Rick Neuheisel – Hours after learning he had been fired Monday, Rick Neuheisel was back on the practice field at UCLA for an evening session leading the Bruins for the first time as a lame-duck coach.
He walked briskly from player to player shaking hands during warm-up drills and later, when he met with the media after practice he shook the hands of each regular beat writer and thanked each one personally, before staring blankly into the distance for a moment when asked to assess his situation.
“I’m numb,” Neuheisel said. “I guess the rational side of me should have seen this coming, but I never think that way. I always think optimistically and I think this is going to turn and my whole life it always has.”
He will be staying on to coach the Pac-12 title game Friday against Oregon. He will be relieved of his duties win or lose and offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will take over the team should UCLA advance to a bowl game.
Neuheisel said being fired caught him off guard because he was so focused on preparing for Friday’s game. He showed up to tape a television interview Sunday at UCLA and the questioner asked him about a newspaper report that said he would be fired.
“I said, ‘What does it say?’ and it had sources close to the top said I would be dismissed,” Neuheisel said.
He said, he then asked athletic director Dan Guerrero for a meeting, and that took place Monday morning. The school issued a news release immediately after.
Neuheisel has a 21-28 record as coach at UCLA, the school he once led to a Rose Bowl victory as quarterback. He coached at Colorado, Washington and was an assistant for the Baltimore Ravens before landing the job at UCLA, which he called his dream job.
“This is a miserable place to be to be fired from what you have dreamt about your whole life,” he said.
An avid college football fan, he says he understands coaches getting fired is a part of the job.