Teleconference: Neuheisel & Walker

Head Coach Rick Neuheisel and Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker took questions Wednesday night about Walker being hired, what went into the deal, what convinced him to stay at UCLA, hiring his other two assistants, recruiting, and more...

Head Coach Rick Neuheisel and Defensive Coordinator answered questions Wednesday.

Neuheisel: "Good evening, everybody. Happy New Year."

How'd you like the Rose Bowl?

"You know, I enjoyed it. It's always a thrill to be there on New Year's Day, and take that in. It was great to see Tom Ramsey get inducted into the Hall of Fame. The crowd really gave him a nice, warm, rousing reaction. It's too funny. It was a thrill. My boys, the oldest one had been there when we played. But it was a neat experience for the two younger guys to see what we're shooting for, anyway.

"I apologize for taking your time, but we have some good news here at UCLA.  I wanted to announce that DeWayne Walker has chosen to stay here at UCLA in his current capacity as defensive coordinator. It's a great hire for us, as we go forward with the new staff. DeWayne has proven himself as a bonafide top-notch defensive coordinator in his two years here, and obviously we're elated he's chosen to do so. Also staying are two of his cornerstone defensive staff mates, Chuck Bullough, who coaches the linebackers, and Todd Howard, who coaches the defensive line. These guys are both top-notch guys, and have proven their mettle over the last couple of seasons. All three have been coveted by other programs, so it's a neat thing they decided that their work wasn't done here.  That they needed to finish some unfinished business, and we're as thrilled as we can be, all of us here at UCLA."

Does this involve an improvement in DeWayne's financial situation?

"Certainly we wanted to reward DeWayne for the great work he's done here, and we have dealt with that accordingly. I don't think we want to discuss numbers, but I think DeWayne feels appreciated.

"DeWayne, are you on the line?"

Walker: "Yeah, coach."

Neuheisel: "DeWayne is here so he can speak to a lot of these things himself. DeWayne and I are having fun together and we're looking forward to have a lot more fun together in the future."

How did this kind of play out in the last few days? How many times did you and DeWayne meet? Were Bullough and Howard kind of a lynchpins for everybody staying?

"From my standpoint, and DeWayne can answer also, I just wanted a chance to talk to DeWayne. I've heard a lot of great things from the other side of the country, and certainly in the short time that I've been appointed. It was important for DeWayne and I to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation about how we saw this thing, how he saw football and certainly the UCLA program. It was easy for me to figure out in short order that this is a very knowledgeable guy, a very competitive guy, the kind of role model that you want in front of your players and your student athletes. I'm thrilled to death that he's chosen to stay. He's the right kind of guy you want to lock arms with. I just hope this partnership can be for as long until someone snatches him away to be a head coach, because he's obviously a bonafide candidate in that regard as well."

DeWayne, what was the main point for you in deciding to stay at UCLA?

Walker: "At the end of the day, it's about winning championships. I know when I had a chance to sit down with coach and listen to his vision, listen to his commitment, in terms of trying to help this program get to that championship level, that was definitely important.  Having a chance with the other guys interviewing with him, and feeling the same way about them as I do definitely played another instrumental part in all of this. And really just trying to finish what I started. That was the reason I wanted to come back to college football, to e a defensive coordinator, but also to win a championship. Being from Los Angeles, and having a chance to grow up around the Rose Bowl, that's something that we have not accomplished yet. Not only with the recruits and our football team and the Bruin family, at the end of the day, all of those things kind of factored into this decision. I'll tell you what, the University of Washington and coach Willingham, they did a great job trying to recruit not only myself but Todd and Chuck. But I'm just happy that everything worked out for all of us, and I'm just ready to get back to football and leave all this other stuff to you guys."

For Rick and DeWayne: Was retaining your coaches underneath coach Walker a stumbling point? How important was it, DeWayne, to keep those guys with you?

"It was very important. We came in together. Coach Dorrell was very good about that, in hiring these two guys. These guys are very much focal points in trying to establish this defense even moreso. So I was just happy Coach Neuheisel felt the same way. This was a good day for us."

Rick, was it a bone of contention for you, hiring the other assistants?

"No, it was not a point of contention. The issue was I wanted to make sure, and DeWayne and I discusses this, that each guy get retained on his own merits because as you evaluate your staff you want everybody united on the same front. You didn't want seven guys and then three over here that are on a separate page. I made the point in my press conference that, while there is an urgency going about this business, we didn't want to move so quickly that we made some mis-steps. I wanted to get a chance to sit down with both Todd and Chuck, and talk to them about how they saw this thing, and what they think UCLA is capable of, and here each of their visions separately, rather than just as a group. I had that opportunity today. I feel very, very strongly that both guys are great football coaches in their own righ. Certainly working with DeWayne enhances that. Both Chuck and Todd can stand on their own. And I think DeWayne believes that as well. These are the kind of guys you can build something special with. The fact that we got all three in the fold is a great, great thing for UCLA."

DeWayne, can you talk a little bit about what might have tipped to the scales for UCLA over Washington?

Walker: "Washington did a great job. I know Coach Neuheisel talked about me being a recruit, and I felt that way from the University of Washington. It was a tough decision. I thought Tyrone did a very thorough job through the process, and it was the toughest call I had to make in a long time to tell him I wanted to stay at UCLA. But again, at the end of the day, the unfinished business and the family was part of it, the players, the recruits, and me feeling confident that we can still do this thing. And I obviously look forward to it."

Rick, did Todd and Chuck also receive a raise in pay?

"We're working on their compensation packages. Dan (Guerrero) and I will talk about that. They are certainly going to consider great consideration in that regard."

Do you know now if you're going to retain any more of the staff?

"I haven't had a chance to get to the other pieces of the puzzle. I'm in the process of interviewing all of the guys, kind of getting their takes on the situation here. I've got some people I have in mind from elsewhere that I need to talk to, but that will all be in due time. Again taking into careful consideration to not go so fast to not make mistakes."

How much did the recruiting class factor into keeping coach Walker?

"It was certainly a factor. It became very apparent to me that DeWayne was integrally involved in a number of the youngsters that said this is where they want to come. For good reason. He's exactly what you're looking for when you're going for a college experience. He's talented, he's charismatic, he's got all the different things that young people look to and want to be around. His defenses have proven themselves, and he's also from here. He can talk about what it means to grown up in this area and play in this area, and as he mentioned, the chance to build a champion. It's a big part of it, because I believe that DeWayne has done a careful evaluation of these guys as have the other coaches involved. And I believe he has the right kind of people coming to UCLA and I'm anxious to now get into that process in earnest so I can catch up and meet all the guys. In a lot of ways, we have a lot in common; we just got recruited to UCLA. So I'm thrilled in that company."

How much less of anxious experience will it be for the recruits to come to campus this weekend, knowing Walker has been retained?

"Obviously, anytime there are familiar faces, it takes away the anxiousness.  Both DeWayne and I agree that the reason young people should come here is because of the great opportunity that UCLA provides. We're going to be catalysts in that regard. We're going to be people that have opportunities to impact their experience. But UCLA can stand on its own merits, in terms of a place to have the opportunity to come to school."

DeWayne, what do you expect from the 2008 defense?

Walker: "That's a good question. I know spring ball is going to tell a lot. Obviously we lost a little on defense, especially in the secondary. That's where we're going to have to probably attack first. That's my specialty so hopefully I can put a little touch on that. But it's going to be a challenge. We have some good coaches on defense and these guys are back, so we're going to put all of our IQs together and come up with something that will try to put a formidable defense on the field in 2008."

Is this a one-year deal or a two-year deal that you're going to sign?

Walker: "We're still going to work through those details. If coach wouldn't mind I'd sign a ten-year deal."

Neuheisel: "I would, too. We'd do it together."

Walker: "Right now, I'm just happy to be back a Bruin and try to get this thing back on."

DeWayne, with your son committed to going to UCLA, did that influence you on wanting to stay there?

Walker: "I wouldn't say that. He's a big boy. He's a coach's son, so he's been through this a lot. We've had a chance to talk through some of this, through this whole process. I wouldn't say that was a determining factor. He's going to have to work through this himself and obviously I'll help him through it.  I'm sure he's excited about staying home."

DeWayne, there were reports that you had made a deal with Washington. Was it ever really close for you?

Walker: "That's why you can never believe what you read sometimes."

Rick, after watching USC at the Rose Bowl, did you think it was better to hang on to the defensive unit that held USC to 33 points in two games?

"I definitely got the notion that they're formidable. I knew it watching them on television, but being there in person, they're formidable. That's an awfully good-looking team that Pete has assembled. Often in the last couple of days I've given credit where credit is due. It's DeWayne's, and Todd's and Chuck's and my job now, and the other guys that will get in the fold here shortly, to try to put together a squad that can challenge them, and challenge them on a regular basis so we can play for the big prizes, too."

Did it seem like a good idea to hire the guys responsible for UCLA, since they'd done well against USC, and realize these guys are pretty good at their job?

"No question. You give credit where credit is due. The other thing that is important is to talk to the other people here in the department. There are so many familiar faces here in the department, even people who were working here when I was in school. To get their takes on these different guys, because without question I can trust them. I was trusting my instincts, but as I told you I wanted to be thorough, and every person in the department just raved about these three guys. I'm thrilled they've chosen to stay."

DeWayne, was it really that close you were coming to Washington?

Walker: "I would say yeah. I want to give all the credit to coach Willingham. He did a great job selling the program. I think he sold Todd and Chuck. But at the end of the day, when we sat down and put all of the pieces together, this is obviously the place where we need to be. So we're happy about that decision."

How many times did you meet with them?

Walker: "Probably two or three. We've talked on the phone. Rick's done a great job, too. Really, in his defense, from getting the job, playing a football game, and then trying to compete with Tyrone, there's a lot of stuff he had to work through. I wanted to give him time, because Tyrone was putting a little pressure on me a little bit. But I wanted to give Rick some time to see that we can make all this fit. I'm happy that it all happened today."

Did the Washington president meet with you?

Walker: "We spoke a couple of times. He's a nice man. I would say he was more cordial. He's not a football coach. It wasn't really about football, but he was very nice to me and addressed that he would like us to be a part of their football program."

Rick, have you phoned any of the recruits yet, and told them that Coach Walker is staying?

"I got on the phone, and informed one of our recruits. I can't give you a name, but I did inform one of them. He was elated."

Can I get initials?

"Why would you try to take me there?"

Coach Walker, what have you felt like the last few days, being so pursued?

Walker: "Flattered. Really flattered. I don't coach to try to get this kind of notoriety. I just want to do a good job as a coach. It was very flattering. It just proves that when you work hard and do the right things, good things happen. But still at the end of the day, this is going to end and you still have to go out and coach an do a good job. I guess I can sum it up as very flattering."

So, right now, this is just a preliminary agreement and the final contract will be signed within the coming weeks?

Walker: "I would hope so. I haven't signed anything but I trust Rick and I trust Bobby Fields and Dan Guerrero that everything is going to be fine. I'm just looking forward to getting through this recruiting and getting back to football."

What was Tyrone's reaction when you told him?

Walker: "He was disappointed. Again, he did everything right. He really did. He was thorough. He was honest. Again, it was one of the toughest calls I've had to make to let him know I was going to stay a Bruin."

Rick, have you taken the NCAA test yet?

"No, that's coming up quickly."

Have you called all of the recruits at this point?

"With the one phone call, we're kind of sharing that responsibility right now, but I will get to that in earnest as quickly as possible. We're hopeful that we can create a way this weekend, it's a quiet period, that we might get some of the youngsters to come to campus to kind of talk to them face to face. So in an effort to get that done we're sharing the load in phone calls to try to arrange that."

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