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Wednesday, December 18
Updated: December 19, 9:57 PM ET
Ex-Bruins receiver goes home again as coach

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Karl Dorrell has turned Terry Donahue into a prophet.

Dorrell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UCLA in 1988 -- two years after completing his playing career as a wide receiver for the Bruins.

Excellent Choice
Athletics directors are judged by their big hires. After only a few months on the job, Dan Guerrero of UCLA had to find a football coach, and man, did he.

UCLA made an inspired choice in Denver Broncos receivers coach Karl Dorrell for a number of reasons: He's a smart offensive coach; he's a former Bruin, having caught passes from quarterback Rick Neuheisel in the early 1980s. The two remained close friends, and Neuheisel, upon getting the Colorado job, hired Dorrell in an instant. He moved to Washington with Neuheisel, and when the news spread Wednesday that Dorrell had gotten the UCLA job, the Huskies' coaches responded with whoops and hollers. That's a measure of the respect that Dorrell has among his peers, even among future conference rivals.

(A current Neuheisel assistant may become a head coach in the next day or two, too, as secondary coach Bobby Hauck is a finalist at perennial I-AA power Montana. Hauck is a Montana native.)

Dorrell also is an African-American, and the statement made by UCLA in hiring him is one that should ring from East Lansing, Mich., to Lexington, Ky., to Greenville, N.C., where the remaining vacancies exist. It's insulting to even make the statement that there are good black coaches out there, because it's so obvious. University CEOs and ADs simply have to make the effort to speak with them.

In other Pac-10 coaching news, California coach Jeff Tedford has spoken with Kentucky about its head coaching position. UC-Berkeley officials said Wednesday that they are speaking to Tedford about a contract extension.

My guess is that Tedford will stay, but not without getting a firmer commitment from his school to upgrade football facilities. The project being discussed, which would include a seismic upgrading of Memorial Stadium, as well as new locker rooms, a new weight room and other athletic facilities, likely would cost more than $100 million.
-- Ivan Maisel senior writer

Now, he's back in Westwood as the school's 15th head coach.

''I'd like to thank Terry Donahue for starting me in coaching,'' Dorrell said Thursday. ''He said, 'Hey Karl, I think you have the qualities to be a good coach someday.' He saw something in me that obviously I didn't see.

''He said, 'You never know, you might be the head coach at UCLA some day.'''

Dorrell was hired by UCLA on Wednesday night, beating out Mike Riley and Greg Robinson.

All three are working as assistant coaches with NFL teams -- Dorrell as wide receivers coach for Denver, Riley with New Orleans and Robinson with Kansas City.

''In a lot of ways, you could have flipped a coin,'' Dan Guerrero, in his first year as the UCLA athletics director, said regarding the three candidates he interviewed to succeed Bob Toledo, fired Dec. 9. ''There's just something special about Karl.

''I went with my gut, I went with my instincts. I went with the person I thought could take us to the next level. After my first interview with him, I just had a feeling he was the guy. There's a presence about him, he has strong convictions, he's a fiery competitor.''

Guerrero made his recommendation Tuesday to Chancellor Albert Carnesale, who concurred.

The chancellor gave Dorrell a hug as the news conference ended.

''There's a sense of quiet maturity, poise and leadership that he possesses,'' Carnesale said. ''You can spot passion without him jumping up and down.''

The head coaching job is the first for Dorrell, who was hired on his 39th birthday. He becomes the fourth black coach in Division I, joining Notre Dame's Tyrone Willingham, San Jose State's Fitz Hill and New Mexico State's Tony Samuel.

Dorrell said he believes his color had little to do with his hiring.

''They wanted the best man for this job -- I believe I'm that person,'' he said. ''When I decided to be a football coach, I wasn't going to let any obstacles stand in my way.

''I'm very thankful for this opportunity, I will work my tail off. I'm excited, I'm privileged, I'm honored. It's been a dream of mine. I'm proud to be a Bruin, proud to be back.''

Toledo guided the Bruins to a 49-32 record in seven years including a 7-5 mark this season. Dorrell played on three Rose Bowl-winning teams under Donahue in the 1980s. Donahue retired after the 1995 season and is now general manager for the San Francisco 49ers.

''My goal is one thing, obviously, and that's to re-establish the tradition and integrity in our football program,'' Dorrell said. ''I understand what it takes to play UCLA football. I'm going to be a grass-roots kind of coach, very hands-on.

''I'm going to believe in my players and they're going to believe in me.''

Dorrell was an assistant coach at the collegiate level for 12 years including four seasons as offensive coordinator at Colorado and another in that position at Washington before joining the Broncos in 2000.

He will leave his job with the Broncos following their game in Oakland on Sunday, but won't coach the Bruins in the Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl next Wednesday against New Mexico.

Instead, he'll focus on recruiting and hiring a coaching staff. He guaranteed he will have at least one former head coach on his staff and said he will interview some members of the current UCLA staff.

''My expectation for next year is to win the Pac-10 championship,'' Dorrell said. ''Winning the Pac-10 and beating our crosstown rival are the biggest things on my mind.''

Dorrell wouldn't identify Southern California by name. The Trojans have won the last four games between the schools -- the last two by a combined 58 points.

Dorrell spoke briefly to the team before the news conference.

''I just told them how excited I was to be standing in Spaulding Field,'' Dorrell said of UCLA's practice facility. ''I haven't been back for a long time. It felt like one day.''

About 15 of Dorrell's former teammates at UCLA attended the news conference.

''The team has been returned to the team, and that's what Karl Dorrell is all about. This is the one hire that USC did not want,'' former quarterback Matt Stevens said.

''It's like a rebirth,'' former running back Marcus Greenwood said. ''Karl's a great person, very capable of leadership. He's quiet, but he's sure of himself. I'm sure he can handle this with ease and he'll have great support.

''For USC, payback's at hand, punishment is on its way.''

Division I football coaching changes
UCLA fires coach Toledo after seven seasons

Proud Bruin
Karl Dorrell promises his best effort as new football coach at UCLA.
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