Regular readers of Bruins Nation know well about Bruce Feldman, college football columnist at CBSSPorts.com. Not only Bruce is perhaps one of the top if not the best reporters in the game of college football, he enjoys the status of a rock star among college football fanatics across the country. His legend only grew in recent months when he basically told ESPN to go screw themselves over the sordid saga around Mike Leach and Craig James (you can read up here, here and here).
Feldman is one of the very few reporters in any sport who can effortlessly go back and forth on any story, zooming in and out from national and local perspectives. He has as good sources as anyone in the game while also having command over the details around stories developing in college football. He also wrote "Swing Your Sword," a must read bio for all college football fans on Washington State head coach Mike Leach (more info here).
So yes, we are huge fans of Bruce and that is why it was lot of fun for us to recently engage in an email back and forth with him over the state of UCLA football. We thought you'd enjoy reading his responses to number of our questions concerning UCLA football, our new coach and yes Dan Guerrero.
BN: It seems like Dan Guerrero was not well prepared for this coaching search, just going after guys who he went after last time, or someone who coached against UCLA (Sumlin), before settling on Mora, who apparently actively sought out the job? Many people have offered opinions on the hire, but what do you think about the process?
BF: No one is going to confuse Guerrero for one of the best ADs in college sports when it comes to hiring football coaches... But I'm not sure who'd have been seen as "a home-run hire" who UCLA could've gotten this time around. Chris Petersen isn't leaving. They weren't gonna get Urban Meyer. I do think Rich Rodriguez would've been an intriguing hire because I know he would've ramped up the intensity around that program every day but Arizona moved faster. They weren't gonna hire Leach. I suspect they'd have had a good shot at landing Sumlin IF A&M beats Texas and doesn't fire Sherman. But once that happened, he was out of reach too. Who knows if Mora will prove to be better than say Gus Malzahn, Larry Fedora or Jim McElwain. We're all just guessing at this point.
BN: UCLA seems to have significantly underperformed its potential and athletic talent during going back to about 2002 or so. Why do you think that is, and are there other schools that have so significantly underperformed their potential and why?
BF: You wonder just how important it is to have a great football program to UCLA. Facilities are lagging. There's too much politics above the HC's head. Something about the place just doesn't feel like it's about producing a powerhouse football program. Anyone who has gone out to practice at UCLA in recent years and been across town, feels and hears the difference in the way things are run.
BN: If you were going to try to turn UCLA football around starting around October 20 of this year, what would you have done, assuming its all fair game (facilities, coaches, etc.).
BF: Hard to say. Hardest thing for any staff to do is get a team turned around once you're on the hot seat and bad things start happening.
BN: Why should we be optimistic about Mora without taking into account the bogus Carroll comparison? What makes Mora's chances for success any different than Dorrell or Neuheisel?
BF: Well, I like the hires he's made so far targeting aggressive recruiters who know the California recruiting scene well. That's a big plus. I believe you get ambitious, high-energy guys on staff and it can boost the intensity around the program/practice field every day. That'd seem to be a welcome change around there. As for Mora himself... I don't know enough yet. It's hard enough to predict how a guy who has been a college head coach will do at a new job much less a guy who has never coached in college really or run a program and had to deal with the issues you have in college as opposed to in the NFL world. They are very different animals. I also think things are different in the league scheme wise compared to how it was when Pete Carroll came to the Pac-10.
BN: How important are facilities? Point blank, can UCLA skate by if they do other things right or does it have to pour the millions in and get it right and stay in the college football arms race?
BF: They're important in recruiting because it does matter with recruits. And it matters because if the school doesn't show it is seriously committed to competing with other top programs, that mindset permeates the rest of the athletic department and can really hinder you on and off the field.
BN: What is the impression of Dan Guerrero around the country? Not the football program or the school, but how his leadership is viewed.
BF: Not good. But quite frankly, most diehard fans of a program know and care more about its AD than people on the outside. If Neuheisel went 11-1 this year, people outside of LA would think better of Dan Guerrero.
Many thanks again to Bruce on behalf of BruinsNation. You can share your reactions, impressions in the comment thread.