UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was a guest on the Mason and Ireland show on ESPN radio 710 Thursday afternoon, where he defended his position as coach and the direction of the football program.
Below are some highlights from the conversation. The complete audio can be found here.
On why UCLA hasn't turned the corner:
"If you’d have asked me when I got hired would that have taken place by now, I would have absolutely said yes. But for whatever reason, every time we’ve taken a step forward, we’ve had to take a step backward. Whether it be because of injury or what have you. We just have to keep churning and keep working our tails off and keep looking for the best way to be successful and that’s what we’re doing. We can not wallow in self pity or worry about what happened. We have to go forward and fix it."
On why he believes he is still the right coach for UCLA:
"I can recruit to this school as well as anybody in the country can. I know this school, I believe in this school and I’m very, very familiar with the inner workings of this school. I have always wanted to be here. This is, as I’ve said many times, my dream job. It has not been a dream since I’ve been here and I’m certainly well aware of the naysayers out there and I understand their concern and their disappointment. And to be frank, I’m disappointed in how things have gone as well. But I know that I can do this. I know that given the tools and given some good fortune, we are going to get this thing squared away and if you want to start over again, that’s someone else’s decision, but I think that would be a terrible mistake."
On Oregon and Stanford catching USC as conference powers while UCLA has not:
"Stanford has got the best quarterback in the country. They’ve got a kid by the name of Andrew Luck and they’ve done an unbelievable job of building their fronts both offensively and defensively and deserve credit for it. They’ve got a phenomenal deal in terms of their offensive and defensive line and their tight end position has been a real source of strength for them as well.
"Oregon has done it with speed. They have gone out and recruited the very, very best with respect to the fast athletes and the attraction to Eugene is they have gone crazy with facilities and they have gone crazy with marketing. Kudos to all those in charge of building that empire to that level. No disrespect to coach Kelly and all the things that they’ve done with respect to their offense and defense, but the athletes have been a huge boon for them in terms of the speed and the way that they practice so they are on top of it right now.
"We are making strides and I still believe recruiting can go very, very well and I still believe that this program can be one that is very special as well but we have to decide that that’s exactly what we want to do and I look forward to being part of that process if we go that way."
On if there is any way to keep his job save winning out the rest of the season:
"That’s someone else’s decision. Ultimately this decision will be made by my boss Dan Guerrero and maybe his boss the chancellor. Ultimately all I can do is my very best. I promise you I haven’t forgotten how to do this. I believe in the players that we have. We’ve got to keep churning the soil if you will to keep finding the formula to be successful offensively and defensively to be successful, but we are not giving in...
...I don’t feel like I have to apologize for the effort that we’re putting in. I would love for us to have a better record at this time, but we are going to keep fighting and those who believe in us are going to enjoy the contest because you are going to see guys doing everything they can to honor UCLA and UCLA football."
On coming on the show during a difficult circumstances:
"I understand the situation. This is interesting stuff when a coach is on the proverbial hot seat and I understand the people that have strong feelings one way or the other whether I should go or whether I should stay. Ultimately if you are sitting in that seat, and I happen to be, you do your best and you trust your instincts and Damn the Torpedoes so to speak. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do and I don’t want anybody else making the decisions. I’m going to be fine."