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UCLA Football: Jerry Azzinaro Still Needs to Go

It’s New Year’s Eve and Jerry Azzinaro is still UCLA’s defensive coordinator, but his contract and the contracts of UCLA’s other defensive assistants expire at the end of February.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 29 UCLA at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s New Year’s Eve. That means there is less than 24 hours before AB 5 limits me to just 35 articles in the new year unless one of several lawsuits filed to keep the new law from taking effect results in a temporary injunction preventing the law from going into effect.

But, I’m not here today to discuss or debate that again.

I do want to take a few moments while it’s still 2019 to discuss the coaching situation with UCLA Bruins football. After all, it’s been more than a month since UCLA’s season ended and Jerry Azzinaro is still the Bruins’ defensive coordinator. I read quite a few comments on Facebook over the weekend where UCLA fans were astonished that Southern Cal had fired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast but Chip Kelly had not fired Azzinaro.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that UCLA will go into next season with Azzinaro as the Bruins’ DC.

Azzinaro’s status could change due to two things which UCLA fans should be aware of. The first, of course, is the departure of Paul Rhoads. In case you missed it, Rhoads was hired by Kevin Sumlin to turn around the Arizona defense and help ensure that Sumlin has a job in Tucson in 2021. Personally, if I were Sumlin, I wouldn’t rely on the guy whose defensive backs had a tendency to line up ten yards off the line of scrimmage, but, hey, he didn’t take my advice when picking his offensive coordinator when he was at Texas A&M. So, why should he start now?

The other thing which could result in a job change, or possibly a demotion, for Azzinaro in 2020 is his contract. If you look at page 17 of Azzinaro’s contract, it is scheduled to expire on February 28, 2020.

Now, of course, we know that Dan Guerrero has an odd penchant for extending the contracts of coaches who aren’t performing. And, we may now know that he gets that tendency from his boss Chancellor Gene Block who did the same for Guerrero himself.

After all, Guerrero’s contract was set to expire today until UCLA announced a six-month extension alongside the announcement of his retirement, but that’s a topic for another article.

Azzinaro’s contract also tells us that he’s made $700,000 (with qualified bonuses) in each of the past two years, or $1,400,000 since coming to UCLA with Kelly. That’s $200,000 per win over the two seasons that Kelly and Azzinaro have been in Westwood.

I might not mind paying a defensive coordinator that much per win if the Bruins were know...winning. But they aren’t. And, it‘s time for a change.

UCLA needs to make the kind of change that took place a few weeks ago when the team’s second highest paid assistant Paul Rhoads departed for Tucson.

That’s right. Rather unbelievably, Rhoads’ contract paid him $500,000 per year. While the contract had a $50,000 buyout, it specifically contained an exclusion allowing him to leave without a buyout for a coordinator-level position. So, his departure did not return 10% of his 2019 salary back into the Athletic Department’s bank account. But, Rhoads’ mid-December departure should save UCLA about $100,000 that was left on Rhoads’ contract.

Staying on the defensive side of the ball, Don Pellum’s contract paid him $400,000 each season, including qualified bonuses, since coming to Westwood while outside linebackers coach Jason Kaufusi made just a base salary of $250,000. Defensive line coach Vincent Oghobaase’s contract originally called for him to make a base salary of just $200,000. But, a contract addendum also paid him two retention bonuses of $50,000 each, raising his pay to $250,000 per season.

We know that Kelly has to hire at least one defensive coach due to Rhoads’ departure. But that isn’t enough.

Chip Kelly’s New Year’s Resolution needs to be to re-make his defensive staff — and he needs to keep that resolution.

Hopefully, we’ll see more staffing changes than just replacing Rhoads over the next few months.

Go Bruins!!!