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Whom should UCLA consider as its next coach?

Unbuckling the mailbag:

Question: If you were UCLA, who would you have on your short list to be the new football coach?

Ozzie Romero

Answer: Urban Meyer, Mike Bellotti, Chris Petersen, Jon Gruden, Al Golden, Mike Leach, Mickey Rooney and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg (you asked for a short list).

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I don’t like hiring new coaches while the old coach still has his job. I may be one of the few who think Rick Neuheisel can still find his way to six victories this year and earn the fifth year on his contract.

I’m a strong advocate of giving a coach all the time you originally signed him up for.

UCLA is a bit like fool’s gold. It looks shiny on the outside. It should be a consistent contender. It should have quarterbacks like Troy Aikman lining up at the door. Truth is, UCLA only got Aikman via transfer because, while at Oklahoma, he broke his leg against Miami.

But something keeps holding UCLA back. Is it being part of a bureaucratic University of California system? Is it that the Bruins like to keep football hiring in the family? Will it forever stumble trying to find another works-cheap, in-house, 20-year gem like Terry Donahue?

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Is it because UCLA has not been willing to pay the $5 million per year it takes for someone like Nick Saban?

Does practicing on an 80-yard field affect how UCLA plays in the red zone?

Oh, sweet mystery of Westwood life.

Q: If UCLA hires Mike Leach for next season, would ESPN allow UCLA on their network?

Rails Warner

A: I’m surprised ESPN allows UCLA on its network now. Did you see the Texas game? I don’t know. Ask Leach — he’s the one with the Pepperdine law degree.

Leach is suing ESPN for defamation and libel. He says the network contributed to his firing at Texas Tech for allegations he mistreated Adam James, son of ESPN analyst Craig James.

ESPN has a huge stake in college football. It owns network rights and bowls. Its deal with Texas to form the Longhorn Network almost broke up the Big 12 Conference. ESPN tries to report objectively on all that it reigns over but it doesn’t always work.

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Would ESPN object to any school that wanted to hire Leach? One would hope not, but the Pacific 12 Conference and ESPN are now long-term network partners. Would GameDay come to a Pac-12 campus where Leach was coaching?

Craig James is still employed by ESPN and was part of Thursday night’s broadcast team in Eugene, Ore.

My suggestion is that Leach should apply to a school with a “Versus” TV contract. He’s not suing them.

Q: What’s wrong with (Dan) Hawkins? I mean, it’s Division I football! It’s the Pac-12!

Casey Sabol

A: Dan Guerrero already hired someone who coached Colorado — Neuheisel. Before that, he hired Karl Dorrell, one of Neuheisel’s former Colorado assistants.

I think Guerrero’s next coach should come from a different state. It doesn’t have to be a big state. Oregon found Chip Kelly in New Hampshire. Joe Paterno went to college in Rhode Island (Brown).

West Virginia produced Saban, Lou Holtz and … Jim Harrick.

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Never mind. How about one of the Dakotas?

According to a USA Today salary survey this week, Guerrero makes $688,296, with a maximum bonus of $75,000. Bruins fans might expect more football bang for their bucks.

Southern Methodist’s athletic director only makes $431,944 and he has June Jones.

Q: Why will the L.A. Times Sports Section not cover Oklahoma football in any way whatsoever?

You had two articles on Oklahoma State in the sports section last week. Two!

Mike Clark

A: It has been this paper’s policy not to cover Oklahoma in the wake of the Boomer Schooner once rolling over the college football columnist’s toes.

Would you also believe Oklahoma State billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens put two of my three kids through college?

Or, maybe you’re reading way too much into a couple weeks’ worth of coverage. In fact, let the record reflect I’ve covered many Oklahoma games in person but have never, ever seen Oklahoma State play live.

I have been to Barry Switzer’s house.

In 2001, at the Cotton Bowl, I was 10 feet from the end zone when Oklahoma’s Roy Williams dived over the Texas line and knocked the ball out of the hands of Longhorns quarterback Chris Simms. It’s remembered as “The Superman play” in Oklahoma lore. The ball was snatched by linebacker Teddy Lehman, who scored the clinching touchdown in a 14-3 victory.

But you probably think I was there to see Texas.

Sorry the L.A. Times didn’t put out a special section last week on Oklahoma’s victory over Ball State.

I promise to get started on an OU commemorative issue right after the Kansas game.

I know Bob Stoops but have never met Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy.

I can hum Oklahoma’s fight song but don’t even know if Oklahoma State has one.

O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A!

Our chant rolls on and on

Thousands strong

Join heart and song

How’s that?

Q: What is with Oklahoma anyway? It seems they go [to the national championship game] more than anyone and always get blown out. I guess they know where the BCS voters and computer custodians buried the bodies. Maybe this year they will show they deserve to go.

Ron Serandos

A: Oklahoma is the most popular team in BCS standings history. The Sooners have been No. 1 a record 20 times but have won only one national title, in 2000. Oklahoma lost BCS title games in 2003, ’04, and ’08 and dropped five straight BCS bowl games until defeating Connecticut in last season’s Fiesta Bowl.

Is that sort of what you’re getting at?

That said, this appears to be Oklahoma’s straightest shot at a national title since Stoops’ 2000 team. One big reason: there is no extra Big 12 title game standing in the way.

Q: I stopped reading when you put the knock on Selig and baseball. So did you have anything worth reading?

Tom Scheerer

Glendale

A: I only knocked Bud Selig in last Sunday’s column because he said “only baseball” could have produced a night like last week’s fantastic wild-card finishes.

How arrogant is that? College football has several days like that a season. Selig should have said, “Wow, what a fantastic night we had,” and everyone would have nodded their heads.

Q: I am a 75-year old grandma, now having to walk with a cane. My father graduated from Michigan in 1933 and I graduated from Michigan in 1958. I have lived in gorgeous Newport Beach for 48 years and have read the L.A. Times sports pages every day for those 48 years. Please take a second out of your busy life to explain to me why you have persistently, constantly and invariably hated Michigan all these years.

Susan Bershad

Newport Beach

A: You had to throw in the cane part? I’ll have you know Michigan is my favorite Great Lake. I think very highly of your Upper Peninsula. Gerald Ford, a former Michigan center, was my favorite U.S. President not elected to office.

I was a Tom Brady fan before Lloyd Carr ever was. And back in 1997, it was the state of Nebraska that hated me for insisting Michigan should have not shared the national title that year just because Cornhuskers’ Coach Tom Osborne decided to retire.

Hope that answers your question. Now, it’s back to my busy life.

Q: Yeah, Michigan is the 12th-best college football team in the country. They aren’t even a top-25 team in my eyes! How is that possible … reputation?

Joel Schechter

A: Michigan State fan, right? But I catch your mid-February, East Lansing snow drift. Michigan made a huge jump in the polls last week based on a 58-0 win over Minnesota, which was coming off a loss to North Dakota State.

Ohio State President Gordon Gee could round up a team from “Sisters of the Poor” and probably beat Minnesota this year.

The Gophers are really down in the ground.

I should also mention Michigan is 5-0 with a win over Notre Dame while Michigan State is 4-1 with a loss to the Irish.

Michigan State will have a chance to knock Michigan off course when the Wolverines visit Oct. 15.

Q: Pity Stanford … really? You’re crying that Stanford isn’t getting enough poll love because they fell one measly spot in the Associated Press poll this week. Really? It would have been more inexcusable to have Wisconsin not jump a few spots after soundly thumping a top-10 team.

Scott Devine

A: Stanford dropped two poll spots in the AP, to No. 7, after a bye week and thrashing UCLA. Texas, however, moved up three spots after it beat UCLA this year?

I’m not knock-wursting Wisconsin. The Badgers were my sleeper team to win the national title. I just think people put too much into Stanford losing Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers. It would have been much worse had Stanford lost Andrew Luck to the 49ers.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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