Neuheisel fires back at Norton

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Is there anything better than college football rivals getting snarky with each other?

Ice cream and a run at the craps table, perhaps, but little else.

USC assistant coach Ken Norton Jr., a former UCLA linebacker, told the Los Angeles Times in a story that ran Monday that UCLA was using his name to lure recruits, the Bruins claiming Norton was going to replace defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker if Walker took the New Mexico State head coaching job.

Norton told the Times:

It's coming from there and it's wrong and it's not true. So if you're going to recruit, recruit what you have ... Don't try to recruit, saying I'm coming over there.

And I'm not saying I'm a big deal. I'm just saying you've made it a big deal by using me as some kind of target or ploy or something.

It comes as no surprise then that UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel fired back in a statement Monday afternoon:

In response to comments made by USC assistant football coach Ken Norton, let me say that I have an outstanding defensive coordinator in DeWayne Walker. He has done a great job for us and I hope he stays at UCLA for many years. However, if he has the opportunity to become a head coach, I know he would do a fine job and I would support him in any way possible.

That being said, I was sorry to read the comments Kenny made in the Los Angeles Times. I have not told any recruits that if DeWayne left, Kenny would be the defensive coordinator at UCLA and neither have my assistant coaches. Despite the fact that Kenny is a great Bruin, we have more than enough positives at UCLA to interest recruits and convince them that this is the school at which they can flourish both academically and athletically.

There has been a lot of speculation about Kenny's return to UCLA in the media and on the Internet, and perhaps that has confused people about who has said what. If DeWayne leaves, I would consider several candidates for the defensive coordinator job. Kenny probably would have been among those considered, with no guarantees. However, his quotes in the paper say he is staying at USC, so we wish him well.

The ESPN.com Pac-10 blog now feels safe reporting that Norton will not be UCLA's next defensive coordinator if Walker does, indeed, bolt for New Mexico State.