Full Q&A with Dan Guerrero, Pt. 3: UCLA Football

JG: On the flip side, the football program seems to be soaring. Rick Neuheisel, time and time again, has talked about his maturation as a coach and as a person, understanding that at UCLA he had a little more time than he felt he had at Colorado and Washington. When he went to Colorado, he had to win NOW. Here, it’s 4-8, 7-6 and you see some of those building steps; why do you have a little more patience here?
DG: It’s frightening to hear people talk about the need to win now. In some respects, that’s what our business has become, and that’s a shame. As Coach Wooden so aptly said, ‘Be the best that you can be.’ At UCLA, being the best we can be in the end, results in great success. But there shouldn’t be a disappointment when a team doesn’t meet that mark, if they perform to THEIR optimum levels, if they perform in a manner that brings pride to a university or to each other. The whole notion of patience is one that more in my profession need to practice. I understand how difficult it is. Rick is building the program, and I knew he would build the program. It required us to recruit at a higher level, to get depth in areas where we’ve struggled, to have the kind of leadership at the helm that gives you a chance to win every game. We’re getting there. We should be a better program this year, and we should be even better next year.

JG: Do you have a long-term goal for the program? A five-year plan?
Our goals and aspirations have not changed. We want to build a nationally competitive program. We want to be one of the top programs in the country on an annual basis. As someone defines that as being a top-5 program every year, then that might not be realistic. We want to be in the national conversation, however that’s defined. We need to get there first. We need to set a bar, and continue to build off of that. There’s no set time-table. Obviously, you want to be successful because you have pride in your staff. The players want to do it for each other, for their families, for the university. Rick wants to do it for the university that allowed him to have a great life. I want to see Rick do it here because we all love UCLA. That’s why you do it. We need for our fans to be able to be patient and hang in there with us as we build this thing. Our fans need to stay with us, stick with us in good times and bad.

JG: How important is it to you to know that you have a guy now that doesn’t just care about winning for the sake of winning, but for the sake of his legacy here, his alma mater.
DG: One of the things I really enjoy about Rick, when he talks about recruiting and talking to prospects, I love the fact that he says he doesn’t need to sell UCLA to prospects. In leiu of that, he can share himself with prospects, share the experiences he had. That in and of itself lets you in that it’s a different relationship that he has with this university and what he can do as a result of that. It was important for me to be able to get someone in who could compete on a national stage in a press room, someone I knew could go into any home and talk to families and be able to be persuasive and share UCLA to the point that we would get strong consideration. And then I knew I needed someone who had success as a coach. Those ingredients will allow us to get over the hump.

JG: So you’re going to kill me for this question, is the monopoly over?
DG: Let’s just say that everyone in America was trying to close that gap. It doesn’t matter if they’re 3,000 miles away or 12 miles away. That’s our goal. We’re still moving toward that goal. We want to be playing in January 1 games, and maybe later.

JG: Speaking of across town, and I know you won’t talk much about this…how do you think the USC sanction affect UCLA?
DG: I’ve always told our coaches and our staff and our student-athletes and every individual I mentor or who comes to me for advice, the big time is being where you are. If you’re at UCLA, that’s the only thing you should be focusing on. It’s the only place WE can influence. I don’t talk to them about what other schools have – facilities, uniforms, their own jets – it doesn’t matter. The big time is where we are. The only thing we can influence, the only place we can have any say in the matter, is UCLA. It’s irrelevant.

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  • Anonymous

    “THEIR OWN JETS”!!! lol No private limo’s now, just private jets to pick up recruits…haha

  • cv

    Soaring? You have got to be kidding. Two eighth place conference ranlings is just soaring. Ask him when Rick needs to beat SC!

  • RC3UCLA

    cv- Learn to look at the big picture…

  • Anonymous

    “Soaring”???? Well, I guess if “punting is winning” then, sure.

    Or maybe you were referring to the police blotter…

  • Peter

    Who needs to beat $C when that community college is beating itself by cheating? Cheating = “winning” at the just SC.

  • BE REAL

    Let’s see, “fan” is short for fanatic, which usually implies irrational expectations. So sports fan do not want to wait for their gratification, they want it now.

    So what does that mean for ucla fans?– Well, realically, you won’t be winning a national championship with the likes of Florida, Miami, LSU (and yes, USC) in your way. So having a Pac-12 victory once in a while might be acceptable– Or is it?

    LAWYER JOHN

  • BruinFaithful

    I love Dan G, but somebody needs to remind him that the Bruin Nation has been mighty patient, unless he thinks 10 years is not a long time. Again, I truly love Dan G, but this is the kind of talk that really boils my blood. Maybe he needs to take some responsibility for the Duhrell hire. I don’t remember ANYBODY besides Carnesale and Donahue, what was he going to say, calling it a good hire. That is what happens when you let a Harvard Academic pick your CFB coach. I know it was Carnesale’s hire, but it was DG’s job. He should have had the stones to put his foot down and insist on hiring Mike Riley. After all, Carnesale is NO Chuck Young. Trust me, I know Charles Young, that is ONE stubborn self interested SOB. Carnesale is NO Chuck Young. He is a cupcake in comparison, who was never going to stay at UCLA for the long haul anyway. UCLA was merely but his stepping stone. DG should have realized this.

    Instead, DG laid down like carpet while Riley went on to success at OSU. Maybe you should have asked about Riley, in a dignified leading manner. You had the chance to ask deeper questions and you didn’t Jon. You did a great job, but NOBODY has ever grilled DG about Riley and you had a shot. He wants patience, we want answers. Maybe you should let the blog readers ask a few Q’s and you pick the 5-10 best ones next time Jon. Isn’t this Blog supposed to be about topics and themes that WE are interested in? If that’s the case, then I couldn’t think of a better source.

  • Cafe 84 Pizza

    Though I am a USC fan, I am not here to “troll” and upset anyone. I went to USC for undergrad, but I went to UCLA for grad school, so I have some interest in UCLA’s programs, and I check this blog from time to time, though I wouldn’t call myself a Bruins fan. But I do have a question for the actual Bruins fans.

    I realize that UCLA fans are feeling positive about their recruiting class, but jeez, I find Gold’s remark above that “the football program seems to be soaring” to be rather puzzling, given UCLA’s recent record.

    Last year, USC beat its two arch-rivals and won a bowl game against a respectable opponent — during my years at USC (fall 94 through spring 98), that would have been considered a great season, but these days, USC fans are despondent over a season like that. If someone had described the current USC program as “soaring” — even before the sanctions were handed down — they would have been greeted with jeers and disbelief.

    So — do you guys really feel like your football program is “soaring”? Do you find that kind of language acceptable, given the state of things? If you do, that’s your own business, but it seems to me like you guys should be pining for the Dorrell/MoJo Drew era by this point.