Rich Neuheisel will serve his last game as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins football team this Friday, when his alma mater takes on the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 title game.
UCLA athletic director (AD) Dan Guerrero announced Neuheisel’s delayed dismissal on Monday, also noting that offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will serve as the school’s interim coach if they 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."
This decision comes on the heels of UCLA’s embarrassing 50-0 defeat to the USC Trojans this past Saturday. The loss was the latest in a season that included 20+ point humiliations against the Arizona Wildcats, Stanford Cardinal, Texas Longhorns and Utah Utes.
Neuheisel, for his part, took the news fairly well.
"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. "I don't need reasons and all that kind of stuff. 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."
Because USC is still on punishment for rule violations sustained during the “Reggie Bush Era,” UCLA stumbled its way into a showdown against Pac-12 North champs Oregon with a Rose Bowl berth on the line. This comes despite the fact that the Trojans ultimately finished with a two-game lead on the Bruins.
Needless to say, Oregon is a 30-point favorite heading into the Pac-12 title game.
UCLA made the preemptive strike against Neuheisel to prevent any sort of confusion that might have arisen in the unlikely event that UCLA beats Oregon.
Should the Bruins lose their next game, the Pac-12 will have to file a petition to the NCAA and ask for a 6-7 team to be given bowl eligibility. According to Guerrero, they have a waiver already filled out and ready to go – perhaps giving away that his team doesn’t expect to fare particularly well in their next outing.
Over the course of Neuheisel’s first three seasons with UCLA, the team made it to just one bowl game.
"I'm just thankful for the opportunity," Neuheisel said. "This has always been a place that I wanted to have the chance to help bring it to a place that everybody would be proud. Obviously we've fallen short of that."