If you go on the UCLA fan forum sites, particularly Bruin Report Online, you’ll find many posts calling for UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel’s firing due to his less then successful results at his alma mater.
Indeed, some of the folks on that site, which I read regularly, have been quite nasty to the man, practically comparing him to the Three Stooges when it come to coaching the Bruins and bordering on irrational hatred – at least in my opinion.
While I’m not being an apologist, knowing how badly Neuheisel’s done – an overall record of 18-25, including 5-15 on the road during his time at UCLA to date – I strongly feel that people need to calm down and realize that the Bruins’ head coach will NOT be fired this year, like many people seem to want.
It’s not a realistic scenario, at least at this time; here are the reasons why:
1. Firing Neuheisel during the season the way Arizona, their upcoming opponent, has recently done with Mike Stoops, or letting him go when the season’s over, will not change anything or solve the UCLA’s problems due to the fact that if the Bruins’ fortunes are going to turn around immediately with the hiring of a new coach, that new coach must:
a. Not only have head coaching experience at the FBS level if not the BCS level, but be a proven winner there – in other words, a veteran,
b. Be OK with a salary of only $1 million to $1.25 million, which is what Neuhelsel’s currently getting and which is well below market value for a top notch coach. Living in the costly Los Angeles area, that would lead to a lower standard of living than many coaches are used to as it’s a hell of a lot more expensive to live in L.A. that to live in Tuscaloosa, AL, Norman, OK, Baton Rouge, LA, or Boise ID.
c. Be OK with UCLA’s tough admissions standards – not being able to get many players that he may be able to get at other schools – and football not being the traditional marquee sport, as UCLA’s historically more of a basketball school with the legacy of the great coach John Wooden permeating the place.
That wouldn’t stand well with those coaches used to football being a religion with unlimited support, funds and resources at his disposal.
What I’m trying to get at, realistically speaking, is if Neuheisel is let go now or at season’s end, the new coach will most likely be an up-and-comer with less head coaching experience than desired and who will need time to develop, which would equal more years of rebuilding and mediocrity.
Any Bruin fan who fantasizes about someone like Urban Meyer coming to Westwood needs to get out of Never Never Land right now, as guys like him would laugh at any UCLA offers.
Which leads us to the next reason why Neuheisel won’t be fired in 2011, which is the most important factor in all of this:
2. MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!
It would cost a total of well over $2 million for UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero to fire Neuheisel and his staff, as the coach is in year four of a five year contract.
Simply put, there is absolutely no way that Guerrero will pay Neuheisel and his staff over $2 million NOT to coach, then turn around and pay the same amount of money to a new head football coach and his staff.
That equals a total of over four million dollars, which considering the bad economic times that the state of California and the U.C. system – including UCLA – is in, with tuitions sharply rising and classes and budgets being heavily cut, is an amount of money that UCLA’s athletic department cannot afford to part with.
Some will say that the Pac-12 Conference’s new television deal, which will net around $20 million to each school, can and should be used to hire a top coach at market value, which is $4 to $5 million, but UCLA plans to finish the Pauley Pavilion renovation with that windfall.
Of course, if the Bruins completely tank and finish at 4-8 or 3-9, all bets are off and Guerrero will have no choice but to replace Neuheisel.
A new coach will be hired who will be relatively inexperienced, which is all UCLA can afford, and the rebuilding and starting over would commence in earnest.
Other than that scenario, it’s my conviction that Rick Neuheisel will remain the Bruins’ head football coach through 2012, for one pertinent reason…
UCLA can’t afford to fire him.