Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt form a very base set of emotions in the human experience. It is that great unknown, the devil in the darkness, that pulls on some core reflex in our DNA. It keeps some people in dead end jobs and others in bad relationships. For most of us, however, these emotions make us seek out the familiar, the known, the safe.

For us fans, this is an exciting time in UCLA football. We can run through the mertis of different head coaching candidates, debate them ad nasseum on message boards, and speculate on the future of our program. But we're already dedicated to UCLA. We're not going to switch allegiance or choose another team to support. We look at this change as a positive for the team, a long anticipated change in direction.

For the players and recruits, who don't always have such strong commitments to Westwood, the exact opposite is true. This is their future; some dream of playing in the NFL and others of just playing on Saturdays. They are faced with the reality that the coaches who have recruited them, mentored them, made promises to them... could be gone. That creates a sense of uncertainty and fear in their futures. Futures that looked so clear a few months ago, are now riddled with many unknowns.

In the wake of Dorrell getting fired, the emotions of fear, uncertainty, and doubt are a natural response to the situation. Who is going to be the head coach? What type of offense will he run? What about the rest of the staff, will they be retained? How will I fit into the new system? What if I don't fit in? All of those are logical and reasonable questions being asked by the players and, espeically by the new recruits. The natural reaction is to hang on to the familiar and to be cautions of the unknown.

So it should come as no surprise, that in the days after Dorrell's release, that we're seeing things like this in the news papers...

"If they get rid of the defensive side (coaches), yeah, I'd probably leave, but I'm not sure yet," Defensive Tackle Brian Price said. "I'm still weighing my options. I don't want to leave. I want to stay here."

"It really hasn't bothered me," Defensive Back Rahim Moore said. "I'm still going to UCLA. Whatever coach they bring in, it doesn't matter as long as Walker and Coach E (Scott) stay there. They're bringing in a new coach, so be it, as long as they bring somebody that's right."

"I was disappointed. (Dorrell) was a big reason why I wanted to go to UCLA," Running Back Milton Knox said. "He was cool, someone I could relate to. I think they'll lose a lot of recruits now, because I think a lot of people wanted to go there because of him."

"I think that's unfortunate, because he brought in the recruiting class," Defensive Back E.J. Woods said. "I think it's going to get broken up. I hope not, but I've talked to a few of the guys, and I think it's going to get broken up."

"A big reason why we committed was not so much Dorrell but his staff," Donovan Carter Sr. (father of linebacker Donovan Carter Jr.) said. "Linebackers coach (Chuck) Bullough and Coach Walker were very instrumental in us committing."

Some of those quotes come from existing players and others from recruits. Obviously these are very early reactions to the situation and they are, naturally, giving more of an emotional response. But I think there are some interesting points.

The firing of Dorrell hasn't really deterred many recruits away from UCLA. Aundre Dean looks very doubtful but he is an out of state recruit and he has already changed his commitment once. The local kids still seem to have a strong bond with each other. There seems to be a lot of talk of "others" maybe changing their school of choice but nobody yet has stepped forward and said they are out because of Dorrell.

The other point is that many seem much more connected to their position coaches and coaches Walker and Scott. This might be them hanging onto the familiar, now that the head coach is an unkown, but I think these kids were heavily influenced by both Walker and Scott in the decision to go to Westwood. This is why Guerrero is pushing hard for Walker to stay, since he seems to be a key linchpin in this recruiting class.

It's going to be an interesting, and rough, couple of months for our players and recruits. Other schools are going to be coming hard for them to try and capitalize on the instability in the program. Hopefully, UCLA can work out an agreement to keep coach Walker soon. That would go a long way to settling the situation and give these kids a familiar name and face they can count on during this process. If they can't then I also hope that the head coaching situation can be resolved in a timely manner. We don't want to rush the serach, as it is more important than a single recruiting class, but the longer uncertainty lingers over the future of the head coaching position, the harder it will be to keep these players committed to UCLA.


Anonymous said...

Milton Knox on Karl Dorrell's firing
I had a long conversation with Milton Knox last night, regarding UCLA's decision to fire football coach Karl Dorrell last night. Milton was pretty disappointed, because he'd built a strong personal relationship with the coach and was looking forward to playing for him. Milton said coach Dorrell called him about once a week and they'd talk for 10-15 minutes at a time.

``Sometimes it was about football, sometimes it was about family,'' Knox said. ``Being the head coach of a major university like UCLA, he's someone you could look up to. It was cool to see a black man in that position. I wish there were more of them.''

The one conversation they had that seemed to resonate with Milton, was when Dorrell called the week of the Cleveland game. It wasn't big game by any means. Birmingham won 82-0. But Dorrell called and asked about Cleveland and how the team was preparing for the game.

``I just felt like he wanted me to be a successful person, not just a successful football player,'' Knox said.

Posted by Ramona Shelburne on December 4, 2007 11:24 AM | Permalink

rick said...

How significant Dorrell's release to this program is purely speculative--personally, I do not expect miracles and actually some backsliding--Karl is very conscientious and created a well-managed system. The system and staff is better than in 2005 that was 10 and 2 with the addition of Norvelle and Walker, but the depth of healthy player talent not as deep this year--there is no substitute for player talent, health and experience. Only time will tell if the shake-up was worth it.