Coach Neuheisel has been in charge for a little more than 72 hours but already UCLA football is getting more attention around the country than it did in the last 5+ years. It wasn’t a surprise to me at all that Coach Neuheisel made appearances during the Peach Bowl and the Rose Bowl on national TV. The guy knows how to work the media from all angles promoting the best interests of UCLA, not to mention giving the program a boost in the coming recruiting wars in both the short and long term.
Obviously, a lot of people up and down the coast (including the desperate Dawgs from Seattle) are tracking whether or not Coach Neuheisel will keep Walker on his staff. Per Painter in the Daily News, RN is meeting with Walker and some other assistant coaches today. So it sounds like DeWayne has not accepted any offers from UDub, despite leaked (again) information that he had decided to take an offer and that he was being wooed by seemingly every top official at UDub including it’s President. Whatever. As I have said before, if Coach Neuheisel thinks he can have Walker back and that the guy can work under his command without undermining his authority and unquestioned leadership of this program, I have no objections.
However, there is another wild card. And it happens to be a Bruin legend, the greatest UCLA LB of all time, Ken Norton. From the Daily News (as reported by Witz & Wolf from the Rose Bowl):
USC linebacker coach Ken Norton, a former All-America linebacker and a teammate of Neuheisel's at UCLA, did little to quash speculation that he could be returning to Westwood.
Asked if he'd spoken with Neuheisel, Norton said, "Man, can't I even enjoy this one?" and then ducked out the locker room door.
USC coach Pete Carroll said he hadn't spoken with Norton yet, but that he's heard rumors that Neuheisel would pursue him. He added that he wanted to retain Norton.
"I'm sure coach Neuheisel hasn't called him yet, and is waiting until the season is over," said Carroll, who then rolled his eyes.
Neuheisel said upon being hired Saturday that his first priority was retaining defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, but Walker is considering a more lucrative offer from the University of Washington. The two are scheduled to meet today, but in preliminary talks Neuheisel wouldn't guarantee Walker could retain his assistants, according to a source close to Walker.
It's unclear if Norton would leave for any position other than defensive coordinator.
And we are not the only ones not worrying about whether Walker is going to stay or leave Westwood. From Jason over at What’s Bruin, Dawg:
He'd be much better served sticking around UCLA, but I wish him the best if that's what he does choose.
This program now belongs to Coach Neuheisel and, of course, to the rest of us: alums, students, and fans who are emotionally invested in the best interest of UCLA.