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UCLA Hires Rick Neuheisel

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Article by Adam Rose and Ryan Jesena.


UCLA has officially announced Rick Neuheisel as their new head football coach.

Neuheisel was a walk-on quarterback for the Bruins and led them to the 1984 Rose Bowl victory against Illinois. He has a very successful track record coaching at the college level (66-30) but has spent the past few years clunking around the NFL assistant ranks. As a graduate assistant with UCLA, he was credited for the development of Troy Aikman.

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Neuheisel does bring some baggage, as he was fired from Washington in 2003 after betting on a neighborhood March Madness bracket. The NCAA infractions committee ruled that he violated NCAA rules but did not sanction him. He sued the Huskies for wrongful termination and walked away with a cool $4.5 million.

The Bruins are expected to keep defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who served as interim coach after Karl Dorrell was canned before the Las Vegas Bowl. Dorrell and Neuheisel were teammates in the early 80's, but have very different reputations. Despite struggling on the field, Dorrell was credited with helping clean up the Bruin's program.

Neuheisel's biggest measuring stick will probably be his success rate against crosstown rival USC. It will be interesting to see how he measures up to Pete Carroll. Both are young and energetic, making them excellent recruiters. Both have NFL experience, though Neuheisel wasn't a head coach. Both came out on top of protracted coaching searches, and not everybody was happy about either hire. The gameday matchups should be intriguing because Carroll is a defensive guru and Neuheisel's specialty is offense.

As one of the highest paid state employees (we don't have the actual number, yet), the new Bruin's coach will not only be able to exact revenge on his former Pac-10 employer, but will be in a position he had previously described as his dream job.

More: LA Times, Associated Press.