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Neuheisel is padlocked to Washington
Anybody have the key?
By: Malamute, 12 December 2002

According to news’ sources around the network, Rick Neuheisel is willing to take a pay cut to go to UCLA and wants to set up a meeting with UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, to talk about his vacant head-coaching job. He “really wants the job,” one source told the Los Angeles Times. However, does Guerrero want Neuheisel for the job?

Plenty of tarnish adorns Neuheisel’s golden-boy image.

He can’t make any recruiting visits until May 31 of next year thanks to an NCAA edict that punishes him for recruiting irregularities while he was Colorado’s head coach. Juxtaposed with that edict, UCLA needs to get off the recruiting snide immediately. Reportedly, six recruits have cancelled their weekend visits to UCLA, and Neuheisel’s limitations just don’t mesh with UCLA’s urgency or long-range needs.

Also, Bob Toledo's alleged lack of control (over his players) haunted him for several years, the handicapped-parking scandal figuring prominently. Yesterday, a Washington wide-receiver, Will Hooks, was charged with hit-and-run driving. More baggage for Guerrero to consider.

Can UCLA afford Neuheisel?

If Neuheisel should leave Washington, he would have to pay off the $1.5 million loan that he received as part of his contract extension. Then there is the $600 thousand buyout clause in the contract.

UCLA must pay Bob Toledo $578 thousand next year and $153 thousand for each of the ensuing five years, the yearly amount dependent on any monies he should get for new employment, which would be subtracted from the $153K.

And then there is the disparity in salary money. Neuheisel can make as much as $1.82 million per annum at Washington if the incentives, a potential signing bonus and the loan are included. According to the Los Angeles Times, Guerrero's starting offer is $700K per year. That's a big salary gap, especially when considering the price of homes in the greater Los Angeles real-estate market.

With the Los Angeles freeways in virtual gridlock much of the time, commuting to the Westwood campus has to be a factor in a coach's decision. Will $700K get you into Bel Aire? All the coaches under consideration will give LA's traffic snarl a pause for thought. Driving the side streets in Los Angeles can leave you muttering LA's street verse upon arrival: "From Main I Spring to Broadway and up the Hill to Olive. Oh, how Grand it is to Hope to find a Flower on Figueroa."

Can Neuheisel hope to find a flower, one made of gold, on Westwood Boulevard?

When you consider the total amount of money involved, the money needed to “buy" him out of his contract and the money owed to Toledo, it is doubtful that UCLA can afford Neuheisel, wealthy alumni or not.

Right now the betting line for the UCLA job is on Karl Dorrell, who is an assistant coach for the Denver Broncos. Although Dorrell has no head coaching experience, his is popular with the forty-something crowd at UCLA, and they are pushing him for the job. He would become the fourth African American coach in Division I football if he should accept the job. He has worked as an offensive coordinator under Neuheisel, both at Washington and at Colorado.

At the same time, Mike Riley (New Orleans) is mulling over an offer from Alabama and is waiting for an offer from Guerrero. He fits the mold of the coach Guerrero outlined for reporters, being that he has Pac-10 experience and is aware of the rivalries that figure so prominently in the conference.

One wonders why Riley didn’t return with Guerrero and Bob Field after they met with him on Tuesday. An extra seat on the plane was reserved for Riley. Most likely Riley told Guerrero and Field he was in limbo, caught between the job offer at Alabama and the pending offer from UCLA. That’s speculation on my part.

Neueheisel, who was vague about the UCLA job on Monday, told KJR on Tuesday he wasn’t interested in the job. On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Times source said he “really wants the (UCLA) job,” and today, the Times is saying that Neuheisel is trying to set up a meeting with Guerrero, this according to sources.

Of course, the Times' sources could be boosters who are into recruiting ploys, believing that they can lure recruits away from Washington.

Throw in some sour grapes, too. Neuheisel has always been the heir-apparent to Bob Toledo, even Toledo said that last winter. So, if the Bruins stiff Coach Neuheisel,  it means they didn't want him, even though they could have had him. Oh, how grand it is to hope to find a flower on Figueroa and have some cake and eat it too.

The Times' objectivity comes into question if you remember back to the Fruit-Basket scandal that it skewered Washington with in 1992, when it used disgruntled players, some of them jettisoned from the Husky team, as sources to savage the Huskies' program. In comparison to the Times' Fruit-Basket reporters, the paparazzi all look like clones of Jim Murray.

As much as Neuheisel might want the UCLA job, assuming all these reports are true, in reality Barbara Hedges (Washington's AD) and the NCAA have chained him to the Huskies, as a master to his dog.

I doubt very much that UCLA has ever been interested in Neuheisel, and I doubt if he's interested in UCLA. Last time I looked, no one in Los Angeles or Seattle had the key to unlock the padlock to the chains, not even Neuheisel, who would be kidding himself big time if he thinks he's a viable candidate.


Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com


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