We don't want to raise expectations to the point that UCLA fans then crash and burn if the new head coach doesn't pull this off (We've gone down that road before).
But we're hearing that is exactly what Neuheisel is trying to accomplish. He has had an initial conversation with Walker, who has told sources close to him that he intends to stay at UCLA.
Getting Walker would probably be initially enough to make Neuheisel's hire a success in many people's opinions. There aren't many Bruin Cranks out there who could criticize the combination of Neuheisel, and his charisma as head coach, and Walker's defensive scheme and leadership, along with their combined recruiting ability in keeping the 2008 recruiting class or even improving upon it.
But, can UCLA fans really expect to hit the jackpot and add Chow to that mix and make it a Dream Team trio?
From what we're hearing, there is a possibility. Sources have told us that Chow, first, doesn't care much about money. He currently makes $1 million annually with the Tennesee Titans and he, of course, wouldn't accept, say, $300,000 per year. But if UCLA can pay Chow an amount he's happy with, which could be less than what he makes with the Titans, it could be enough. Chow, from what we've learned, misses the college game. He also has a house in Southern California, and would like to end his career with a job in the area. And we've also heard that he is motivated to compete against USC and Pete Carroll, having left USC and Carroll after the famous falling out between the two.
Chow's season with the Titans was extended for at least a week when they defeated the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night, securing them a berth in the NFL playoffs next weekend against the San Diego Chargers. If Chow is a real possibility, it's unlikely we'd hear too much of substance until the Titans' season is over.
The dynamic of Chow being a candidate for the UCLA head coaching job himself, and seemingly the frontrunner for a while before he took his name out of the running, is interesting.
So, where is UCLA going to come up with the money to pay someone like Chow and Walker? For one, from what we're hearing, Neuheisel was very aware that his base salary of $1.25 million was below what the general sentiment UCLA would pay a new head coach. The talk around the program was that Athletic Director Dan Guerrero was prepared to pay in the $1.5 to $1.7 million range. On the other hand, we heard that those numbers might have been inflated, that the new head football coach's salary would almost certainly not exceed that of basketball coach Ben Howland, who signed a new deal a few months ago for a base of $1.5 million. Neuheisel, apparently, though, indicated in his interviews that he wanted to earmark money to hire top-flight assistant coaches, and it was a particularly significant selling point in his interviews. Also, we've heard that Neuheisel intends to find money from donors to enhance his coordinators' salaries.
We've been assured by sources close to the situation that if Neuheisel indeed can secure Walker and Chow there would be enough money to pay for them.
Again, we were almost hesitant to write this today, given how UCLA fans have shown on the BRO message board they can be pretty virulent if their expectations are dashed. We were especially leery since we've heard that Chow is a possibility but the likelihood that he would come to UCLA under Neuheisel is uncertain.
But given those tempered expectations, it's exciting for UCLA to contemplate a Dream Team of Neuheisel, Walker and Chow. UCLA has been in the Dark Ages for so long in terms of coaching, always having to reconcile to hiring unproven coordinators and assistants. Under Karl Dorrell, three of his offensive coordinators hadn't called plays before in the West Coast Offense. At the time, many didn't blame Dorrell, believing that he was hamstrung by UCLA and unable to pay good money to lure top assistants. The string of hiring inexperience assistants, in fact, goes back to Bob Toledo's tenure. It all very well could very have been true, but if Neuheisel does pull this off, or even just gets qualified coordinators other than Walker and Chow, it's a testament to what we've been asserting about the UCLA football program for a decade: A dynamic, powerful head coach could move mountains.