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UCLA meets with Golden

Times Staff Writer

Temple Coach Al Golden was at UCLA to interview with Chancellor Gene Block about the Bruins’ head coaching job on Wednesday, sources familiar with the search said.

Golden, 38, has coached at Temple for two seasons and, though he has only a 5-19 record, is considered an up-and-coming coach. He is the second candidate to be interviewed by Block. Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel was at UCLA on Tuesday.

Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, in Las Vegas for a Las Vegas Bowl pre-game ceremony, said that the “search was progressing and we hope to have a resolution in the near future.”

Guerrero declined to comment whether that resolution would come by early next week, though a source familiar with the program said that UCLA could have a coach in place by the end of next week.

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DeWayne Walker, UCLA’s interim coach, Norm Chow, offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, and John Harbaugh, assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, were also interviewed by Guerrero, but none have been brought in for an interview with Block.

Golden, though, has risen quickly as a candidate since the search officially began after Karl Dorrell was fired on Dec. 3. A source said that Golden impressed Guerrero during the initial interview. He and Block were both at the University of Virginia. Golden was the Cavaliers’ defensive coordinator from 2001 to 2005 and Block was a long-time professor at Virginia and the university’s vice president and provost from 2001 to 2006.

Golden, a former tight end at Penn State, was an assistant at Boston College and Penn State before becoming the youngest defensive coordinator in NCAA Division I-A when Virginia hired him at the age of 32. The Cavaliers’ defense went from being ranked 108th among Division I schools in 2001 to 18th in 2004.

At Temple, he took over a program that had not had a winning season since 1990 and had averaged two victories a season in that time. The Owls were dropped from the Big East Conference in 2004 and university officials were considering dropping football.

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Golden rebuilt the program’s infrastructure and produced a 4-8 record in 2007.

What is not known is whether a Golden hire would upset the desire of athletic department officials to retain Walker, who, besides improving the Bruins’ defense, has been the key to the recruiting resurgence the last two years. Golden has never recruited on the West Coast.

Neuheisel, meanwhile, remains in the picture.

He was said by sources to have had a positive interview with Block, though whether that will offset his past as head coach at Washington and Colorado is unknown.

The NCAA placed Colorado on two years’ probation for rules violations, though all were considered secondary violations. Neuheisel was fired from Washington for his involvement in a NCAA basketball betting pool, but later won a wrongful termination case and received a $4.5-million settlement from the NCAA and Washington.

On Wednesday, Neuheisel said, “I can’t comment on whether I’ve been contacted, but as an alum, I want what’s best for the program. All of us want to see UCLA mentioned prominently with the elite in college football.”

The chances of quarterback Ben Olson playing against Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday are growing slimmer.

Olson watched practice Wednesday, unable to do team drills because of soreness in his left knee. He was injured against Notre Dame on Oct. 6, and has played less than three quarters since, and then “tweaked” the knee Monday, according to Walker, the interim coach.

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“I think he may have tweaked it twice since,” Walker said. “We’ll just have to wait and see. You like him to feel confident. If he’s not confident then that’s the problem. Hopefully do something to build his confidence to play.”

Walker said that a final decision would be made after Friday’s practice, but confidence didn’t seem high.

“I’m going to try to see if I can pull a rabbit out of the hat in the next couple days to see if I can get him mentally ready,” Walker said. “We need him. Hopefully we can get it done.”

If Olson can’t play, the job will fall to sophomore Ossar Rasshan, who made his first collegiate start against Arizona State on Nov. 10 and played the first half against Oregon.

“They haven’t told me straight out, but they let me know to be prepared because of the way Ben is going,” Rasshan said. “It hasn’t hit me yet, but I know the next 24 hours will be a real exciting feeling.”

chris.foster@latimes.com


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