Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why I don't want Dorrell Fired

OK now, hold your horses. Before you send me an angry e-mail or leave a nasty comment calling me an idiot... let me explain.

It is painfully obvious that Karl Dorrell is not the right man for the head coaching job at UCLA. The details are out there for everyone to see, no need to rehash them here. However, if you think Karl Dorrell is the problem, you are wrong. No, he is merely a symptom of a much larger problem that has plagued UCLA football for decades. I would contend that if the underlying problem is not fixed that firing Karl Dorrell will actually make our current situation worse, not better.

So what the heck am I talking about? Well, let me break it down for you.

UCLA football was mired in mediocrity long before Karl Dorrell showed up in Westwood. People tend to forget that. With all the vitriol and hatred spewed at Dorrell over the last few years, I think everyone has erased from their memories the fact that the Bruins were a middle-of-the-pack team under Toledo as well. Here's the records if you have forgotten:

  • 1996: 5-6 regular season. No bowl.
  • 1997: 9-2 regular season. Cotton Bowl victory.
  • 1998: 10-1 regular season. Rose Bowl defeat.
  • 1999: 4-7 regular season. No bowl.
  • 2000: 6-5 regular season. Sun Bowl defeat.
  • 2001: 7-4 regular season. No bowl (self imposed penalty).
  • 2002: 7-5 regular season. Las Vegas Bowl victory.
  • 2003: 6-6 regular season. Silicon Valley Bowl defeat.
  • 2004: 6-5 regular season. Las Vegas Bowl defeat.
  • 2005: 9-2 regular season. Sun Bowl victory.
  • 2006: 6-6 regular season. Emerald Bowl defeat.
Toledo had a few good (even great) years in there, namely the '97 and '98 seasons. But they were also surrounded by some pretty bad ones including the 2001 season that ended in no bowl game because the team was out of control. Not exactly championship football by any stretch of the imagination.

You can go back to the end of the Donahue years as well. They were slightly better but not by much. The highlight was a conference co-championship in 1993 with a defeat to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. No, you have to go all the way back to 1986 to find a Rose Bowl victory. That's two decades and counting of meandering, listless, life-less football... only speckled with a hand full of good seasons. This Bruin football program hasn't been consistently relevant since the 80's and that's a very long time to be stuck in neutral.

The problem, my dear Bruin fans, is not the coaches. They are mere pawns in a much bigger chess game. No, the problem is with the Athletic Department, the donors, and ultimately... us fans. You see, UCLA football is not that important to everyone listed above. Yup, there it is, I went and said it. Everyone knows that basketball is king at UCLA and football plays second, or maybe even third, fiddle in that symphony. Sure there are some of us that eat, sleep, and breath Bruin football. But we are the small minority. Everyone else demands a great basketball program and, if it isn't too much of an inconvenience, a good football team as well. Not a great football program, mind you, but a good one, a respectable one... a program they can basically ignore while they wait for the start of basketball season.

You want proof of this? Take a look at the salaries paid to UCLA football coaches. How much does Dorrell make? Somewhere around $1 million. Pete Carroll gets paid 3 times that salary, and maybe even more with incentives. Before you complain that SC is a private school, Cal (a fellow UC System school) pays Jeff Tedford over $2 million a year. Just recently our assistant coaches were given pay raises to make their salaries competitive with other PAC-10 schools. Let that sink in for a second. It took years for our assistants to get paid what all the other schools have been paying all along. No wonder, we have an assistant coaching carousel. Why stay at UCLA when you can make more at the same job some place else? Doesn't take a genius to figure that one out.

Why aren't donors giving more money to pay for a better coach? Why aren't fans demanding higher salaries to attract more qualified and (*gasp*) experienced coaches? The money is there for the basketball team. Ben Howland was recently given a contract that will pay him $2 million a year next season with increases for years to come. The Pauley Pavilion reconstruction project is taking in money now. Where is the fund for the UCLA football reconstruction project?

This is the underlying problem. UCLA football needs to be put back at the top of the priority list for Dan Guerrero and the Athletic Department. Money needs to be made available to attract and hire an experienced and proven head coach and coordinators. If that doesn't happen then UCLA will hire another coach with a bellow average salary. The only coach who wants to take that job is somebody "up and coming" who wants to use UCLA football as a spring board to greater success. If he succeeds then he's gone in a few years and we're back to square one. If he fails then we're stuck with another mediocre coach learning on the job racking up mediocre records. And before you counter with, "But we got Ben Howland with a low salary", remember that coaching at UCLA was his dream job. There aren't too many football coaches out there thinking the same thing.

Firing Karl Dorrell is just half of the equation. If we can't replace him with a qualified, experienced head coach then what did we accomplish? We got rid of a Karl Dorrell just to replace him with another Karl Dorrell. The worst part is that this new Karl Dorrell will have to be given 4+ years to prove his worth. That's another 4 years of mediocrity followed by another firing and another rebuilding project. At least our current Karl Dorrell can be fired at any time.

No, I say don't fire Dorrell. At least not until we demand better for this football program. Only when I know that the football program will be put on par with the basketball program will I get fired up about firing Karl. The last thing I want is another coach we'll have to fire come 2011.


Anonymous said...

I think we are in a new era, by that I mean that, thank God, Dalis is no longer the AD. He tolerated not only Lavin but the horrible baseball coach Adams as well. Both of those guys are gone thanks to DG.

The best thing DG could do is not only hire an experienced football coach but also pay him the going rate (and get rid of the goofy rollover contracts we have).

That way we can finally tell the world that it is no longer business as usual at UCLA.

Anonymous said...

Dorrell has a top 3 recruiting class coming in. He has to stay at least for one more year. It's not always the X's and O's but the Jimmiy's and Joe's.

Anonymous said...

Correction: 2002 record was 8-5, not 7-5.

to: anonymous @ 4:53

You dont expose your stupidity so quickly. Next year we lose 17 starters and 25 seniors and have a much much tougher schedule. And you think Dorrell is going to do better than this year?!

CPBruinFan said...

No, actually, the 2002 numbers are correct. I was only recording the regular season (i.e. not the bowl game) in that 7-5. They finished 8-5 if you include the Las Vegas Bowl, but even that wasn't Toldeo as the coach is was Ed Kezirian.

I wanted to use just the regular season numbers to show how similar they are between Toldeo and Dorrell.

Anonymous said...

cpbruinfan, I agree with your statement insofar as you identify the general unwillingness on the part of the AD and other power-that-be to do what it takes (specifically, pay the $$) to get an established football coach and that has been the single greatest obstacle to UCLA escaping mediocrity. However, your conclusion-don't fire KD because we will likely only pay for an up and comer, who will leave us anyway-seems illogical and certainly does not follow from your premises. Wooden came out as a very young coach into a totally pathetic situation from Indiana-and stayed. Look how that turned out.

If we were to get a guy like Peterson from BSU, or a Mike Leach, or some other youg guy, who's to say they wouldn't be happy enough with their position at UCLA to remain after improving the program? Obviously, $$ matters-but as Carroll has shown, more $ is not the be-all and end-all if you are happy with the situation. Leach went to law school at Pepperdine and loves pirates-I expect he might like the ocean more than the desert of West Texas.

I would love to see us pony up the $ for a top-flight coach and staff, but as you accurately point out, it likely will not happen. So let's find a guy who has a demonstrated track record as a head coach in college and roll the dice. Certainly keeping KD is no cure, and I don't see us as even remotely competetive on the national stage with him in charge. If we get a young coach on the make who restores our luster and then feels for the NFL or some other program, so be it-I would rather have a restored program with some big wins (and who knows, maybe a BCS bowl win along the way) rather than a guy who has demonstrated repeatedly that he can lose to anybody, no matter how bad, with no corresponding indication that he can beat the best with any regularity.

CPBruinFan said...

Let me expand on my original thoughts. I want Dorrell fired. I want him fired at the end of this season. But.. if waiting another years would mean that we have a better shot at getting a quality, experience coach for the long haul then I would prefer that option.

I'm sure DG is putting out some feelers and getting a short list together of potential replacements for Karl Dorrell. If that list is made up primarily of guys with little or no D1 head coaching experience then I say pass.

I don't want us to rush out and grab somebody just for the sake of getting rid of Dorrell. I would rather take our time, get everyone in the AD to put football as the #1 priority, and pull together the money to do this thing right. Otherwise, we could be stuck with another crappy coach. I'm tired of "rolling the dice", as you put it.

I think the fans, the Bruin Blogosphere, and the students need to get this message out there. The message can't be just, "Fire Dorrell". It has to be "Fire Dorrell and hire an experienced proven head coach". If that can happen at the end of this year then I'm all for it.

Anonymous said...

If football is 3rd fiddle, what the hell is second?

Anonymous said...

Half of nothing is nothing. Keeping Dorrell for fear of not getting something better is not an answer...It is a rationalization. Part of the problem with UCLA football is the fear of making a change. I guess it is like someone in a bad relationship who prefers the safety of the present misery rather than the fear of the unknown...a new relationship.

CPBruinFan said...

Using that analogy, the person in the bad relationship might need some consoling before starting up another relationship. I'm suggesting some consoling for the AD, so they can go out and hire somebody better.

If you think I want Dorrell to remain the coach, you missed the point. I want changes in mentality of the powers-that-be, first. Once UCLA is committed to getting a great new head coach then I'm all in favor of going out and getting him.

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