While other sites are focusing on pre-season primers and depth chart analysis, I’d like to
paint this season with a broader stroke from the beginning. We all need to go into this season with the understanding that Rick Neuheisel will not be the UCLA head football coach after this season. Nothing short of a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl victory will save him. But let’s be realistic, that probably isn’t going to happen.
I remember being fairly excited for the Neuheisel era. He had been successful at both Colorado and Washington, missing only 1 bowl game in 8 seasons. He had also spent time in the NFL (which usually helps with recruiting) and was touted as somewhat of a QB coaching guru (which should also help recruit at that position).
It’s a bit ironic then that his biggest failings at UCLA have been in each of those categories. He has limped into one bowl game in three seasons (which they needed to win to go above .500 for the season), and has bookended that season with two 4-8 offerings. He has also continued the Karl Dorrell tradition of poor recruiting for the area, as well as sub-par assistant coaches. (I still think that Norm Chow was some type of undercover operative sent by USC to undermine
the program. I saw absolutely nothing of this fabled offensive genius during his time at UCLA. I know he didn’t have much to work with, but come on, how many times can we run the same generic “all-curls” play?) And worst of all, he has been in middle of some of the worst college football quarterbacking play that I’ve ever seen. We all remember Neuheisel berating Kevin Craft like a bad puppy during his first season, and basically just giving up at the end of last season on baseball catcher, I mean QB, Richard Brehaut.
Even more head-scratching, is that UCLA has beaten Tennessee twice, Texas, and a highly ranked Houston team in the past three seasons, but can’t seem to consistently defeat such
powerhouses as Kansas St., Oregon St., and Arizona St. Without the Washington schools, UCLA’s pitiful 15-22 (8-19 Pac-10) record over the last 3 seasons would be an abysmal 10-21 (3-18 Pac-10). UCLA has also finished no higher than 8th in the Pac-10 under Neuheisel. Not exactly “contract extension” type of numbers…
I grew up within walking distance to the Rose Bowl, and my parents, UCLA alumni, had season tickets. My vivid UCLA Football memories surround the end of the Terry Donahue era, and all of the Bob Toledo era. I remember going to tons of games of course, waving my UCLA 12th Bruin towel (signed by Danny Farmer), leading an 8-clap or two, and more or less baking because we were on the sunny side of the Rose Bowl. More so than the winning streak over USC, that time period of UCLA football was marked by both extreme competitiveness, and a great Rose Bowl atmosphere. I remember going to a non-descript game against Stanford while I was in high school, and a close game ended with a UCLA DE sacking the Cardinal QB. The place erupted, and it was the loudest I’ve ever heard the Rose Bowl, and I’ve been to countless and recent Rose Bowl games. The place was packed every week, and they might not have always had great teams, but you knew that they at least had a chance to win every game that they played. Obviously, that was made more interesting during the games against USC, when you really got the sense that anything could happen.
That feeling is gone in Pasadena. Games are half attended, with the student section even being less than half-full. Games against most Pac-10 opponents, especially against USC, are
almost a foregone conclusion. The spike in recruiting recently can almost certainly be attributed to the lack of available scholarships at USC, and worst of all, things still aren’t all that clear regarding the QB position. Throw in a new offensive coordinator who couldn’t get the plays in on time while with the 49ers, and this season isn’t setting up too well for Neuheisel and UCLA.
UCLA Football should be able to recruit just as effectively as USC, be able to fill the stadium for home games, and be able to put out a competitive team. UCLA fans aren’t like SEC fans. We don’t need to expect to win every single game, or even need to start the season out with an undefeated season in mind. But UCLA fans need and deserve to at the very least know that the team has a chance to win every game that it plays. And that just isn't the case with Rick Neuheisel right now.
He probably won’t be fired during the season, as that doesn't really make a big difference, but rest assured, he’s definitely a dead man coaching.
- Mark Slattery
ChatSports.com Senior Writer
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