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.”