The thought and feeling among frontpagers of the Bruins Nation is that it's not necessary at this point in time for us to identify by name possible coaching candidates for the eventual search for Rick Neuheisel's replacement. The feeling here is that it's not our job to name or speculate about specific candidates, because there might be some great coach out there whose name we don't know.
A proper coaching search requires the necessary interviews, background and reference checks any high level executive search requires. Oh, don't misunderstand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with speculating about names, but we believe the focus should be on something else as well that would be just as productive.
We should narrow down a set of criteria, refine it and then use that to evaluate the candidates as they become known and also to assess Rick Neuheisel's eventual successor. Here are our thoughts:
UCLA's Next Head Coach Should Have No Prior Ties To UCLA Football
The new head coach should have no prior ties to UCLA football. So, that would eliminate Greg Robinson, Bob Field, DeWayne Walker, Ken Norton Jr,, Norm Chow, the return of Karl Dorrell, Bob Field, Al Borges and Bob Toledo. And, yes, some of those were sarcastic. But sarcasm aside, we need to acknowledge that the UCLA way of doing football is not working and we need someone whose experience is entirely from the outside so that they might bring to us their knowledge of what has worked elsewhere. We need a strong leader with a powerful foundation in what it takes to build a successful football program, because as much as they will need to change the results on the field, they will need to change the culture off the field.
UCLA's Next Head Coach Must Have Total Control Of the Football Program
The new head coach must be given total control of the football program in every aspect that is possible. This means that they can retain any assistant coaches they want or replace the whole staff. They decide how the team practices, does strength and conditioning (including the hiriing of the strength and conditioning coach). who we schedule, what style we play -- everything. Our only concession in this area are admissions (because that's a moot point, admissions is not going to give up admissions -- though we strongly encourage admissions to have more of an open mind when it comes to who the next coach is allowed to offer a scholarship) and medical (UCLA Medical Center has fine doctors. We can't just switch to Cedars Sinai).
UCLA's Next Head Coach Must Either have Prior Head Coaching Experience or Must Be a Well-Regarded Coordinator
UCLA's next head coach must come from one of two categories. They must either have prior head coaching experience (with play calling experience on one side of the ball or the other) or they must be a well-regarded coordinator who is clearly "the next guy" who is getting a head coaching job. In other words, we either need a proven head coach, or a guy like Will Muschamp was last year before he went to Florida -- a coordinator who will be a head coach in short time. A coach with pro experience is okay, too, if he basically meets the criteria. In other words, Bill Musgrave, the Vikings OC, would be a choice that met the criteria.
UCLA's Next Head Coach Must Be an Enthusiastic Recruiter Who Believes In What UCLA Stands For As A University
If the next head coach is a college coach, either a coach with head coaching experience or a coordinator who is clearly "next in line" for a head coaching position, they must have an established reputation as a recruiter. Recruiting is going to be half the battle for any new coach. Some coaches love to do it and understand how, for others it is a necessary evil. We want someone who loves to do it. But they also must understand the qualities that make UCLA great, that simply recruiting a bunch of five star athletes is not necessarily the goal. UCLA is going to be a demanding academic experience for any recruit. The school also has its own particular vibe that must be recognized. In other words, the next coach needs to recruit the right kind of player for both UCLA and his system. If the coach comes from the pros, we need someone whose personality suggests he is going to be a strong recruiter.
The Following Criteria Are Not As Essential as Those Listed Above. We Consider Then Secondary Criteria -- Important, But Not Essential
It Would Be Nice To Have An Up and Comer, Not a Retread (Though Some Coaches Rise Above Either Criteria)
It would be nice to have an up and comer over a retread, unless that retread is in his prime. In other words, unless we're talking about Urban Meyer or Mike Leach or Chris Peterson, it's better to go with an up and comer who is hungry, than old established vet looking for one last hurrah. Some might disagree with this. But we'd rather have the hot young guy ready for the next step than Mike Bellotti or do what ASU did with Dennis Erickson. Oh, there is nothing wrong with Bellotti or Erickson or would have been wrong with Mike Riley when we got Dorrell, but we'd rather have that guy who years from now will be associated with the success he had at UCLA, not just have UCLA be one of the many stops on his coaching train. Again, if we're talking about elite, upper echelon guy in his prime like Urban Meyer then it doesn't matter. But we don't want Chris Ault of Nevada over Manny Diaz of Texas, if that makes it any clearer.
UCLA's Next Head Coach Should Be Mediagenic; It's Still L.A., After All
While it's not an essential criteria, it would be nice to have someone who was great with the media. No matter what, this is Los Angeles. You're not going to have coach-friendly media like you might have in some college towns. So, it would be nice to have someone who understands the difference between operating in a media market where your team is not the center of the universe, like it might be elsewhere. Along those lines (though a bit tangential), it would be great if the next head coach and his family are desirous of city life. UCLA, like USC, like Washington, like Miami is one of the relatively few schools located in a large, urban city. If you the next coach gets that, relished that, it's a plus.
UCLA's Next Head Coach Should Call Plays On One Side of the Ball Or the Other
Of all the criteria in this post, this last is perhaps the most controversial and the easiest to disregard depending on who becomes the next head coach. But, the feeling here is that it would be beneficial (though not essential) that the next head coach call plays on one side of the ball or the other. Or they must be the special teams coach. In other words, we need someone who is in charge of the offense or the defense or special teams. We don't need to spend millions on a guy who just recruits and gives the pep talk. In actual practice if a coordinator assists in actual game day play calling that's fine. The point is that the head coach must take full responsibility for one aspect of the game and in many ways that will become our identity. If we hired a defensive minded head coach then we are a defensive team first. If we hire an offensive guru, then we're the team that puts up a lot of points. But we need a head coach to be in charge of one side of the ball or the other.