After that nuclear bombing that USC put on UCLA in the Coliseum this past Saturday night, I suppose this was inevitable.
In was I’m sure was the last straw for him – that humiliating 50-0 destruction that the Trojans imposed on the Bruins, which incidentally was their worst conference loss ever – UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero made things official today and fired Bruin football coach Rick Neuheisel after four years and a 21-28 overall record, which included a 13-23 record in the Pac-10/Pac-12, an ugly 5-18 on the road, and an unacceptable 0-4 record against USC.
That 21-28 mark was the worst for a UCLA football coach since Edwin C. Horrell went 24-31 from 1939-1944.
Neuhelsel will be allowed to coach the Bruins in the Pac-12 Championship game against Oregon in Eugene this Friday night, but offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will take over as interim coach afterwards.
“The opportunity to be patient just wasn’t there. In the end, I was concerned about the program’s direction,” Guerrero said.
At 6-6, if UCLA loses to the Ducks – and they stand as a 30 point underdog – they will need to petition the NCAA for a waiver so they can get a bowl bid despite their losing record, which is almost certain as Oregon is 10-2, solidly ranked in the top 10, and with their no-huddle quick-strike offense is more dangerous that USC.
Neuheisel, to his credit, remained positive in light of being let go, saying about coaching in his last game at the Ducks’ home in Autzen Stadium, “If it’s going to be my last time at UCLA, I want to make it special.”
Personally, I am disappointed for the now-fired coach, because no one showed more passion for UCLA and its football team that that man, and I KNOW that no one wanted the Bruins to succeed more than him, but…
After that 50-0 beat down, I was done with him as a coach as it was clear that things were not going to work out in the long run.
In firing Neuheisel, it was apparent that Guerrero realized that, too.
It was too bad that things didn’t go as planned, as Neuheisel is a great guy – I know this from having met him – and a great Bruin, but a change was seriously needed.
Now it’s on Guerrero to hire a coach that will make a difference and an impact; this next hire will be the most crucial thing he had done in his near decade at the helm of UCLA Athletics.
Guerrero’s job will likely depend on who he brings in. “I want…a coach who has demonstrated success, who has demonstrated he can come into a campus like UCLA and get it done for us,” he stated.
It will be extremely interesting to see who comes out of the woodwork; Boise State coach Chris Peterson heads a list of names that UCLA will go after.