Bellotti interviews, and it’s not just talk

Times Staff Writer

Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti is being wooed by UCLA officials about the Bruins’ football coaching job, sources familiar with the search said.

Bellotti has been interviewed by UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, who has pursued the Ducks’ coach throughout the process, sources said. Bellotti has listened to UCLA’s overtures, according to one source.

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel and Temple Coach Al Golden have been interviewed by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, but Bellotti probably would become an instant front-runner. He has a 105-52 record in 13 seasons at Oregon and had the Ducks in position to reach the national title game this season before quarterback Dennis Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The Ducks were ranked as high as No. 2 before Dixon, a Heisman trophy candidate, was injured against Arizona State on Nov. 15. Oregon lost its last three games to finish 8-4.

In 2001 Oregon finished 11-1 and was ranked second in the nation. Bellotti has been on Guerrero’s short list since Karl Dorrell was fired on Dec. 3.


Bellotti, 57, came to Oregon as an offensive coordinator after five seasons as head coach at Chico State. He became Oregon’s head coach in 1995 and has taken the Ducks to 11 bowl games, including a 38-16 victory over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl to cap the 2001 season. His teams often rank among the top offenses in the Pac-10.

Bellotti makes $1,055,000 a season; there is a $350,000 buyout in his contract. UCLA officials are in position to offer a new coach between $1 million and $2 million annually, a source familiar with the university said. Dorrell made $850,000 plus incentives.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow said that he is no longer interested in the UCLA job, according to a statement released by his agent Thursday.

“I appreciate the interest UCLA has shown in me and the opportunity to speak with them about the head coaching position,” Chow said. “While I was told that our meeting went very well, I was given no indication as to what their final decision will be, or what their time frame is to make that decision.

“Nevertheless, I have decided not to pursue things further with UCLA at this time. My focus is on the Tennessee Titans and preparing our team for a chance at the playoffs.”

Chow was not scheduled to be brought to UCLA for an interview with Chancellor Block, a source familiar with the search said.

DeWayne Walker, UCLA’s interim coach, and John Harbaugh, a Philadelphia Eagles assistant, have also been interviewed for the job by Guerrero.

UCLA plays Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.

Walker said he met with quarterback Ben Olson on Thursday. Olson is questionable because of an injured left knee.

“We talked philosophies and about just being quarterback and leadership, all those kind of things,” Walker said. “We’re not questioning anything. That’s one thing I learned, you never question a player because everybody’s [pain] threshold is different. We just had a little man-to-man talk.”

Walker said he had a “similar conversation” with Osaar Rasshan, who will start if Olson cannot play.