How big an issue is being competitive with USC?
"I think it's big. I think it's very important. You talk about how things are cyclical. I think Mike Garrett would probably say the same thing. We want every one of those games to be competitive. We know that you can't win every one of them, but it's important for the city of
What could have
"In the final analysis, it was an evaluation of the environment. It was an environment that I thought was not a healthy environment. When I say not a healthy environment, there would have been difficulties going into next year with all of the problems that had occurred in the past. There were concerns from members of the UCLA family. When I say UCLA family, it's really a reflection of perception and attitude. It needed a change. So, I can't answer that."
Did you talk to players or players' families?
"No. I did not speak to one player about the situation. That may seem odd but in any situation like this there are players that are very supportive of the coach and players that may not be. So rather than get into that whole mode, I thought it was best that I just ascertain where the program was and if we needed a change."
Did you speak to the players now?
"I already spoke to the players. We met with the players at . We tried to mobilize as quickly as possible since it's finals week. I would say maybe half of the team, maybe a little bit more, were there."
When it comes to the assistants, will they get a chance to retain their jobs?
"Change is very difficult. It's very difficult for all of the assistant coaches. Several on our staff have been through this before. I am very high on the assistants in our program. They're professional, and I think they've done a very, very good job. What I've indicated to them is that when the new coach comes in, and should they have a desire to want to remain, I would require that the new head coach interview the individuals. Obviously there are no guarantees. There are many coaches that like continuity, and in some situations one, two, three and sometimes four assistant coaches remain. But that will all depend on when the head coach comes in."
When you're talking about a healthy attitude with the UCLA family, how does it look for Lavin right now?
"We're talking about football right now."
Describe the meeting you had with
"Bob Toledo is a class man. We obviously meet on a regular basis. We met last week and kind of took stock. He was ready for this decision. Bob wanted the opportunity to coach the bowl game. I indicated that I thought that was not a good idea for a couple of reasons. One, I thought the healing process needed to begin immediately. We needed to move on. Two, if Bob were coaching, at practices and things of that nature, and we brought candidates onto campus, and they went to practices, that would creat an awkward situation. So, the decision was made to move forward in that regard, and he understood that."
Going head to head with USC for the same recruits every year, and with USC being on a roll with Pete Carroll, did that accelerate this?
"No, frankly I would say we don't go head-to-head with USC on a lot of recruits. There is some overlap, but by and large, that isn't a major issue. Invariably, we will go after some of the kids they go after. They'll win some commitments, we'll get some commitments. But that really isn't an issue. The issue that USC has a strong program right now? Certainly. That's important for us. Because they're in our conference and we want to win this conference. So, we need to raise the bar and get our program up to where we're winning Pac-10 championships again."
Did you get a lot of pressure to make a change after the USC game?
"Tommy Lasorda said that pressure is self-inflicted. I never felt the pressure. I think the decision was clearly one I had to make from the standpoint of this program. The tough part about this whole thing is that it's Bob Toledo. He's a good man. This year I've grown very fond of him, and his family. So, if there was any pressure, it was making this type of decision about someone that you genuinely like."
Are there any candidates on the current staff?
"We'll be looking off-campus at this point in time. We'll look nationally."
What was the players' reaction this morning?
"The players' reaction this morning – they were quiet. They asked questions. They laughed a little bit when Ed Kezirian came in. They have a good relationship with Ed. They asked questions, being concerned about assistants, and what would happen to them. They were concerned about the process and how we move forward. And they didn't laugh at Ed. They laughed when Ed told a joke."
So you believe Ed Kezirian can hold it together through the bowl game?
"I selected Ed Kezirian for a couple of reasons. One, Ed Kezirian has tremendous respect of our student athletes. He is an individual that is hands-on with the athletes on a daily basis. By selecting Ed Kezirian as the interim head coach, we're essentially talking about a two-and-a-half, three-week period. I thought Ed was an individual from an administrative standpoint that could move us forward in a positive way during a difficult period. Ed will be a head coach in more of an administrative capacity. The defense will be handled appropriately by the defensive personnel and the offense by the offensive personnel. It will be a collaborative effort."
So, who makes the call on third and ten?
"I'm going to have a phone in the press box."
You expressed that you were kind of surprised at some of the coaches who had called interested in the job already...
"I'm not surprised. UCLA is a fabulous university. And this is a great job."
How important is it that you get a proven head coach?
"I think having a proven head coach is important. But I would not exclude a very strong coordinator, offensive or defensive. There are some great ones out there. But it's a little different when you've been in the mix and made calls of a head coaching nature."
Does the person have to be at least a coordinator in your mind?
"I would say probably yes. I'm thinking of a situation or two where it might be different. At some point in time in their career."
How many calls have you had?
"It's not necessarily just calls. It's calls, faxes, e-mails..." [Guerrero gestured like he was indicating a pretty good-sized stack]. Coaches mobilize very quickly. They can even anticipate the possibility of a change."
Was the baggage and the problems worse with the program than what you anticipated before you actually got here?
"Not necessarily. But the by-product of that is greater than I thought. As I looked to where I thought we needed to go in the future, we needed a fresh start."
Could you talk about the prospects of Steve Lavin?
"That wouldn't be appropriate."
Do you hope to have a new coach in place by the Vegas Bowl?
"I would like it to happen by then. But I can't say that it will."
The environment around here has always been slow-moving. You seem to be showing that you're far more decisive...
"When I came in here my whole premise was to evaluate. If I thought there were things that needed to be fixed, I'd do everything I can to try to fix it. If we can't fix them, we need to make the necessary decision to change them. In the best of all worlds, you spend more time fixing than changing."
It sounds in a way that the decision could have been made the day you walked in the door. Is that true?
"Not at all. That was not a consideration. I walked into the door with my eyes wide open, with the intent to evaluate each and every program, never thinking that this would be the outcome. But you walk into a situation thinking you know exactly what it is, but you really don't know what it is until you're there. I would say that has a lot to do with it."
But based on this season, the program performed well enough to your satisfaction?
"I was still sticking my fingers in the dike handling issues from the past that did have an impact on this year's season. You take that and what's occurred over the last four years, the team from a performance standpoint, I had to make a decision I felt right about it. Otherwise, I would have issued a vote of confidence after the three wins. And that's not discounting the fact that we did some very good things this season."
Did the USC game bring up a lot of concern with the program from the UCLA community?
"Sure. There was a tremendous groundswell after the USC game. No question about that. There was a latent mass out there that was ready to air their opinion. Nevertheless, that was not a compelling issue. You're going to hear more from people when they're angry and not when they're supportive."
Were you ending up looking to much backwards with this program and not forwards?
"That's exactly right. That's where I'm looking now."
If that's your criteria, why wouldn't you fire Lavin right here while you're on the podium?
"I'm in the process of evaluating every program. We have more than 20 programs in this university. And I'm looking at all of them."
Do you feel pressure now making the right choice for head coach?
"I feel confident I'll make the right decision. I feel confident that the person will have the qualities I alluded to earlier. Obviously, the proof will be in the pudding."
How do you know if you're being leveraged by a candidate just so he can get a pay raise at his current position?
"Sometimes you know, sometimes you don't."
Are you leaning toward someone with an offensive or defensive background?
"Not really. I'll look at both. I've gone on record as saying that I really like teams in all sports that play great defense. I think they keep you in games. You have to be disciplined to play defense. And you have to be tough-minded. I like that."
Do you have names already in mind?
"Sure. I have some names."
The downside at UCLA has always been how much you can pay your head coach and his assistants...
"We know what the market is. We're prepared to move forward. If you're asking if we're going to pay $2 million for a coach, no, we're not going to do that. We're going to find the right fit for this university within the parameters of what we can afford."
Is that something you addressed with the Chancellor when you got the job or recently?
Are you able to offer considerably more than UCLA has?
"There's a range. The bottom end of the range that we're looking at right now is where coach
To compete on a national level don't you have to step up to a national price tag?
"Well, you can cite a lot of examples where a program found someone on their way up that's done a great job. That could be the case, too."
Are there creative ways to enhance a coach's salary?
"There is a composite of things that occur in the possible compensation packages. One of the ways to bring in someone is to be creative."
Are bonus incentives a possibility?
"I think that's one of the directions that makes sense for us to try to attract a quality candidate."
Have you gotten an indication from the Chancellor that UCLA is willing to pay more for its head football coach?
"The final determination is predicated on who we choose to bring in here. We're going to do what's proper and prudent for UCLA."
"It always good to set your sights a little beyond your grasp. It's also important to be realistic about what those are. As we look at the program, we're talking about winning Pac-10 championships, being a nationally ranked program consistently, to have an opportunity to be in that BCS mix. Sure, it's like in basketball or soccer, we have a team going to the final four this weekend. You do everything you can to get yourself in a position to get there, and when you get there it's a matter of performing for one game or two games. It's the same process for football. You do everything that you can to get an opportunity to, in this case, to get in the BCS mix, and that's what we're looking to do."