first_imgStill, he seemed banished from the college game. Branded a cheat. “Slick Rick” suddenly a college football outcast. Now, Guerrero has tabbed him to succeed Karl Dorrell. At first blush, this appears to go against that mandate of integrity Guerrero demanded when he came here six years ago. Only Neuheisel knows exactly what he’s getting into. Understands that if he doesn’t get it right here, there will be no more second chances. Understands how things operate under Guerrero, and almost like the rebellious teenager who privately yearns for parental direction, welcomes a strong hand. “I firmly believe he embraces this and looks forward to being in an environment built on that premise,” Guerrero said. “All our coaches understand this, all of them get it, and we’re glad Rick has an opportunity to come back and be a part of that culture. “I think he’s much wiser, much more mature. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all at UCLA.” Neuheisel said all the right things in a Saturday conference call, taking full responsibility for past misdeeds, pledging to walk the straight and narrow. “I’m committed to making sure that stuff never happens and believe we can do things in exactly the right way, in exactly a first-class way,” Neuheisel said. “I’m obligated and committed to making sure that I don’t tarnish the great name of UCLA.” If you trust that Guerrero has his department properly aligned, that he will keep a watchful eye over Neuheisel, then this should be a hire for UCLA fans to celebrate. Neuheisel was at UCLA when it was winning 10 games a year, winning Rose Bowls, going mano-a-mano against USC. He believes in UCLA, values it. Believes it should, and can be, a national player. Believes this is a great job. Something Guerrero’s job search sadly proved, not everyone does. He will not be daunted by the national powerhouse Pete Carroll has built at USC. Will not hesitate to recruit head-to-head. “I admire what he’s built,” Neuheisel said. “It’s up to us at UCLA now to become the type of rival that when USC and UCLA square off, it’s the game of the year. “We need to get into that arena. We need that game to be a big decider in the national picture on a yearly basis.” There are similarities between Carroll and Neuheisel. Both were hired after lengthy searches; USC athletic director Mike Garrett took three weeks to find Carroll, and he was also turned away by Oregon’s Mike Bellotti. Both arrived after disappointments at their last head-coaching jobs. Both are high-energy, personable and eager to prove their doubters wrong. “Rick has paid a tremendous price,” said Dick Tomey, the former Arizona coach now at San Jose State. “I think Rick has understood the things he did that weren’t deemed proper. He’s a great person and a terrific coach. “He’s somebody determined to prove himself. He knows he has to overcome this stigma, and that’s going to be a great motivator.” Neuheisel said he has learned much from his past problems. From overzealous recruiting to too much reliance on the passing game. And has learned talk is the easy part. “There’s the old adage that talk is cheap,” he said. “You have to walk the walk. I am committed to making sure we do this 100percent the right way.” So he said his first goal is to convince defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker to remain. Walker was also interviewed for the head UCLA job and naturally must be disappointed. He has an offer to become Washington’s defensive coordinator. He should politely turn it down. He’s been here two years, begun to build something and should see it through. He has a growing reputation as a recruiter. Another year or two, and he could be one of the hottest head-coaching prospects in the country. Tyrone Willingham is in trouble at Washington. He goes up there, and he could be fired in a year. Neuheisel spent the past three years with the Baltimore Ravens. His r sum is full. He has charisma. He has what UCLA was searching for. “He brings an energy, enthusiasm and a swagger that we needed,” Guerrero said. And you need to trust Guerrero on this.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The question isn’t whether you trust new UCLA head football coach Rick Neuheisel, it’s whether you trust UCLA to keep him in line. And you should. Trust that the athletic department is on solid footing with athletic director Dan Guerrero. That a foundation bigger than any one coach is entrenched. That Guerrero and UCLA offer enough leadership to keep all – even the formerly wayward – in line. Because there really isn’t any question Neuheisel can coach. That he’s a proven entity. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonIf not for his history of running afoul of the rules, he’d just about be the perfect hire. He has a presence about him. He is bright, articulate, comfortable in front of the media. Has head-coaching success at a pair of major college football programs. Reeks confidence. Is a former Bruin player and assistant coach. But there is that one little thing, which is why some will find this a difficult hire to embrace. He was guilty of numerous secondary NCAA recruiting violations. And he has not always proven forthcoming, as when he lied about interviewing with the San Francisco 49ers, and initially, betting in that infamous NCAA Tournament pool. He was fired at Washington, ostensibly for that tournament pool, although he later won a $4.5million wrongful termination suit. last_img