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Finding The Next Urban Meyer: Does UCLA Have The Athletic Director to Find Him?

Not surprisingly the post on UCLA having enough resources to hire someone like Urban Meyer generated a bit of reaction online. I will reiterate a point I made in that post. I didn't write it to dream that Urban Meyer will become the next UCLA football coach. Writing that headline was fun but that was not my main point. My point was that the new Pac-12 TV deal should give UCLA enough resources to hire a coach who would be of the caliber of someone like Meyer. It's always good to dream though.

That brings to most important point pertinent to UCLA Athletics right now. What will UCLA do with additional resources and do we have the right people who know the strategic way to spend those extra resources? Ryan addressed the topic yesterday. It is about how UCLA athletics under the leadership spend its resources and whether Dan is the right guy to make decisions such as hiring our next coach. MaconDawg from Dawg Sports made this crucial point while riffing on Denis Dodd's comment about Meyer and UCLA:

The difference is that Jeremy Foley picked Meyer out of a lineup of bigger name candidates who would have killed for the Florida job, while Pac-12 athletic directors have been overpaying for the likes of Lane Kiffin, Ty Willingham, and Dennis Erickson (not to mention Dan Hawkins, who Pac'ed up his stuff in Boulder before the Buffs were Pac'ed into the Pac-12) . If the Pac-12 wants to dominate college football, they don't need more money for coaches like Urban Meyer. They need money for athletic directors who know how to evaluate coaching talent. People like Utah's Chris Hill, who has guided the Utes' athletic department since 1987, along the way hiring Urban Meyer before he was Urban Meyer, then Kyle Whittingham to replace him. By guiding the Utes into a BCS conference, Hill has established himself as one of the premier A.D.'s in collegiate athletics, and perhaps the top A.D. in his new conference. Maybe his colleagues should put some of that cash toward hiring Hill as a consultant and asking him how he did it.

He ended that note with some high quality snark but his bolded point is pivotal - at least for UCLA.

Do we have an athletic director who knows how to evaluate coaching talent? The evidence is not helpful for Dan Guerrero to make a good case. It is well known around these parts that he was not to blame for hiring Karl Dorrell. He had just come to UCLA at the time when Bob Toledo decided to implode. Guerrero - with recommendation of Bob Field - wanted to bring in Mike Riley. Riley and UCLA were so close that Riley passed on the opportunity to coach Alabama. But Toledo ended up losing a classic UCLA bureaucratic turf war as then Morgan Center brass - Al Carnesale and Peter Blackmun - opted for Karl Dorrell and his shiny suit. You can look through the archives in this blog to dig up all the old stories.

Guerrero can thus make an argument that Karl Dorrell was not on him. That is ok but it still didn't make him look like a strong leader who has the personality to build consensus within and operate through bureaucratic inertias at a place like UCLA. Guerrero had a chance to make his mark when he fired Karl Dorrell. He decided to outsource the job search process by hiring a consulting firm who came with a set of recommendations that included Al Golden and John Harbaugh. Both were solid candidates but UCLA ended up with Rick Neuheisel because it looks like he was the only one who was willing to take the job with the condition that he would retain Dewayne Walker as his defensive coordinator.

So we have to ask whether this kind of track record is the mark of a football savvy athletic director? We'd like to give Dan Guerrero a fair shake here but given what has happened with UCLA football during his tenure can we trust him to make another hiring decision? Can we trust him to spend those additional resources wisely?

Oswego Bruin made some good points during yesterday's discussion on how UCLA should spend additional resources:

First and foremost, we need to renovate Spaulding. I don't know how much time you guys have spent on that field, but I've spent plenty and that place is a dump. Piles of equipment, sand, etc, the field is NOT 100 yards, which is inexcusable for a football practice field, and the ridiculous half turf/half grass addition is idiotic at best and (black helicopters) dangerous to our players at worst. I personally would like Spaulding to become the new IM fields, and the IM field (or part of it) to become the football practice field. What better way to show our commitment to football than to have a nice, pristine practice field out there, with the four letters beautifully painted on?

Next, we need to pay for quality assistant coaches in football and basketball. We need to upgrade/expand Acosta at some point as well, though that is not as pressing of an issue. These things are most urgent, IMO.

I find myself in agreement with all that. I think the best case scenario for UCLA fans right now is for Rick Neuheisel (and Ben Howland) to have successful next seasons. For them to be successful Dan Guerrero also needs to make sure he does everything to put them in position to succeed. This includes meaningful investment in both of our major revenue programs so that UCLA is competitive at the national level.

Can Guerrero step up? I honestly don't know the answer. If he doesn't we will need to think about changes at the top not just look at our head coaches. For now though ... it doesn't hurt to dream. It gets everyone thinking.