Monday, December 03, 2007

Karl Dorrell fired

I have mixed feelings about UCLA firing football coach Karl Dorrell. On the one hand, Dorell, who was a marvelous UCLA wide receiver in the 1980s, had a decent NFL career and was apparently a good NFL assistant coach, from all that I can tell, is a thoroughly decent human being, one of the few athletes who really did serve as a role model for others (I've written extensively of the foolishness of expecting most athletes to be role models at anything other than athletics), and a pretty good football coach.

His players apparently were very fond of him. He seems to have been an excellent recruiter. And he took over a football program that had been marred by scandal -- the kind of scandal that comes from silly NCAA rules that pretend major-college football is an amateur sport, but those are the rules just now. Karl made the program honorable.

However, it seems, and the record bears this out, that he just might not have been ready to be a head football coach at a major university that expects its teams to be not just pretty good, but to contend for the Rose Bowl almost every year. He was probably unfortunate to share tenure in Los Angeles with Pete Carroll at USC, who has accomplished all the things we wanted Karl Dorrell to accomplish and maybe more. But these inexplicable things -- getting blown out by Utah, losing this year to the worst Notre Dame team in history, losing most of his bowl games -- seemed to happen every year. He had talent available, but he just didn't seem to know how to get the best from them. Yes, UCLA had crippling injuries this year, but all teams have to cope with injuries. What was strange was that the injury-ridden Bruins were capable of beating Oregon (injury-riddled itself at the time, to be sure) but not of winning enough big ones. So I can understand letting him go.

But there's still a sadness about the affair. Karl Dorell is so decent, so upright, that you wanted him and his teams to be better, and they came tantalizingly close often. But not often enough.

I wish him the best.

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