Friday, December 2, 2011
No Chris Petersen? What's Plan B?
By Ramona Shelburne
UCLA had a short list of candidates it was considering to replace Rick Neuheisel. Officially that list had about four names on it: Boise State's Chris Petersen, Houston's Kevin Sumlin, former Oregon coach and current ESPN analyst Mike Bellotti and Cincinnati coach Butch Jones.
There were other names floating in the ether. Cincinnati Bengals assistant Jay Gruden, former UCLA assistant Tom Cable. But Gruden probably isn't leaving the NFL and Cable's probably more interested in UCLA than they are in him.
In reality though, UCLA's list was Petersen and ....
So where do the Bruins go from here after ESPN.com's Joe Schad reported that Boise State denied them permission to talk to Petersen?
The natural thought would be Houston, to join the list of suitors outside Sumlin's door. A list which just got bigger and more expensive when Texas A&M fired Mike Sherman on Thursday. Or to Oregon, to kick the tires on Bellotti another time.
Instead, how about UCLA simply goes home for a bit? As in, back to Westwood to regroup and rethink a strategy that started with athletic director Dan Guerrero loudly proclaiming that the Bruins were equipped to play in a different league now that they have almost $9 million more in TV revenue coming in next season with the new Pac-12 TV contract and several key alumni ready to write a big check for the right guy.
When Guerrero laid it out there like that on Monday, I couldn't help but think he had to be sure he could land a big fish. Why else would an AD who has now fired three football coaches and hired two more get out so far in front of his skis and promise so much if he wasn't sure he could deliver?
But unless he plans on arm-wrestling Petersen away from Boise State, it doesn't look like he's going to hook the big fish Bruin alumni and boosters were picturing.
Bellotti would still be a nice catch. So would Sumlin. But neither guy is going to be easy to land. And neither would be the unassailable choice Petersen would've been.
Guerrero probably knows this too. The problem is that he's already promised to go big or go home on this next hire. Petersen would have been big. But instead of panicking, UCLA should simply go home for a bit and regroup for a bit. Think outside the box, take a few days, expand the list, do something bold an unexpected.
The Bruins certainly aren't the first team to miss on Petersen. He is college football's answer to Gonzaga's Mark Few. Flattered when you call, but happy where he is, apparently forever.
Then again, there's always arm-wrestling.