improve the product on the field -- addition by subtraction -- and get a recruiting buzz going for the program, at least initially.

So the idea that UCLA needs a fundamental change in its institutional culture in order to improve the football program is silliness. With Bob Toledo, a mediocre coach at best, UCLA was bringing in top 10 recruiting classes regularly and had more talent on the roster than all but a hanbdful of college teams. That Toledo couldn't coach those players because they lost respect for him is why he was fired. But Dorrell was worse because he didn't even bring in that level of player to begin with. A halfway decent coach who works hard can bring in top 10 classes with regularity again, and if they respect him and he hires solid assistants there is no reason UCLA can't be one of the elite teams in the Pac-10 year after year. Will we start winning national championships? Unlikely. But who demands that? N ot me, not ever. If you have a lot of 9 and 10 win seasons maybe one year the stars align for you and it all comes together, but most UCLA fans would be satisfied with a team that is competitive with all of the other top teams in the country, competes for the Pac-10 title year in and year out and wins it every few years, and goes to New Years Day bowls with regularity. In short, what Donahue did in the 1980s.

That is easily achievable. You just need a coach who is at a Donahue level -- not elite but fairly sharp and not embarrassing. If you can luck out and pick a Vermeil or Howland level guy, maybe you do get a dominating top-5 type program -- UCLA is certainly cpaable of that. But with even a halfway decent hire, what you definitely will not get is what we have seen for the last few years of Toledo's program and all of Dorrell's. That is all about a coach who lost his team (Toledo) and a coach who had no business being the coach.

Assuming Guerrero doesn't botch this next hiring process -- and having taken his lumps on the last one, I have no reason to believe he will -- just watch and see how easily and quickly UCLA's fortunes rise. And suddenly all of the excuses -- and we have heard them all in the last few years -- will be seen for what they always were: crutches to prop up a coach who was a nice guy but a historic train wreck as a Division I head coach.

Well-earned rhetorical vengeance aside, it's actually a very hopeful post.