As I've written, UCLA has had a fundamental change in its attitude toward football, namely how much it would potentially pay a new head football coach that was a proven winner.
Sources have indicated that UCLA will have at its disposal enough funding to pay a coach a salary competitive with the top 10 programs in the country.
We've been hearing for weeks that the front runner is Boise State Head Coach Chris Petersen. While he turned down UCLA four years ago, when UCLA hired Rick Neuheisel, the situation has changed for Petersen. Not only is UCLA prepared to pay a head football coach a top-ten competitive salary, and offer a very attractive complete package that includes paying his assistants good salaries, sources are telling us that Petersen is motivated now to leave Boise State. There are personal reasons, too, that could make UCLA far more attractive to Petersen this time around.
The Petersen camp has maintained a stance that it would be inappropriate to discuss with any UCLA representatives the potential of coming to UCLA while it still had a football coach in place. But now, with the firing of Neuheisel, both parties are able to negotiate.
From what we're hearing, there are plans for UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero and a few key UCLA representatives, which could include former UCLA greats Troy Aikman and Cade McNown, to fly to Boise to present the package to Petersen and his representatives. The word on this plan is that Guerrero intends to not get back on the plane without an agreeement from Petersen.
While Petersen looks to be UCLA's #1 target, we've also heard that there will be discussions with former NFL Head Coach Jon Gruden. It's considered a longshot, given Gruden's status, but UCLA will attempt to gauge the possibility of it happening. Gruden's brother, Jay Gruden, who is the current offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, too has been mentioned, along with Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin, who is thought to be hot candidate that is being considered for a number of head coaching openings. Sumlin has shown considerable interest in UCLA according to sources.
Many other coaches have contacted UCLA to show interest, such as SMU coach June Jones, former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and former Miami Head Coach Randy Shannon, who is actually in Los Angeles and has been making overtures to UCLA representatives.
I can also reveal now that Urban Meyer considered UCLA more seriously than you might have ever imagined. If Meyer hadn't been able to hold up Ohio State because of their impending sanctions for an astronomical salary UCLA could have had a realistic chance at him.
As I said, it's always about timing.
And the timing for Petersen looks far more favorable this time around.