Saturday, November 26, 2011
Neuheisel to coach Pac-12 title game, future uncertain
By Ramona Shelburne
Rick Neuheisel will be the UCLA Bruins coach when they represent the South Division in the inaugural Pacific 12 Conference title game next Friday against Oregon.
Beyond that, who knows?
"He's carried this program all year long," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said after UCLA was trounced 50-0 by USC on Saturday night. "I indicated we'd evaluate this program at the end of this season. We have one game left and we'll do that."
Neuheisel will likely need to win that final game in order to retain his job and coach into the final year of his contract, according to multiple sources within the program.
UCLA fell to (6-6, 5-4) with the loss, the third-worst loss in the series' history. He is 21-28 in four seasons at UCLA. Despite finishing with the fourth best record in the Pac-12, the pressure on Neuheisel to turn the corner with the program this year has increased steadily throughout the season.
Asked whether the margin of victory in this game would affect his decision to keep Neuheisel, Guerrero said, "We've had tough losses all this year and we've bounced back and won some game afterwards, but any time you lose to your rival it's never a good loss, whether it's one point or 50."
While Guerrero said he was focused solely on the game with Oregon next week, he did offer a general evaluation of Neuheisel's performance this season.
"We've had a very inconsistent year," he said. "We've had flashes of really good things and we've played very poorly at times. So all of that will be factored into the decision. Obviously next week we're hoping we play very well against the Oregon Ducks and shock the world."
UCLA would be bowl eligible if its season ended Saturday night. However a loss to the Ducks on Friday would give them a losing record. The Pac-12 office would then have to petition the NCAA to make UCLA bowl eligible.
Guerrero was asked whether UCLA would submit a petition to become bowl eligible if they lost at Oregon.
"We're certainly going to explore the possibility of going to a bowl this week with the NCAA and the conference," he said. "Always in the back of our minds is what's in the best interests of the student athletes."
When asked whether there was a chance UCLA would turn down a bowl game, Guerrero said simply, "We haven't had that conversation because that speculation is that we would lose next week and I don't want to think about that at this point."