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Breaking: UCLA Hires Neuheisel, Won't Be Sorry

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Broken and confirmed: UCLA has pulled the trigger on its next head coach:

Neuheisel reacts:

After L.A. was spurned by Mike Leach, Chris Peterson and Mike Bellotti, among others, Slick Rick's hire means the Bruins still thought it wisest to pass on polarizing defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, the first football-related decision in three years guaranteed to draw approval from the anguished Dorrell-haters at Bruins Nation. And it is likely his association with Dorrell that doomed Walker's candidacy: has NFL coaching experience, plenty of support in the community and media and vastly improved the defense he inherited, an embarrassment the year before his arrival in 2005. But when things get stale, make the break – the culture of mediocrity that set in at the end of the Bob Toledo adminitration and dominated the Dorrell Era was too much for anyone in it to overcome; the Bruins were at or within one game of .500 overall and in the Pac Ten four of the last five seasons, had lost fewer than four games in-conference just once since 1998 and lost multiple games to unranked teams every season under Dorrell, often by a lot, and all remnants of this disappointing era are best banished to the back of the media guide.

Well, either that, or the money. Until he lasts anywhere some significant amount of time and provides some evidence to the contrary, Neuheisel will always be a smooth-talking, self-promoting swindler skating on charm and the razor's edge of the rule book until the entire operation falls apart after five or six years. The "gambling pool" that got him fired at Washington may be an overblown infraction, but 50-plus violations is 50-plus violations. When Neuheisel was booted, Jonathan Chait wrote in Slate that the coach was "a man so richly deserving of a pink slip that his dismissal on such minor grounds leaves a sour taste. It's sort of like nabbing Al Capone for tax evasion." Among Slick Rick's other crimes and misdemeanors:

Feb. 3, 1999— Reports surface on national letter-of-intent signing day that Neuheisel is being investigated for improper visits to five recruits. It later is revealed that Neuheisel also made improper contact with several of his former Colorado players and engaged one UW recruit in a basketball-shooting contest, deemed an improper tryout by the NCAA.

June 19, 1999— Pac-10 accepts Washington's self-imposed penalties for two violations, including reducing Neuheisel's off-campus visits in 2000 from 29 to 9. UW also agrees not to accept any of Neuheisel's former Colorado players as transfers.

Feb. 6, 2002— On national letter-of-intent day, Neuheisel criticizes recruiting tactics of Oregon and UCLA, drawing a Pac-10 reprimand. UCLA coach Bob Toledo also is reprimanded for comments about Neuheisel, and Oregon reprimanded for the tactics Neuheisel criticized.

April 11, 2002— Colorado officials confirm the school has been accused by the NCAA of a lack of institutional control and multiple minor violations during time Neuheisel was coach.

Oct. 8, 2002— NCAA completes investigation into Neuheisel's tenure at Colorado and prohibits him from off-campus recruiting through May 31, 2003, as a penalty for his part in more than 50 minor violations.

NCAA places the Buffaloes on probation for two years, reduces the number of scholarships and restricts off-campus recruiting by Colorado coaches.

Jan. 9, 2003— Neuheisel censured by the American Football Coaches Association after its board finds he has shown a lack of remorse for his role in the Colorado violations.

Feb. 13, 2003— Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges says there will be no discipline of Neuheisel for lying about having interviewed with the 49ers.

June 4, 2003 — NCAA launches inquiry into Neuheisel betting on college basketball. Neuheisel confirms he bet on the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the past two years as part of an annual auction with his friends and neighbors.

June 12, 2003— UW Athletic Director Barbara Hedges announces that she plans to fire Neuheisel and places him on paid suspension.
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And, as Kyle King pointed out in assessing Neuheisel's fit for the then-open Georgia Tech job in November, clearly diminishing returns are clearly diminshing returns:
Just to recap, here is Rick Neuheisel's coaching record from Colorado:
1995 - 10-2, Cotton Bowl, A.P. No. 5
1996 - 10-2, Holiday Bowl, A.P. No. 8
1997 - 5-6, no bowl, unranked
1998 - 8-4, Aloha Bowl, unranked
Here is Rick Neuheisel's coaching record from Washington:
1999 - 7-5, Holiday Bowl, unranked
2000 - 11-1, Rose Bowl, A.P. No. 3
2001 - 8-4, Holiday Bowl, A.P. No. 19
2002 - 7-6, Sun Bowl, unranked
More seasons of finishing unranked than finishing in the top ten? Clear downward trajectories from early success with the previous coach's players to subsequent mediocrity with his own? Eight or fewer wins per year five times in eight seasons, including five of the last six? Invariably leaving a program in a shambles after four years? If that's Georgia Tech's idea of a coach, sign me up for some of that!
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Or, as Mssr. Swindle said Friday in channeling Neuheisel's approach to besting his new rival across town:
I could bore you with all the x’s and o’s, but I’d rather you just focus on the fact that Uncle Ricky’s gonna make it rain around here. That’s right, I’m down with it. If Pete Carroll’s out handing his phone number out to teens shooting craps in the alley…well, I’ll be the one running the craps game in the alley, friends.
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Maybe that's what UCLA wants – a balls-out, youthful recruiter who can match Carroll's notorious energy, and play guitar and smoke movie stars in charity swim races, and stuff – and in terms of wins and losses, Neuheisel's record as boss at a pair of major conference schools is better than Carroll's was in the NFL when he signed on at USC. He's also a favored son, a connection to the last taste of success in the Rose Bowl, of which he was MVP in 1984, the second of three Bruin victories in Pasadena in four years from 1983-86. They've been back twice in the intervening 22 seasons, and lost both of them. Neuheisel's 2001 Rose Bowl championship ring with Washington is the shiniest in the building.

So Neuheisel is either exactly what UCLA needs to salvage its program or depressing proof that it's sold its soul to compete with SC, or maybe both. Whichever it is, compared to the situation under Dorrell, at least it won't be boring.

Update [2007-12-29 19:52:16 by SMQ]: Brian Dohn at the L.A. Daily News' beat blog, with a few details on Neuheisel's contract and his intention of retaining Walker:

Rick Neuheisel's contract is for five years, at $1.25 million per year with the chance to earn another $500,000 in bonuses annually.

Also, Neuheisel called defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker was "my No. 1 recruit." He already left several messages for Walker, but the two are yet to talk.
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