Neuheisel officially fired, Johnson takes over after Pac-12 championship

As reported following UCLA’s 50-0 loss at USC on Saturday night, Rick Neuheisel is out as UCLA head coach.

The school announced the firing on Monday morning effective following the Pac-12 championship game, which is set to kick off on Friday at 5 p.m. in Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, at the conclusion of which, first-year offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will take over on an interim basis.

“I have a great deal of respect for Rick Neuheisel and the manner in which he has run this program during his tenure as UCLA head football coach,” UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a release. “Decisions such as this one do not come without a great deal of heartache. However, it is apparent to me that a move was necessary at this time in order to give UCLA the best chance to enjoy the success that we all desire.”

Guerrero, who it was announced will be holding a live press conference at 2:30 p.m., addressed reporters briefly following the Bruins’ loss to USC and said Neuheisel’s status would be discussed after the season.

Neuheisel made his best pitch for continuing as head coach on Sunday during a press conference with reporters.

“I was told that we need to move the needle and if the needle moved that we would be fine and I’d get to continue along my five years of my five-year contract,” Neuheisel said. “We have won five conference games as opposed to three last year. We have won the right to represent the South in the conference championship. We’ve certainly had some unfortunate evenings where things haven’t gone our way, but I think the program is headed in the right direction.”

Multiple sources close to the program have said that the school is ready to make a financial commitment to football, with Boise State head coach Chris Petersen and Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin atop a short list of desired candidates.

Neuheisel, who will receive a $250,000 buyout, went 21-28 in four season at his alma mater, with two 4-8 finishes and to 6-6 regular-season campaigns. In 2009, the Bruins appeared to be heading in the right direction with a win over Temple in the EagleBank Bowl, but the team regressed to 4-8 last season and suffered five losses of at least 25 points this season.

“Rick Neuheisel’s strong personal values, integrity and tenacity made this decision extremely difficult for Dan Guerrero and the University. We wish Rick the best in his future endeavors,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in the release. “UCLA’s athletic program has built a rich and proud legacy throughout the years, producing student-athletes who are winners on and off the field. While we insist on emphasizing academic performance by all students–including our student-athletes– we also have a strong commitment to ensuring our athletic programs are successful overall. I have complete confidence in Dan’s ability to recruit and hire a head coach who can revitalize UCLA’s football program, and have pledged my full support in this process.”

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  • Anonymous

    Yes!!! finally. Now let’s go get Peterson!

  • BruinPain

    Yup, that gap has finally been closed. Bring on Mike Leach!

  • GetitrightDan

    DG has to get this right or he’s out. UCLA football has sunk to a place I never thought it would. I had high hopes for RN, but in the end, it was more than he was capable of. With the new TV money and donor support, we need to go after a proven winner. Good luck, Rick. We know your heart was in the right place.

  • Island Bruin

    I would love to get Peterson. Any chance the would look into hiring Jim Tressel or Jim Mora Jr?

  • Chinasky

    This has gone from the worst week for UCLA athletics to the best. UCLA had better be serious about spending real money to get a real coach. I know too many people who have either refused to renew their season seats or don’t plan on doing so next year. Maybe they can get some South Campus majors to explain why winning teams with full stadiums pay for big money contracts.

  • Anonymous

    “As reported” after the game, my ass Jon. That’s why we had a day-plus of speculation.

  • Iowa Bruin

    I wish CRN all the best.

    It was time.

    Now Dan Guerrero must be fired. He must go!

  • Anonymous

    Oh well, I wanted Rick to do well but this is the right move. I don’t ever want to lose to SC in that fashion again. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Petersen. I’d contribute to the fund.

  • Anonymous

    For the love of God, it’s “PETERSEN.” You’re a professional? The common football fan has seen it enough to know the correct spelling.

  • Bruin Zealot

    With the Chancellor weighing, here’s hoping real change and commitment coming to football program. And DG is on the clock.

  • The Ghost of Rick Neuheisel

    But.. But…. I ended the Monopoly.. I closed the gap… I moved the needle..

  • Anonymous

    While I applaud the decision finally, I have to wonder about DG’s timing. Why announce it today but have RN coach the next game?? Why not Sat night right after that embarrassment and boot him out immediately?? And if RN were to be fired anyway, why not announce it after Friday’s game so the team has something to play for??

    So DG just want to throw in the towel knowing that the Ducks will kill us so he puts RN there as the lame-duck? What kind of message are we sending to the players? What motivation does the players and the coach have for Friday’s game?? Hasn’t this inaugural Pac-12 championshipgame been ridiculed enough by the sports world already?

    Man, this is beyond pathetic.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry to see Rick go but it was time for everyone to move on. Rick you will always be a great Bruin! Thanks!

  • Trojan Conquest

    Strange. So what happens if UCLA beats Oregon? You have Johnson coach them for the Rose Bowl. Why not just fire him and have the interim coach the Pac 12 championship game. And what is Johnson going to coach if they lose? A weak bowl game? Why not just end it now and not go to a bowl if they lose?

  • Rich

    It was time. I, for one, would be mightily curious to see how a game went with Johnson as head coach, making all the offensive decisions without vetting everything thru Rick; ditto for how the defense would go, if he’d enforce any change in thinking there, too…

  • Anonymous

    I love Block’s announcement, -we all want our football team to succeed and I am giving all my support. We will give you the benefit of the doubt. But if you or DG hires a has been or unknown headcoach, the alumni will let you have it. We are a proud university, rich in academics and althetics. All the alumni would be proud to support the althetic department again, emotionally and financially, if it is done the right way.

  • captainqtp

    Jon, do the Peterson rumors have any credibility? I’m having a hard time believing he is even in the conversation…

  • Lifelong Bruin Fan

    Sad to see CRN go but this is the right move. I am excited to see who will lead our program back to national prominence.

    Regarding Anonymous’ comment on the timing: I completely disagree. This is soon enough after the USC debacle to let the Bruin community know that the administration is serious about a change. I think doing it before this Friday’s game will give the players extra motivation to send off their coach in the right way. Honestly it might have been better to do it before the USC game, but this is better than after the Oregon game especially if they had already decided he would not be back regardless of this Friday’s outcome.

    I am not predicting victory this Friday but I do anticipate a much more competitive game than Saturday’s travesty.

    CRN: thank you coach for your efforts and best of luck to you, you will always be remembered as a true Bruin.


    That is pretty poor not to wait until after Friday’s game to do the firing…

    Certainly Coach Neu wanted desperately to succeed, more than all of the ucla posters combined, but it seemed as if a trifecta of bad luck, bad decisions, and bad timing did him in…

    Coach was a walk-on hero back in 1983, leading ucla to a Rose Bowl victory, and he should not have his playing legacy tarnished…

    He put Dale Carnegie’s famous words of “positive thinking” into action. And in his last news conference I liked how he described why he tunes out negativity: “It’s more than a belief, it’s knowledge…You have to be relentlessly positive, and you’ll get back to where you need to…Hope is not a strategy. This is a conviction of optimism…”

    Getting fired from the school you love has to be the most devastating thing that ever happened to this man. But I will remember him for his unfailing, although perhaps misspent, optimism.


  • Anonymous

    What if we beat Oregon and play in the Rose Bowl? Would Neuheisel coach us for that game or would it be the interim coach?

  • Resource Guy

    Hey Anon at 11:47

    This team quit after the Colorado game. Not one player on that team showed any pride or desire. Does it really matter when the announcement is made and how it will affect the players this week? I say Petersen, Sumlin, Diaz, or Fangio. No on the retreads of Mora Jr. or Tressel.

  • WOW, if they got rid of a Bruin, they better replace him with someone we all feel great about turning our program around.

  • scidiot

    There is no way Petersen comes to LA….That being said, there is no reason DG should not hit a home run. We are only paying CRN $250,000 base pay so money should not be an issue. Sumlin, ISU’s Rhoades or Skip Holtz come to mind.

  • Anonymous

    poor Rick. I agree with you BruinRob. Don’t fire Rick and get some retread like Leach. Need someone good.

  • The Monopoly Is Over Here

    Petersen aint going to UCLA, a program that doesn’t support football. Say hello to Bellotti.

    The GAP has been closed?!!!

    Bwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaa ha ha ha…

  • Anonymous

    Everyone is in love with Petersen, but it is well documented as to how a coach can enjoy success at a place like BSU and flame out coaching a team in real conferences. See Koetter and Hawkins, and many others. Ucla fans think Petersen is the Savior. There will be improvement regardless of who is coaching next year, but the fans need to get back to reality.

  • scidiot


    Wouldn’t Bellotti prefer the ASU job. After all it will be close to his retirement home. He and Erickson can be neighbors living off their final SunDevil paychecks.

  • Marc

    No to Kevin Sumlin, please. What has he done without their incredible quarterback. After he went down last year, they took it in the chin. They won’t be the same next year, either. Guarantee that! And, against conference USA opponents. Not Oregon, sc, Stanford, Washington, Cal, and the rest of the pac-12. That would be another bad hire in my opinion.

  • Trojan Conquest

    PetersEn isn’t coming. Mike Leach is be a great fit for the Pac 12.
    I’m wondering if the timing has something to do with ASU firing Erickson. Don’t want to lose out on a great coach.

  • scidiot


    I agree. SunDevils and bRuins are competing for the same pool of coaches and AD DG did not want to wait. Kind of respect the fact that he did not play games and made a move instead of just doing a deal behind CRN’s back.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    Sad that this news came three days too late and not from CRN’s own mouth on his own terms.
    Sadder that my early memories of this great walk-on, Rose Bowl-champion QB will now forever be tarnished by his STUBBORN UNWILLINGNESS TO RESIGN before the U$C game.
    Do we win that game?
    It doesn’t matter. Where is CRN’s pride? Hell, he probably could’ve still had a quarter-mill stuffed in his pocket after resigining instead of the paltry same buyout after being fired.
    He resigns last Friday and then we go bananas out there, win or lose, vs. U$C. Then we do the same in Eugene, and the same at whatever toilet bowl we probably end up at.
    Then, bam! CRN goes down as both a player and coaching-type of hero, maybe even stays within UCLA sports leadership, who knows?
    Now, he’s done.
    Wow. Was it worth it, Rick?
    As for Mike Johnson, are you freaking serious, DG?
    His ass is out the door probably 5 mins. after Tressey under the new regime that is coming. Way to dig deep, DG … you should have to pay for this, too.

    As for Petersen, all things are possible.
    But let’s face it … it will probably take 3 million a year, which is about double what he now makes in Boise.

  • ProbationU

    I think the timing of the situation is based upon the fact that the ASU job is open and the Washington State job is open and we cannot afford to lose another day searching for coaches. Rumor is Petersen would not even talk to us unless the job was officially open. Now let’s go get our first choice for a change.

  • I keed

    Why isn’t JoPa in the convos??

  • Trojan Conquest

    ProU….”first choice” isn’t always best. Pete Carroll was about the 5th pick by USC. At the time I thought ASU had hired a better coach in Dirk Koetter from Boise State.

  • Anonymous

    @ucla-of-the-rockies: I think they just had Johnson as interim in case we do get a waiver from NCAA for a bowl. I doubt it’s any more than that.

    Would I like our players to get into a bowl? yes. Do we deserve a bowl? no.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    @anon106: Agreed.
    But doesn’t it make more sense to just let CRN coach in the bowl game, too? I mean, why roll out Johnson, who probably couldn’t even lead an NCAA D-II team?
    Strange way of dealing with things, this DG.
    Just like giving up the home blue vs. U$C.

  • 15-Year Season Ticket Holder

    Petersen is clearly a good coach with excellent results since he took over as Boise State’s head coach at the end of the 2005 season. He’d likely do well at UCLA.

    But remember, Petersen inherited a team that had only lost 1 game each year in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and had only lost 3 games in 2005 (Peterson then coached the team to a loss in the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl).

    If hired at UCLA, Petersen will be faced with a HUGE turnaround challenge, as opposed to continuing the winning ways of an established winning team. Big difference.

  • just in the know

    The players did not quit after the Colorado game. Most we ready to play. Unfortunately many take their cues from the coaches who the players said we “wound tight” by Wednesday. That carries down and can be a negative affect on your team.

  • Ley

    Dont rush into a hire like USC did. We will see how Lame (i got the personallity of a rock Kiffen)does next year when his boy Barkley is gone and they have to start over. Take our time and make the right choice. Petersen is also aware he is losing his QB, Moore and has some soul searching to do!!!

  • Trogan (ex)-Con

    Um, Cheat Carroll is part of the reason your season ended Saturday.

  • BruinPain

    @Anonymous 12:31 PM

    “poor Rick. I agree with you BruinRob. Don’t fire Rick and get some retread like Leach. Need someone good.”

    You are joking aren’t you? Poor Rick, if he had any shred of decency, should have resigned rather than waited to be fired. The man is delusional with his talk of moving the needle right after a 50-0 blowout. I’m tired of vomiting into CRN’s passion bucket.

    As for calling Mike Leach a retread, you show your ignorance of his coaching ability. He’s got a brilliant and innovative football mind with a high octane offense that would Oregon to shame if he came to UCLA.

    By the way, the odds of Chris Petersen coming to UCLA are slim and none.

  • You say timeout, I say touchdown!

    Rick is fired = time for more false hope from the bRuin Nation. You know, the same false hope that you had when Rick was hired?

    Scoreboard: 50-0
    12 out of 13
    28-46 against SC

    The Football Monopoly in Los Angeles is officially over… here.

    Worry about closing the gap between your legs before you think about closing the gap between you and SC. There is only one Football team in L.A. Look forward to many, many more years of being Lane Kiffin and SC’s lil b**ch.

  • Anonymous

    Not only is timeout gracious, he’s classy, too.

    Typical trojan.

  • You say SUC, I ask “how hard?”

    Enjoy your sanctions, pathetic cheating SCumbag.

  • BruinPain

    Now we know what “timeout” does on his fifteen minute break from flipping burgers. BTW “timeout”, I asked for fries with my Big Mac.

  • BruinPain

    Now we know what “timeout” does on his fifteen minute break from flipping burgers. BTW “timeout”, I asked for fries with my Big Mac.

  • bibs

    It’s hard to see Rick go;I was hoping to have him succeed.A good choice for a new coach would be Jeff Fisher,but I know a lot of Bruins would object to a trojan coming to Westwood.

  • uscfd

    ‘ You say SUC, I ask “how hard?” ‘

    You might want to rethink that screen name.

  • Bruin

    Well said about Bruinsnation. It’s a joke what Nestor thinks about the influence of his website.

  • Cheat On

    For the record, the 2004 and 2005 “wins” over UCLA were vacated by the NCAA for cheating, so 12 out of 13 is incorrect. Those two should have been forfeits as far as I’m concerned. USC was cheating it’s ass off for years so take your classless gloating self and climb under a rock until your team has served its sentence. UCLA ain’t on probation and isn’t giving up 10 scholarships a year for the next three years. Those are the real sanctions, not this bowl ineligible stuff. They begin next year. Enjoy them.