A year ago I attended a UCLA basketball game the day after the Bruins had upset USC, 13-3, in football.
Karl Dorrell appeared for a halftime ceremony and rang the victory bell, which annually goes to the winner of the cross-town football game, with vigor. He also shouted into the microphone and was easily the most animated I’ve ever seen him.
That was then and this is now. Dorrell was fired Monday, December 3, two days after UCLA lost its football game to USC, 24-7.
Athletic Director Dan Guerrero had frequently defended Dorrell through five years, which resulted in a 35-27 record and no appearances in a major bowl game. But Guerrero had expected more from the coach and lost patience this season as the Bruins went 6-6.
“Karl has represented UCLA with dignity and class,” said Guerrero. “But at the end of the day the focus has to be on results.”
Dorrell will receive a buyout believed to be $2 million.
Chris Peterson, the 43-year-old head coach at Boise State, is Guerrero’s top choice as a replacement, but others will be interviewed. Guerrero wants to keep defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, but he is reportedly being considered for the Washington State head coaching job should it become available.
UCLA has qualified for the Las Vegas Bowl December 22 against Brigham Young but it is uncertain who will coach the Bruins. One possibility is assistant coach Ed Kerzian, who was interim coach for a bowl game five years ago after Bob Toledo was fired and before Dorrell was hired. Kerzian is the guy who constantly waves towels on the sidelines to inspire the crowd.
Some UCLA players were sorry to see Dorrell go.
“He didn’t block or tackle for us, we had to do that,” said defensive end Bruce Davis. “It was up to us to play the games.”
When asked recently about his accomplishments as UCLA’s head coach Dorrell emphasized the reduction in off-field incidents.
“That had been a problem,” he said. And, indeed, it was considered a factor when Toledo was replaced.
With a coaching change, UCLA will try to act quickly to keep recruits who had committed verbally but not yet signed binding letters of intent. One player in that category is E.J. Woods, who played two seasons at Santa Monica High before transferring to Crespi High. Another is Antwon Moutra of Culver City, the state’s third-leading receiver this season.