According to two sources close to the UCLA athletic department, football coach Rick Neuheisel has already been fired--unofficially that is. One of the sources advised that the best way to look at it right now is to say Neuhiesel is 99% out the door. It's just a matter of AD Dan Guerrero making an official announcement sometime after Friday's Pac12 championship game against Oregon in Autzen Stadium.
That 1% chance Neuheisel may stay is based on the possibility--extremely remote possibility--that UCLA wins the game and represents the Pac12 in the Rose Bowl. A win would save his job, temporarily at least, since that would extend the season and Guerrero has always said he would wait until after the season to evaluate the coaching situation
On the one hand, reports an insider, Neuheisel, Mr. Never-Say-Die, is still trying to convince Guerrero to let him stay. But one the other hand, you know Neuheisel, a smart, USC-trained lawyer, is already packing and job-hunting. He'll never say it but he knows it would take a miracle for the Bruins, an underdog by several touchdowns, to win in Autzen Stadium.
Face it. Oregon is just too good, ridiculously outclassing the Bruins. One of the gripes against Neuheisel is that his UCLA teams have a horrible road record. You think that trend is going to be reversed in a championship game against those Oregon greyhounds?
Preparing for Oregon won't be easy. With the coach's head on the chopping block, there's a dark cloud hanging over practice, floating doom-and-gloom messages to both players and coaches. No question, the Bruins are like lambs headed for the slaughterhouse.
Who's the next coach?
It's clear who's not a candidate. Forget Miami's Al Golden and former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. They were never serious possibilities anyway. According to a source close to the athletic department, there have been prelimary, undercover negotiations with Boise State's Chris Petersen, who's concerned about possible upcoming sanctions against Boise. Some, though, say he's at Boise forever. But whenever there's a big-time coaching job vacant his name is thrown into the mix.
Another name mentioned: Houston's Kevin Sumlin. But there's no Case Keenum clone in Westwood. And can you imagine that zippy spread offense working at UCLA with QB Kevin Prince? Also possible: Butch Jones, who replaced Brian Kelly at Cincinatti in 2009. With Cincy 8-3 and about to play Connecticut for a piece of the Big East title, Jones is a hot commodity. Reportedly, he's also on the short list for North Carolina and Illinois, which just fired Ron Zook after a blah 6-6 season that started 6-0.