Was Tresey a desperate hire for Neuheisel?

February, 16, 2011
2/16/11
10:54
AM ET
New UCLA defensive coordinator Joe Tresey was fired at Cincinnati before the 2009 season, lasted only one year at South Florida and then couldn't get any other job other than with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League last fall.

Ergo: Desperate hire by Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel, right?

Not really. The devil is in the details. As for the numbers from coordinating defenses, Tresey's are solid.

2007 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats led the nation in turnover gained (42) and interceptions (26). They ranked eight in sacks per game (3.23). What about points? They were 13th in the nation: 18.77.

2008 at Cincinnati: The Bearcats ranked 31st nationally in total defense (321.9 yards), 19th in rushing defense (115.0) and 25th in scoring defense (20.1 points). They were ninth in the nation with 2.86 sacks per game. Didn't force as many turnovers, though: Just 22. Of course, that's four more than UCLA forced last year and would have been tied for fourth in the Pac-10 in 2010.

2009 at South Florida: The Bulls ranked 24th nationally in total defense (321.8 yards) and 19th (tied) in scoring defense (19.8 points). They forced 23 turnovers that season.

So what about those details? Well, recall that cryptic "timing issue" that Neuheisel alluded to Tuesday as to why then-Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, now at Notre Dame, fired Tresey? Well, that's mostly what it was.

Following the 2008 season, Tresey thought he had been hired as Miami's defensive coordinator, so much so that he told Kelly that he was leaving. But then Tresey and Shannon couldn't finalize a deal -- it apparently was over what position Tresey would coach -- and Shannon left Tresey at the altar. That interview, combined with Kelly's desire to switch to a 3-4 from Tresey's 4-3, drove a wedge into the relationship, and Kelly then made plans to move on with Bob Diaco, who's now with Kelly at Notre Dame. So Tresey was out of a job.

It's meaningful then that Tresey quickly landed on his feet as the defensive coordinator of a Cincinnati foe in the Big East: South Florida. It's not easy to get a job after national signing day, but Bulls coach Jim Leavitt wanted Tresey.

So why did Tresey last just one year at South Florida? Wasn't his fault. Leavitt was fired in January of 2009 after a school investigation concluded he grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it.

Incoming coach Skip Holtz brought in his own guy to coach the Bulls' defense: Mark Snyder. So, in mid-January, Tresey was out of work, though he was a good soldier for the Bulls until he got pink-slipped, which Holtz even acknowledged.

That is how he ended up coaching in the UFL.

Is Tresey a spectacular hire? No. Bruins fans would have been more juiced to get Vic Fangio or Rocky Long, Neuheisel's first two choices.

But considering how the nearly two-month search played out in the media -- it didn't seem pretty, did it? -- Neuheisel landed a solid, experienced candidate who figures to bring an attacking, aggressive scheme, which the Bruins didn't have last fall.

And, by the way, it's not like Neuheisel isn't invested in this decision. He's fully aware that 2011 is a win-or-else season for him in Westwood.

Some more stories on the Tresey hire here and here and here.

Ted Miller | email

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