By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –
Sports fans are incredibly impatient. Particularly, when their teams fail to show consistent progress. No sports team has tested this theory recently more than the UCLA Bruins football team.
In the 13th season since UCLA won its last Pac-10 Title, the Bruins have gone through 3 coaching changes, 46 conference losses and most nauseating to Bruin fans, 8 losses to cross-town rival USC.
Considering that all teams go through ups and downs, UCLA’s current malaise is not historic, but try and tell that to your average Bruins’ fan would be likely be talking to yourself very quickly. Telling them about the 90’s when the Bruins had an 8 game consecutive winning streak against USC or UCLA coming within a couple plays winning the 1998 Rose Bowl game.
In today’s 24-7 sports talk cycles, good bad or indifferent opinions are echoed continuously. We all know that those perceptions soon become reality. For Neuheisel those realities started to simmer after his second season and had achieved boiling point after his third season.
Now four games into his fourth season the heat is turning up even more. After an opening day loss at Houston, the Bruins came home and narrowly beat San Jose State. A week later UCLA was crushed by the 24th ranked and rebuilding Texas Longhorns 49-20. This week’s 27-19 win over Oregon State gives UCLA something to build on and beginning conference play 1-0 for the first time since 2007 is definitely progress, but I wouldn’t expect a complete turnaround.
Just for the record, I am not a Rick Neuheisel hater. I think Rick is one of the really good guys in college football and more important one heck of a college football coach. He has done a solid job of recruiting and in most cases could qualify for that dubious title of player’s coach that is the foundation for my premise.
My point is that head coaching is hardly the root cause of UCLA’s football failures. A few years ago, the same identical scenario unfolded for previous Bruins’ coach Karl Dorrell and before that it was Bob Toledo and if Neuheisel is fired, it will be the next guy and the cycle will continue. It’s a real world example of perpetual motion.
The current UCLA media guide states: “Neuheisel’s return to UCLA in 2007 has brought energy to the program”. Possibly, but so far that increased energy has not yielded as many wins as the previous coach Karl Dorrell.
The 2007 media guide, it boasts of Dorrell’s nationally rated (9th overall) defensive unit, 20-5 Rose Bowl record, consecutive Bowl appearances and 51 returning lettermen.
He was fired at the end of the season.
Every coach who takes the reins of the Bruins’ football program faces the same set of issues. Problems like building and maintaining a quality staff to teach and support their system, players leaving early, systemic issues that are part of every college football program.
The Irony is that in 13 seasons no UCLA coach has successfully solved the single most damaging issue that plagues their performance and shatters their season record.
The lack of consistency and quality plays at the quarterback position. Why UCLA cannot identify and sign a productive signal caller is puzzling when cross-town rival USC is able to produce productive leaders one after the other including a Heisman Trophy winner in 2004 and a solid candidate for the award this season.
The UCLA roster is as talented and as good as most in the conference. The program routinely sends a sturdy stream of players to the NFL yet it continually under performs season after season.
Neuheisel benched starting quarterback Kevin Prince after his second interception against Texas and inserted junior Richard Brehaut to finish the game. Brehaut’s second half showing earned him the starting job against Oregon State and the team’s winning performance will likely keep him there.
Brehaut, although inexperienced has a natural swagger and exudes the kind of natural confidence common to successful quarterbacks and desperately needed to give UCLA some offensive traction.
If Brehaut can solidly hold the quarterback position, it could be the first and biggest step toward fixing the Bruins.
G. Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com