At this rate, Washington State's head of football operations will be the dean of Pac-12 coaches.
Just kidding, a little.
Black Sunday turned into Black Monday when two more Pac-12 coaches were reportedly fired. UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel and Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson are done. That brings the total number of conference coaches to depart in the last year to five. (Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford)
This isn’t a changing of a guard, it’s a purge. It’s almost as if someone decided that with the conference about to launch it’s own network, it needed a new “look”.
Out: Erickson at Arizona State. In: Mike Bellotti?
Out: Dan Hawkins in 2010 at Colorado. In: Jon Embree
Out: Mike Stoops at Arizona. In: Rich Rodriguez.
Out: Jim Harbaugh, from Stanford to the 49ers. In: David Shaw.
Out: Neuheisel four days before the Pac-12 title game. In: ?
Next out: Paul Wulff at Washington State. Next in: Mike Leach?
Half the league has changed or is in the process of changing coaches, which led a lot of us to check our media guides. Who exactly IS the dean of Pac-12 coaches at this point? With apologies to the Wazzu ops guys, that would be Oregon State’s Mike Riley who just completed his 11<sup>th</sup> season in his second head coaching stop at the school. Cal’s Jeff Tedford is next at 10 years. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham is third who just completed his seventh season. (But only his first in the conference.)
Neuheisel might be the first fired coach to participate in a conference championship game conference call. Give Slick Rick credit for manning up. His team is in the game only because USC is ineligible. The Bruins are prohibitive underdogs to Oregon a week after losing to the Trojans 50-0. Among the highlights from Monday:
On giving thought to even appearing on the conference call: “We all know what we’re getting into when we get into the profession … I’m just thankful for the opportunity to help bring it back to a place where I would be proud. [Positive things happened] they don’t always make it to the front pages of the newspaper. There was a lot of effort, good work done when I was here. It won’t be a bitter memory at all.”
On leaving: “Certainly when you’re the UCLA coach you’d like to play better against USC. When you lose in the fashion that we did, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.”
On the future: “This has kind of hit me between the eyes a little bit. We’ll make any decision about which course to take [in the future]. I love coaching, I know that. I’d have to take some time to figure all that out.
On Friday’s championship game: “I hope like heck I’m not a distraction.”
This is a spectacular fall from grace for a favorite-son alum. At least another fall from grace. Don’t forget he left Washington after the NCAA tournament pool scandal that eventually led to him suing the NCAA – and winning.
Arizona State and UCLA are arguably the two best jobs in the league after USC. I’ve always wondered why 85 spectacularly talented kids wouldn’t want scholarships at Arizona State. The new coach will inherit a senior quarterback (Brock Osweiler), a good place to start in the Pac-12. Sun Devil Stadium is being remodeled.
UCLA should never be this far down. Big city. Access to big-time recruits. Rose Bowl. I’ve said it before but Neuheisel’s biggest mistake was that UCLA became boring. In L.A., the one thing you cannot be is boring.