— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) September 5, 2015
On the first episode of CBS’ new “College Football Today” studio show, Rick Neuheisel was apparently expected to grip it and rip it. With his analysis as well as with his guitar.
So he did. And very acutely acoustically with both tasks, we should add.
Ripped away from the Pac-12 Network as its featured studio analyst, the former UCLA quarterback and head coach has already set the bar high for those who expect a song-and-dance man to summarize the SEC coverage that CBS is locked into these days.
(See the clip above: He also managed to find a way to get “CBS” in as the last rhyme. His next appearance is on Saturday’s pregame before Georgia-Vanderbilt at noon on Channel 2).
“I like goofing around with the guitar, but on a much smaller scale,” Neuheisel said this morning. “Give me a verse and I’ll sound clever and half-way entertaining. These ensemble pieces are going to out me as a clear amateur in the ways of music. Hopefully we can reduce it so it still catches the listener by surprise and they don’t realize I’m really tone deaf.
“I’m just a guy who can play 30 percent of every song, but it’s really much better if you’ve had a lot to drink.”
Having decided that he’s so committed to this new CBS gig that he actually relocated to New York and is putting his Manhattan Beach place up for rent, Neuheisel explained some of the transition involved in this latest media-related career move, which includes doing a daily show called “Full Ride” from 7-to-10 a.m. PT on Sirius XM College Sports Nation Channel 84 with partner Chris Childers:
A: I feel like I’ve gone away to college again and I’m staying in my dorm room. Swear to goodness. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all over again. I’m in constant contact with college football, whether it’s TV or talking on the radio or doing interviews. I do feel like a coach again. I look forward to having my wife finally able to join me here in the Big Apple. This really is a leap of faith, taking a swing at network TV. I loved working for the Pac-12 Network and especially with the people there.
Q: But now you have to become an expert in the SEC, because that’s CBS’ baby, and that must be something of a culture shock as well?
A: I gotta tell you, I went on my own private tour to all 14 SEC schools. Took my wife and got in the car and did the whole Grizwolds thing. I even stopped at the Mississippi River as we were going to Memphis and Knoxville and I did the whole Clark Grizwold line about the ‘Old Miss …’ It was my own ‘Vacation’ movie.
I had been to Georgia before, because we played there when I was UCLA. Tennessee, I had coached there. Texas A&M and Missouri I had seen. But never had I been to the other places, and to go to these little college towns like Auburn and Fayetteville … I get it now. I don’t mean to any abandonment of the Pac-12, but I get the media attention to this conference. They have this beacon on the hill as a stadium and the towns revolve around it. It’s really charming. It’s just a completely different take on the game than anywhere else.
Q: So all the way back in New York, were they talking about Josh Rosen’s first game at UCLA? Were some there calling it the best performance by a true freshman — ever — as many in the media were going off?
A: Boy, as a debut goes, you couldn’t ask for more. If he had completed his first pass, if Kenny Walker just hangs onto it, then he’s got plus-400 yards and four TDs against a Power 5 opponent that really harassed Brett Hundley a year ago. Jim Mora has every reason to be optimistic, but he will be careful to take this one week at a time. It’ll get harder before it gets easier for Rosen, but really, you can’t diminish what a phenomenal debut he had.
Q: Sports Illustrated may have done him a favor, in that it already had a regional cover and story on USC and Cody Kessler set for this week. Based on merit, Rosen could have been the cover guy. But then how would that have elevated media expectations of him as a true freshman in his first game and possibly set the bar too high for even him to achieve?
A: I think Jim will do a very good job of tempering that. Is Josh still off-limits from the media at practice? That will be beneficial fro him. The kid has got a big personality and he’s not afraid. This is what he envisioned when he decided to go to UCLA. It’s important that of all the different guys he has on that offense, someone like (offensive lineman) Jake Brendel will keep him centered and focused on the task at hand. My son says he’s a rare breed of confidence and naivety that’s refreshing. I think they’ll have the right combination there of handling any kind of media blitz.
A: He really wants to be a coach and I think he’d be fantastic. If I had a job tomorrow, I’d hire him. He’s a terrific recruiter and he understands the game.
In some ways, the problem with our industry is there’s no graceful dismount. It’s hard to leave it and stick the landing. I know it was very disappointing (he didn’t get the starting job instead of Rosen). He felt he had done enough to earn the job and there were third parties that told me that as well. But listen — this isn’t supposed to be fair. I tell him that. Fair is a blue ribbon on a pig. This is about what coaches believe is best for the team and you signed up to be on this team and you have to embrace it and take care of the role that you’re prepared to do. I almost screwed up my opportunity (in 1983, named as a starter) when I got replaced by Steve Bono in my senior year. I was feeling so badly for myself I a game and a half later, things changed. (He led UCLA to a Pac-10 title and ’84 Rose Bowl victory). It’s imperative for Jerry to be focused now and do what he does naturally — be helpful and enjoy going to practice and work on his timing and his attitude so when his day comes again, he’ll be prepared.
Q: Like last year at Texas?
A: He knows how good that felt. It’s the hardest things in sports, but the worst thing is if you’re called upon and you’re feeling badly about a situation and you don’t play to your potential, that would be a nightmare.
== More on Neuheisel:
= An appearance Thursday on Doug Gottlieb‘s CBS Sports Radio show.