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.