Ranking 20 Years of UCLA Defensive Coordinators

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Aug 30, 2014; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers offensive players line up against UCLA Bruins defensive players in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. The Bruins won 28-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

7. Nick Aliotti, 1998

This whole slide comes with a trigger warning for Bruins fans. You knew we had to go there, so let’s just power through and get on with it.

Aliotti might be the best-known name on this list, primarily for his association with Oregon. He had been with Rich Brooks at Oregon from 1988-1994 before following Brooks to the St. Louis Rams, where he served as the coach of the special teams from 1995-1997. When Brooks left the NFL, Aliotti took the UCLA DC job. The rest is history — dark, sordid, appalling history.

Aliotti’s team was slightly less than mediocre, statistically.

More: Can the 2015 UCLA Football Team Win the National Championship?

Statistical Rankings
Year | SOS | SD | TD | DFEI | DS&P+
1998 | 7 | 73 | n/a | n/a | n/a

The only future NFL draftee with a feature role in Aliotti’s defense was Larry Atkins, but Kenyon Coleman, Marques Anderson, and Robert Thomas played their freshman years in 1998.

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Look, numbers and scores aside, we all know why Aliotti is on the bottom half of this list. December 5, 1998, UCLA goes to Miami to play a game that had been rescheduled from the beginning of the year due to Hurricane Georges. Edgerrin James runs at will for 299 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-45 upset that keeps UCLA from the first ever BCS title game and sets the program on a 15-year tailspin.

I’m getting a sick feeling just thinking about it. I still remember how crushed I was listening in sheer disbelief to the game on my handheld radio at my sister’s band competition in Apple Valley.

The consensus is that the Miami loss exposed the fundamental flaw of that all-time great UCLA team: defense. The man responsible for that defense, and therefore for the decade-and-a-half of heartache and malaise that followed: Nick Aliotti.

After the season, head coach Bob Toledo told Aliotti that he would have to agree to some changes in how he ran the defense if he wanted to keep his job. Aliotti wasn’t willing to submit to that kind of oversight and resigned to take the DC job at Oregon.

Where is he now: Aliotti kept that Oregon job until his retirement in 2013.

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