Saturday, December 29, 2007 Updated: December 30, 12:58 PM ET
Former UCLA quarterback Neuheisel named head coach
LOS ANGELES -- Rick Neuheisel is returning to college
coaching at the school where he first found fame and success.
Neuheisel, a quarterback who was the MVP in UCLA's 1984 Rose
Bowl victory and later served as a Bruins assistant under Terry
Donahue, was hired Saturday as his alma mater's 16th coach.
His five-year contract is for $1.25 million annually, plus
The 46-year-old Neuheisel succeeds Karl Dorrell, who was fired
Dec. 3 after five seasons on the job. Dorrell, who caught two of
Neuheisel's scoring passes in UCLA's 45-9 victory over Illinois in
the 1984 Rose Bowl, had no head coaching experience before taking
the Bruins' job.
Athletic director Dan Guerrero said Neuheisel's experience and
success as a head coach were significant.
"In the end it was all about 66 collegiate wins, a percentage
that places him among the top active coaches in the country, and an
opportunity for Rick to start anew with a clean slate at his alma
mater," Guerrero said in a conference call.
"He brings an energy, enthusiasm and a swagger that we
Neuheisel spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for
the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, and will conclude his duties with them
when they face Pittsburgh on Sunday. He served as quarterbacks
coach in 2005-06, and was promoted to offensive coordinator last
"This is something that has been my blood," Neuheisel said of
the college game. "I've missed it the last five years.
"It's a thrill for me to return to my alma mater and take over
a program that I think can and should be one of the best in the
He had a 66-30 record as a head coach at Colorado from 1995-98
and Washington from 1999-2002. He hasn't been in the college game
since Washington fired him in 2003 for participating in a betting
pool on the NCAA basketball tournament. He sued for wrongful
termination from Washington and settled in March 2005 with UW and
the NCAA for $4.5 million.
Colorado was placed on two years' probation by the NCAA for
infractions committed while he was the Buffaloes' coach. All were
deemed secondary violations and most involved improper contact with
Neuheisel said he took full responsibility for his past errors
in judgment, and assured Guerrero and other UCLA officials that
he'd learned from his mistakes.
"They have my complete, unequivocal promise that this will
never happen again," he said.
Guerrero said Neuheisel's problems at Washington and Colorado
were a concern during interviewing process, but added, "They
happened 5-10 years ago. I think he's much wiser and more mature. I
don't think it's going to be an issue at all at UCLA."
After leaving Washington, Neuheisel began his road back to
coaching that fall as a volunteer assistant coaching quarterbacks
at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School.
He said he gained valuable experience both as a high school
coach in the inner-city, and as an assistant with the Ravens.
"That [high school] was a grass roots reminder of what football
is all about," he said, explaining that it wasn't just x's and
o's, "but making sure kids had bus tokens to get home.
"In the last three years, I have gotten a chance to learn in
the NFL and be around the best in the game. It's like the grad
school of football."
The Bruins were 35-27 under Dorrell, including 6-6 this season.
They lost to BYU 17-16 in the Las Vegas Bowl under defensive
coordinator DeWayne Walker, who was also a candidate for the head
Neuheisel wants to keep Walker on the staff.
"I have told Dan that DeWayne Walker is my No. 1 recruit,"
Neuheisel said. "I know he's a coveted, sought-after guy because
of the way he's performed and the person he is."
Others interviewed for the head coaching job were Temple coach
Al Golden, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, Tennessee Titans offensive
coordinator Norm Chow and Philadelphia Eagles assistant John
Golden, Bellotti and Chow all took themselves out of
Ravens coach Brian Billick had been supportive of Neuheisel's
bid to move back into the college ranks.
"Rick Neuheisel has been, and will make, an outstanding college
coach," Billick said earlier this season. "The college game needs
coaches like Rick Neuheisel."
Donahue said UCLA made a "great hire."
"Rick is a proven head coach with a very successful record in
the Pac-10 and he will be able to compete with any team in the
conference," Donahue said. "He will do a great job in attracting
some of the best football players in the country to Westwood.
"It's great that they have kept it in the Bruin Family. A lot
of the former players and alumni will be excited about this hire."
Neuheisel began his playing career at UCLA in 1979 as a
non-scholarship player on special teams.