Rick Neuheisel made his annual appearance Friday at the Pasadena Quarterbacks Club at Brookside Country Club in Pasadena, joining another former UCLA quarterback Jim Bonds — now the head coach at St. Francis — as the guest speakers.
Minutes before Neuheisel was introduced, former Dodger Al Ferrara (1963, 65-68) informed those in attendance of the news that Don Mattingly would be managing the Dodgers the remainder of the regular season, instead of a retired Joe Torre.
As he was preparing to walk up to the podium, Neuheisel looked at his cell phone, apparently reading or responding to a text message.
When he greeted the crowd, Neuheisel commented, “Many of you saw me checking my phone. I was just making sure that Joe Torre wasn’t hired to coach UCLA football.”
Neuheisel later referenced UCLA’s 1983-84 season, when he was selected MVP of the Rose Bowl after leading the Bruins to a 45-9 victory over Illinois after falling ill the night before and being uncertain whether he would even play.
UCLA started 0-3-1 that year, with Terry Donahue benching Neuheisel — a former walk-on from Arizona who began his career holding kicks for John Lee — in favor of Steve Bono following a 42-10 loss at No. 1 Nebraska.
“Terry Donahue said ‘In situations like this, either the coach gets fired or the quarterback gets fired and I’m not fired yet,” Neuheisel said.
Bono was then injured during an October game against Stanford and Neuheisel came back to finish the season, leading the Bruins to a a victory over USC, a Pacific-10 Conference championship, the Rose Bowl win over No. 4 Illinois and a 7-4-1 final record.
The third-year coach, 11-16 at UCLA following Saturday’s 35-0 loss to Stanford, only hopes this season’s Bruins rebound in similar fashion.