Poking The Hive With A Stick.

The L.A. Times’ Kurt Streeter used UCLA’s bye week to attempt an experiment of sorts: write a column defending head football coach Karl Dorrell, and then invite people to comment on it via setting up a blog that consists of said column alone.

Naturally, he has incurred the wrath of the Dump Dorrell crowd with a column that’s, at the very least, poorly written — although the general thrust is not one that I completely disagree with. Karl Dorrell defines mediocrity as a coach (and there’s really no excuse for the way his Bruins squad lost to Utah), but with all the injuries, particularly at QB, I don’t see how he doesn’t get one more make-or-break year right now. I could be completely wrong on this. And it’s weird how Streeter doesn’t include any assertions or proof from Dorrell regarding the Utah and Notre Dame losses. But this is the passage that has aroused the most ire:

I ran some of your criticisms past him: He is too inexperienced; he has never been a head coach before. He cannot recruit; after all, don’t those other teams have all-star players on their second and third strings?

Only then did he shake his head. “I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a fair shake.”

This brought me to the sticky issue of race. Dorrell is one of only six African American head coaches in all of Division I-A football. Six out of 119. Does he feel as if he is not getting a fair shake because he is black?

“Let me put it this way,” he said. “In every opportunity that I’ve had in my coaching career, it was never in my mind that I was dealing with a level playing field. I’ve had to do more to accomplish what I’ve accomplished.

“It’s getting better. But still, that’s just the way it is.”

Well put. I’m convinced that race plays a role in what some of you critics are saying. To think otherwise would be plain foolish. Some of you just don’t know what to make of a coach who does not fit into your convenient stereotypes.

As expected, the alumni at Dump Dorrell are livid over the use of the “race card” by Streeter (a Cal alum) and Dorrell — that was predictable. But really, if you don’t think a black head coach has to “do more” just to get a shot or get his foot in the door, especially in I-A football, you might want to get your head checked. But again, Dorrell has been nothing short of mediocre in five years, which doesn’t mean that he couldn’t be good — but right now, he isn’t. Yet the hyperbole is amusing: he has now become the most despicable head coach at the school of Jackie Robinson, where does he come off talking about race?

Essentially, Dorrell finds himself in the middle of a fight between an administration that isn’t quite totally committed to the idea of being the prime football power in L.A. — if they were, they would have gone for a big-name coach after Bob Toledo — and alumni who want to see UCLA’s athletic dominance extend to Division I-A football. The real problem for UCLA die-hards: if you fire Dorrell, you’re not guaranteed of anyone better coming in to replace him and challenging Pete Carroll’s dominance. I’ve read suggestions of Rick Neuheisel — really, you want to go there? — and the recent few also suggested Jon Gruden (careful what you wish for on grabbing NFL coaches), which is laughable, as he’s going to the playoffs in Tampa Bay this year. Chris Peterson? If you’re lucky, and given the programs that former Boise coaches have gotten shots at, re-building takes a lot longer than most would like to admit. If Bizarro College Football Season has taught us anything, it’s that you can collect and mold talent anywhere. Other I-A schools will make higher paying offers with better facilities and a bigger commitment to the sport.

But maybe the unknown is better than the malaise you find yourself in.


7 Responses

  1. Mostly good points.

    I’d rather have the unknown than the mediocre. At least the unknown has a chance of being good. The mediocre probably never will be.

  2. Gilbert – true, but I don’t think UCLA will find anyone with a decent record willing to hone in on what has become Carroll’s turf.

    Dorrell’s essential problem is that he’s another coach who’s imposed a system (the West Coast offense) that doesn’t fly very well in the college game right now (see Bill Callahan as well), and when that offense doesn’t work, he can’t make modifications.

  3. […] Signal 2 Noise.) Filed under: Coaches, the BCS, scandals, arrests, and other eccentri, College football, […]

  4. […] An LA Times columnist goes to bat for the UCLA football coach. It’s as odd as it sounds, but Kurt Streeter is standing by Karl Dorrell. […]

  5. I guess it’s possible that UCLA could hire a new coach that is actually worse than Dorrell but that seems unlikely. The prime embarrassment wasn’t the loss on the road to Utah, it was the home loss to Notre Dame. And people think that Charlie Weiss is the worst college coach in America — at least he isn’t as bad as Karl Dorrell.

  6. Tom –

    That’s just silly. Charlie Weiss, at present, is a far worse coach than Dorrell. Did you see the UCLA – Notre Dame game? ND was pathetic. They totaled l140 yards on offensive and were aided by 7 UCLA turnovers, most of which were due to the 3rd string walk-on quarterback not being able to master the center exchange or be able to complete a pass without jumping. Which coach in the NCAA can lose his top two quarterbacks and be expected to compete offensively? Perhaps UCLA should have been better prepared, but I’m not blaming Dorrell.

    As for Dorrell’s coaching, he’s too inconsistent at present, but as you noted, UCLA is a basketball school and not a football school. Beating USC last season should buy him another year whether he deserves it or not.

  7. The Dorrell situation is an enigma, respect to you S2N for handling it better than just about everyone. The anti-Dorrell camp goes so far overboard that he’s more than just an insufficient coach, but a bad human being. Pro-Dorrell folks like Streeter go immediately to a racial issue.

    UCLA is two years removed from a 10-2 season…most programs would kill for that. The Trojan-envy is so thick, it clouds the perspective of some Bruin fans. The problem with UCLA under Dorrell has always been at quarterback. Even in 2005 Drew Olson was the weak link. For whatever reason, Dorrell doesn’t have a mind for quarterback play. Osaar Rasshan should have been the starting quarterback, and UCLA should have been playing an option. Perhaps if Dorrell wasn’t so stubborn about his offense, things would run more smoothly.

    Anyway, I’m rambling a bit. It’s not as simple as “fire Dorrell, fix the program.” I think your post does a great job of touching upon both sides of the debate.

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