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UCLA COULD MAKE HIRE IN NEXT FEW DAYS.

Byline: Brian Dohn

Staff Writer

UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker and Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel remain in contention for the Bruins' vacant coaching position, even as athletic director Dan Guerrero was looking to interview at least one more candidate, according to sources.

No decision has been made on which coach will be hired, sources said, although a decision could be coming in the next few days.

While Guerrero could interview at least one more candidate, the dichotomy between Neuheisel and Walker could go a long way if UCLA chooses between the two.

Guerrero said in his press conference he preferred a coach with head coaching experience. Neuheisel provides that, but Walker does not.

However, Walker has the support of the current players and a top-5 recruiting class, many of whom are threatening to decommit to UCLA if Walker does not remain with the school.

Walker, who spent two seasons as UCLA's defensive coordinator, turned one of the nation's worst defenses in 2005 into one of the top defenses in the Pac-10 the past two seasons.

He also has strong recruiting ties to fertile Southern California, and showed his coaching mettle during his three-week run as interim coach, which culminated with a 17-16 loss to No. 19 BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Bruins, playing with a fourth-string quarterback much of the way, lost when Kai Forbath's 28-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the game was blocked.

According to sources, the biggest hole on Walker's resume is a lack of head coaching experience, which Neuheisel possesses. He was a head coach for eight seasons, four each at Colorado and Washington.

However, Neuheisel's resume is tainted with NCAA violations, and the public relations nightmare of his firing from Washington for his involvement in a basketball betting pool, despite a judge awarding him $4.5 million in a wrongful termination suit against the school and the NCAA.

Sources said the NCAA has provided written documentation to UCLA saying it is all right to hire Neuheisel, and one of the NCAA's investigators also gave UCLA assurances Neuheisel was clear to hire.

Overall, Neuheisel is 66-30, although five of those wins were forfeited because of use of an ineligible player, who was cleared before Neuheisel was named head coach.

Neuheisel also has a proven Pac-10 record. In four seasons at Washington, he went 23-9 in the conference and won the 2001 Rose Bowl when the Huskies (11-1) beat Purdue and finished ranked third in the nation. Neuheisel also went 4-0 against his top rival, Washington State, and went 2-1 against Oregon, 3-1 against California and 1-1 against USC while with the Huskies.

While at Colorado, Neuheisel beat Oregon in the Aloha and Cotton bowls, and defeated Washington in the Holiday Bowl.

Ward surgery

UCLA sophomore defensive tackle Jess Ward underwent surgery to repair a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and is not expected to be cleared for contact until September. Ward already used his redshirt season.

brian.dohn@dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 28, 2007
Words:504
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