UCLA Trying To Lure Steve Sarkisian South

December 9, 2011 – 8:45 pm by Ryan Phillips

UCLA’s search for a head football coach has continued fruitlessly this week as the school has already been turned down by Boise State’s Chris Petersen, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin and Miami’s Al Golden. While Jim Mora Jr. apparently emerged as the front-runner for the job a few days ago, sources inform us that the Bruins have since gone behind Mora’s back to reach out to another guy with Washington ties, current Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian.

We had been hearing that Sarkisian could be targeted by UCLA for a while and today the Los Angeles Times reported that the former USC assistant has been approached by the Bruins, but remains committed to the Huskies. In fact, one of our sources says UCLA’s communication with Sark was a waste of time, as he expressed virtually zero interest in the position despite the fact that the Bruins could offer a huge package in return for his services.

Sarkisian’s complete lack of interest might have something to do with the way his mentor, Norm Chow, was treated during his time at UCLA. Chow was brought in by now-former head coach Rick Neuheisel to much fanfare only to have his role as offensive coordinator marginalized over time and his offense tampered with and eventually completely scrapped. Chow was then given the choice of taking a buyout or being demoted to a lesser position on the staff (translation: he was fired). He took the buyout and is now the offensive coordinator at Utah.

Everyone we’ve talked to has claimed that UCLA would really like to make a splash with their coaching hire, but athletic director Dan Guerrero’s efforts have fallen completely flat. Several sources have confirmed to us that Guerrero put almost all of his eggs in the Chris Petersen basket and when that failed the school was left scrambling for alternatives.

Sarkisian has a young team at Washington and is well compensated after receiving a contract extension in January that paid him $2.25 million this year. Washington will also begin a $250 million renovation of its football stadium soon which will also include a football operations building. Things are looking up in Washington after only a short time of the 37-year-old’s tenure. There are plenty of reasons for him to turn down a job with the Bruins.

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  1. 4 Responses to “UCLA Trying To Lure Steve Sarkisian South”

  2. Ryan,
    The mocking tone of this article is unnecessary, unfounded, and seems to be motivated by a dislike of UCLA.

    Did you deride USC when Sark turned them down before they hired Lane Kiffin? Maybe he doesn’t want to leave Washington because he’s at a good program that gave him a high-paying head coaching job, and he’s repaying them with his loyalty. I actually think it’s commendable that a coach is remaining loyal to the program that gave him a good opportunity.

    As for the other candidates, Chris Petersen has been approached by a number of other schools. He’s turned down Stanford, Arizona, and reportedly Florida. Maybe he knows he has it good in Boise and doesn’t want to leave for any other job. And after Koetter and Hawkins flopped elsewhere, who’s to say he would have success in a tougher conference?

    For all we know, Sumlin may already have a deal in place with Texas A&M. I think he’s overrated and am happy he turned down UCLA.

    You also state that UCLA went behind Jim Mora’s back by talking with Sark. Are you serious? He’s a coaching candidate, not an employee. What obligation do they have to him? That’s what I mean by an unnecessarily negative tone.

    Dan Guerrero has whiffed with his last two hires and I don’t trust him to make a good hire this time. But there’s nothing wrong with taking time to try to get it right after years of mediocrity.

    Lastly, you must really have a short memory. Didn’t Dennis Erickson, Mike Riley, and Mike Bellotti all turn down USC before they hired Pete Carroll? The Trojans’ 4th choice seemed to work out pretty well, didn’t it?

    By Larry Brown on Dec 9, 2011

  3. Larry,
    I’m only mocking Guerrero (not UCLA) because he has proven to be incompetent in his hiring of football coaches before and is doing it again. I have sources on the inside at UCLA and even they think he is just bad at this. He approached Chris Petersen like he was doing the guy a favor by offering him the job and it completely turned Petersen off.

    There is nothing wrong with taking your time going after coaches, but UCLA is scrambling now because of DG’s incompetence. Yes, I thought USC’s coaching search was completely mishandled by Mike Garrett and the school got incredibly lucky that Kiffin has actually turned out to be good at his job and was able to bring in an incredible staff.

    And yes they got extremely lucky with Carroll after another mishandled coaching search. There is no argument there. I actually pull for UCLA when they aren’t playing USC because I root for the conference to be good and I think the rivalry is much more fun when both teams are good.

    Agree with you about Sumlin, I think he’s just a hot name like Turner Gill was. Petersen isn’t ready for prime time either in my opinion. I think UCLA is better off without either guy. But the way they have handled the search makes the school seem desperate.

    As for Mora, Guerrero apparently has led him to believe that he’s the guy and that he should start outlining a staff, then he went and talked to Sark and it leaked. The problem with doing that is that he could turn Mora off to the job and screw the school even further. If you’re going to do that, make damn sure it doesn’t go public.

    UCLA is simply better than what they are getting from Guerrero’s search.

    By Ryan Phillips on Dec 9, 2011

  4. If what you just wrote in the comment were the subject of the post, I wouldn’t have said anything. I probably would have agreed that Dan Guerrero seems to be doing a poor job handling the hiring after botching the previous two. The problem is the focus of your story was on how Sarkisian turning down the job was a sign of embarrassment for UCLA. I disagree with that premise for the reasons mentioned above.

    By Larry Brown on Dec 9, 2011

  5. Fair enough. Maybe in my attempt to explain things the point may have gotten lost. I think Guerrero looks bad, not UCLA. If UCLA looks like it is in a weak or desperate position it is completely his fault.

    And frankly, they should have reached out to several candidates from the first day (Petersen, Sumlin, Sark, etc.) not gone about this one by one. It has made it so they are constantly playing catch-up.

    By Ryan Phillips on Dec 9, 2011

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