UCLA fires Rick Neuheisel, who will coach Pac-12 title game; Arizona State lets Erickson go
Rick Neuheisel returned to UCLA determined to do everything correctly after a coaching career filled with big successes and equally big trouble.
LOS ANGELES — Rick Neuheisel returned to UCLA determined to do everything correctly after a coaching career filled with big successes and equally big trouble.
Even athletic director Dan Guerrero, who fired Neuheisel on Monday after four disappointing seasons, agreed the formerly scandal-plagued coach did most everything the right way at his alma mater.
All except the winning part.
UCLA is 21-28 under Neuheisel, who will be allowed to coach in Friday's Pac-12 title game at Oregon. Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will be the interim coach if the Bruins (6-6, 5-4 Pac-12) receive a bowl berth.
"Rick was a great representative for our school, and I'll always be grateful for that," Guerrero said. "I believe the sign of a good program is consistency. We just weren't there. We certainly had some losses that were of epic proportions ... in the second half of the season, and that simply wasn't good enough."
Neuheisel, a former Washington Huskies coach, never built the momentum necessary to challenge USC for city supremacy, and Guerrero fired Neuheisel two days after UCLA's 50-0 loss to No. 9 USC, the Bruins' largest loss since 1930 in their crosstown rivalry game. UCLA also lost 48-12 to lowly Arizona after a bye week, along with a 26-point loss at Stanford, a 29-point home blowout by Texas and a 25-point loss at Utah two weeks ago.
"I thanked Dan for the opportunity," Neuheisel said on the Pac-12's promotional teleconference for the title game, less than an hour after his firing was announced. "Certainly when you're the UCLA coach, you'd like to play better against USC. I know that. We had our chances, but when you lose in the fashion we did, that's a difficult pill to swallow."
The Bruins will represent the Pac-12 South in the inaugural league title game on Friday despite finishing two games behind postseason-banned USC in the division standings. UCLA is a 30-point underdog against the Ducks with a Rose Bowl berth on the line for the winner.
Neuheisel said he didn't consider stepping down before the title game. He planned to run the Bruins' practice late Monday night.
"I hope I'm not a distraction," Neuheisel said. "I hope I'm some sort of help, in respect to the planning and how we go about it. We've been knocked down before this year, and somehow, some way, we've always responded. I hope we'll respond the same way."
If UCLA loses to Oregon, the Pac-12 would have to petition the NCAA for bowl eligibility for a 6-7 team. Guerrero said the Bruins already have filed for a waiver, and they will accept a bowl invitation if they're eligible.
Fired Erickson will coach bowl game
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State has fired coach Dennis Erickson after a fourth straight season of failing to live up to expectations.
Athletic director Lisa Love made the announcement after meeting with the 64-year-old coach. Erickson will be allowed to coach the Sun Devils in their bowl game, which will be determined Sunday.
"You're going to allow someone to build a program," Love said. "Those first years were building-process years and I would give him a great deal of credit in that building process. But it was the completion of that toward the end where we began to not feel the on-field presence that ultimately led to the decision."
Erickson, a former Seahawks and Washington State coach, will receive half of his $1.5 million salary for the remaining year on his contract.
Arizona State became bowl-eligible for the first time in four years after starting 6-2, but lost its final four games to miss a shot at playing in Friday's Pac-12 championship game. Erickson was 31-30 in five years at Arizona State.
"I am proud of what we accomplished in five years," Erickson said in a statement. "The program is in good shape for the next coach."
A two-time national champion at Miami, Erickson was the Pac-10 coach of the year in 2007 after leading Arizona State to the Holiday Bowl and a 10-win season.