No affirming UCLA's actions
By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist

So why don't I have a good feeling about UCLA hiring Karl Dorrell as its next head football coach?

Karl Dorrell
Many black assistant coaches have a lot riding on Karl Dorrell's success as UCLA's head coach.
It's a feel-good story. With the home-run hiring of Division I-A football's fourth African-American head coach, the school that produced Arthur Ashe and Jackie Robinson and employs a Hispanic athletics director just hit for the Jesse Jackson cycle. UCLA might as well be Grambling.

So why am I not shouting from the rooftops, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank Eddie Robinson, I'm free at last"?

I should be overjoyed today. I'm black. I played college football. I'm tired of seeing black assistant coaches passed over for head-coaching opportunities. Why don't I view Dorrell's hiring as a major sign of progress?

Because if Dorrell were white, I would be screaming from the rooftops, "Who the hell is this mother… and when did he become such a hotshot candidate? A 39-year-old, nondescript black NFL receivers coach would've never landed such a good job."

That's exactly what I said when ESPN announced Dorrell's hiring at halftime of the GMAC Bowl. I was pissed that a no-name white assistant coach had stolen the job from Greg Robinson, a no-talent defensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. We here in Kansas City were hoping the Bruins would do us the same favor USC did in 1997 when the Trojans made the mistake of hiring then-Chiefs offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, the man Marty Schottenheimer refused to fire. We're afraid that the fiercely loyal Dick Vermeil won't have the testicular fortitude to whack Robinson, the leader of the NFL's worst defense and one of three finalists for the UCLA job.

To his credit, Vermeil, a former UCLA head coach, lobbied hard to pawn off Robinson on the Bruins. But, I guess, despite two interviews, the UCLA athletics administration couldn't overlook the fact that in the past three years Robinson had gotten canned in Denver, has overseen the total destruction of Kansas City's proud defensive tradition and doesn't have a defensive player or assistant coach who believes in his complicated, bend-and-break, soft-zone scheme.

But I digress. This column isn't about Robinson's 32 Defense (ranked 32nd in the league and gives up 32 points per game).

This is about Dorrell.

When I heard the announcement, I dropped the controller to my Xbox (Ball State, led by the running of Bernie Parmalee, the hard tackling of Blaine Bishop and the quarterbacking of true freshman standout Jason Whitlock Jr., was in the national championship game) and turned up the volume on my big screen so I could hear what ESPN analysts Mark May and Trev Alberts would say about Dorrell.

Tyrone Willingham
Tyrone Willingham's success helped Dorrell land his his job, but they have few similarities other than the color of their skin.
To my surprise, I learned that Dorrell was black. That fact seemed to earn May's endorsement. May saw it as a sign that Tyrone Willingham's success at Notre Dame had given athletics directors the courage and desire to consider other African-American candidates.

I can understand May's sentiments. It's good to see a brother get an opportunity, especially at such a plum job.

But Tyrone Willingham was a known commodity. We know virtually nothing about Dorrell. So late last night I jumped on the 'Net looking for information about Dorrell. He was a run-of-the-mill receiver at UCLA, catching passes from Rick Neuheisel. Dorrell had a brief stint in the NFL. As an assistant coach, he hooked up with Neuheisel at Colorado and followed him to Washington. Dorrell coordinated Neuheisel's offenses, then jumped to the NFL as a position coach. Interesting stuff.

But what really caught my attention and raised my skepticism was the Los Angeles Daily News' account of how and why Dorrell landed the job. Dorrell did absolutely nothing wrong. The newspaper story just made me question exactly what the UCLA athletics department was thinking.

According to the L.A. Daily News, "Dorrell is viewed as young, handsome, fit, energetic, bright and, of course, African-American."

Take out the adjective "fit" and it sounds like I could've been UCLA's new coach. I don't think Larry Coker, Frank Beamer or Ralph Friedgen were ever young and handsome or, of course, African-American.

But the L.A. Daily News quoted a source close to the search as saying, "In today's day and age, having an African-American football coach represent your university has the potential to pay incredible dividends for the university. It's a whole brand new ballgame now."

Michigan State is still waiting to collect on those incredible dividends. What, is Trent Lott proposing legislation for kickbacks to universities with young, handsome, fit, energetic, bright and, of course, African-American head football coaches?

And the L.A. Daily News story wrapped up with this valuable bit of insight: "According to a source close to the search, Dorrell, dressed in a stylish dark suit and white shirt, had an extremely impressive interview" with UCLA's chancellor.

Why not just go out and hire Denzel? He did a great job in "Remember the Titans."

I hope Dorrell can coach football. Because I'm not confident the people he'll be working for know a damn thing about football. They won't be any help. Greg Robinson should've never been a candidate. Mike Riley, the other finalist, shouldn't have been a candidate either. He's never won anywhere and, obviously, judging by the jobs he's turned down, doesn't want the responsibility of being a head coach.

The Bruins return a great deal of talent and are expected to contend for the Pac 10 title next season. I pray Dorrell didn't just step into some ... stuff. Because if he's not ready, if he's unsuccessful at UCLA, black assistant coaches will be hearing his name, not Willingham's, every time a high-profile job becomes available.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (, the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB ( and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at



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