Should Guerrero's Performance be Reassessed?

It might now be appropriate to re-evaluate the job performance of UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero...

I know this might be the most controversial subject I've ever tackled here on BRO.


But I think it might be appropriate to reassess the job performance of UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero.

First, I'll preface this by conceding that Guerrero has genuninely warranted some criticism in the past.

But I think Guerrero has been used quite often as a scape goat, and been heaped with so much blame that might not necessarily be his to carry.

Before a number of you cancel your BRO subscriptions, consider all of this:

Perhaps the move, or mis-step, that has put Guerrero in so much mis-favor with UCLA fans is the 9-year spiral of the UCLA football program under Guerrero.

If UCLA had had a strong football program since Guerrero became UCLA's AD, he almost certainly wouldn't be the target of so much derision. If UCLA football had been successful for the last ten years, I suspect most UCLA fans would have a high opinion of Guerrero.

The football program's spiral under Guerrero started with the hiring of Karl Dorrell in 2003.

Here's the thing: I know for an absolute fact that Guerrero did not want to hire Dorrell, but highly preferred Mike Riley, Oregon State's current head coach who OSU hired in that same year, 2003. Guerrero asked the UCLA powers to hire Riley, but then-UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale pulled rank and made Guerrero hire Dorrell.

It's difficult to speculate about how the UCLA program would have done under Riley, but I think it's fairly safe to say that UCLA's recent football history would probably have been quite a bit more positive. On the other end of the speculation spectrum, you could probably guess that the UCLA program would have been very good under Riley over the last 10 seasons.

So, try that on for size. What if UCLA had been good under Riley for the last ten seasons? Think about how that would completely alter your opinion of Guerrero's job performance.

His other big hire was Ben Howland in that same year. First, give Guerrero credit for coming into the UCLA AD and making two coaching chances in the same year. And then, on the hiring of Howland: There's no one who could question that hire at the time. Howland was exactly the right guy in 2003, and Guerrero got him, and not for a great deal of money.

Remember, too, UCLA didn't have a great deal of money back then to pay coaches. Guerrero was completely hamstrung by it. But he hired Howland, and he would have been able to hire Riley.

In terms of coach hirings, his mistake was in hiring Rick Neuheisel. But again, remember, at the time, because of UCLA's salary restrictions, and the candidates available, Guerrero didn't have many choices. I know, too, he was inundated with support for Neuheisel, by boosters and donors. I consider this a miss on Guerrero's part, because it was a failure to hire Neuheisel. But I'm merely saying that, given the time and situation, you can understand the factors that went into Guerrero deciding to hire Neuheisel.

One of the biggest criticisms of Guerrero is that he's slow to pull a trigger. I think that's arguable. As I said, he fired two coaches within months of being hired as the AD. He fired Dorrell after five seasons, but first, consider that just about every coach hired at a UC or state school is going to get four seasons, minimum, to build a program. Then, with Dorrell, if you remember, he started with two mediocre seasons, then put up the 10-2 season in 2005. The next season, 2006, was mediocre, but he finished it off with the win over USC, which gave him some credit. He then had a poor 2007 season and Guerrero fired him. Looking back on it, while it was at times painful for UCLA fans to endure, it was probably the appropriate amount of time for Dorrell, given the circumstances.

Neuheisel was given the requisite four years.

Fans have made the argument that Guerrero has tolerated a poor basketball program for too long, but I think you could easily make a counter argument that it's been an appropriate amount of time to consider replacing Howland. Howland went to three Final Fours, the last one being in 2008, had an acceptable one in 2009, and then hthe requisite poor four seasons since (if we count the current one). You could probably argue that it was valid to fire Howland after last season, but then he went out and signed the #2 class in the nation. I'm not justifying Guerrero in his retaining Howland for this long, but I think you can easily make a valid case that it's been justifiable.

If we're talking hirings, you have to give Guerrero a huge amount of credit for hiring Jim Mora. He wasn't an obvious choice, and Guerrero had to take a bit of a leap of faith in the hiring. But it's looking like a homerun so far.

If Guerrero does indeed fire Howland, who he hires next will be significant in judging Guerrero's job performance as AD. From what I'm hearing, now armed with some money to pay coaches, Guerrero would definitely attempt to go big with the hire.

And, then, one of the main components of being able to make a big basketball coaching hire would be that UCLA how has a sparkling new Pauley Pavilion. I don't think any big-named coach would give UCLA a sniff if it were still stuck in the old Pauley. You have to give Guerrero credit for the Pauley renovation. He truly was largely responsible for the project, and for pushing it through.

You have to give Guerrero credit for other coaching hires, too -- like baseball's John Savage and former UCLA women's basketball coach Nikki Caldwell (you could counter on Caldwell that he couldn't retain her, but I know that was strictly due to Guerrero's inability to get money to pay her). The jury is still out on UCLA women's basketball coach Cori Close, but it looks pretty good so far given that Close currently has the Lady Bruins in the national top 20.

Perhaps Guerrero, at times, is a bit slow to act, and lacks a big, aggressive vision. People around the AD do say he tends to come down on the conservative side. But so much of that is also because he has been, as I said, hamstrung by money restrictions. I can say, in my exposure to the workings of the UCLA Athletic Department, that the general opinion is Guerrero has been different since the UCLA Athletic Department has recently had some money. And, even more debilitating, is the environment Guerrero has to work in, having to fight a stodgy, bureaucratic and resistant University and their very limited opinion of the place and role of athletics at UCLA.

Again, I'm not trying to assert that Guerrero is a clear-cut success at UCLA. Or even a marginal one. But I do think that UCLA fans tend to use him as a dumping ground, blaming him for most of UCLA's ills, when most of them aren't his fault -- while at the same time, not accurately putting his hiring history in the proper perspective. Yes, he's been the man in charge during the worst period in UCLA athletic history, and he definitely has to shoulder some of the burden of that responsibility. But perhaps UCLA fans need to step back and re-assess his overall job performance, and perhaps come down off the stance that he's done a completely horrible job at UCLA.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories