So, the prodigal son is finally coming home — along with all 50+ of his violations from the University of Colorado, the bad feelings post U-Dub (although in this case, his suit was completely justified; they wanted to fire him for being a liar about the 49ers coaching job), and everything else — yet Dan Guerrero and UCLA have apparently made him the head coach in the latest futile attempt to compete with USC. Yes, Rick Neuheisel is UCLA football, he is 66-30-something as a head coach, and he certainly is the best of a bad lot of options at a program where football clearly takes a backseat to men’s hoops. Let’s face it: if UCLA’s boosters and rich alums wanted to, they could hook enough fuckers in Beverly Hills, Westwood, or somewhere closer in the West Side to at least get some better on-campus facilities for the program and actual whip-out for a head coach with a little bit better of a reputation. (The school clearly either cannot or will not acknowledge that it is a public university located in the most expensive part of the city; and that it should make some form of effort to raise decent wages from alumni so that its coaches can afford to live near the campus. Ironic, considering its toney private rival is smack dab in the middle of the much-less affluent areas outside of downtown Los Angeles. Part of Neuheisel’s appeal and proof of UCLA’s hoops-first mentality is his apparent promise of big donors for the Pauley Pavilion makeover.)
While Neuheisel is certainly the most competent and most likely to strike some form of concern into USC fans when the Crosstown Rivalry rolls around every year, let’s just say he’s not going to wow the L.A. football landscape a la Pete Carroll did quickly and easily — certainly, winning helps Carroll, but he and Ed Orgeron sold recruits and parents in what used to be in-state Bruin territory or poaching ground for SEC schools big time. Plus, USC owns urban L.A. — and while UCLA D-coordinator DeWayne Walker is not ready to be a head coach, the Dorrell regime was, for all its faults, trying to wedge in on that territory by selling a public school in an upper-class part of town to the talented athletically, but with less money.
Slick Rick is going to have to play catch-up. But, if there’s anything he’s good at, it’s recruiting, and that’s where the problems come in — note Slate’s Jonathan Chait:
After he left Colorado, the NCAA discovered 51 violations committed during his tenure, slapping the school with two years of probation. The American Football Coaches Association formally censured him for a lack of remorse. Neuheisel later described his approach to NCAA rules as “creative.” Even when not breaking the letter of a rule, he often found ways to violate one in spirit. For instance, during periods when he was forbidden to visit recruits, he would drive in front of a prospective player’s home, call him on his cell phone, and tell him to look out the window, where he would see Neuheisel waving. Washington high-school star Larry Stevens, who had spurned Neuheisel, described how the coach’s pursuit bordered on stalking. Nonetheless Neuheisel, with a straight face, accused Pac-10 rival Bob Toledo of continuing to recruit players who had declared their intention to attend Washington.
He may have to resort to those tricks to get any edge on Carroll, who appears to have a robotic, manic intensity and an aversion to sleep when it comes to recruiting — but hopefully Morgan Center has put some clauses in his contract regarding violating that spirit of the recruiting dead period. While Neuheisel’s violations are trivial compared to those of other recent coaches (he ain’t got shit on Dennis Franchione’s email newsletter), he created a culture in Boulder that Gary Barnett, his successor, allowed to fester further, and if I found out that his pitch for the UCLA job went just as Orson parodied a few days back, I wouldn’t be shocked.
Welcome back to Westwood and the Rose Bowl; your picture is still next to “sheisty” in the dictionary. Enjoy being beaten by Carroll for the next couple of years.