Toledo to coach New Mexico offense
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- UCLA fired Bob Toledo three years ago because the Bruins wanted to raise the bar. New Mexico hired him for the same reason.
Toledo, the Bruins' former head coach who once led them to a school-record 20 straight wins, was introduced Wednesday as New Mexico's new assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.
"We need a spark to get us to the next level," said New Mexico head coach Rocky Long, who was Toledo's defensive coordinator at UCLA in 1996 and 1997.
Toledo was fired by UCLA at the end of the 2002 season, with lopsided losses to Top 10 teams Southern Cal (52-21) and Washington State (48-27) sealing his ouster. At the time UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said the Bruins felt a change was necessary if UCLA was to become "a national-caliber program."
The Bruins finished 8-5 in 2002, including a win over New Mexico in the Las Vegas Bowl. Toledo did not coach the Bruins in the bowl game and has been out of coaching ever since. Toledo, who is still receiving money from the buyout of his six-year contract with UCLA, said he has spent the last three years working on his golf game and helping his wife Elaine babysit their seven grandchildren.
Toledo said he's had other opportunities to get back into coaching but none had appealed to him until now.
"I had opportunities to be a head coach and to be an assistant, actually some pro opportunities," Toledo said. "But I wanted to be somewhere where I really enjoyed being around the people. I just think this was the right fit."
Toledo, formerly Long's boss, said the reversal in roles won't be a problem.
"I was the head coach and he was the assistant. That's not a concern," Toledo said. "We're both here for the same reason, we want to win football games. I've sat in that chair. I'm a company man. I'll be loyal, I'll be dedicated, I'll work hard. I know who's the boss."
Long said he expects Toledo to make New Mexico's offense much more productive. The Lobos last season ranked 40th nationally in scoring (29.6 points a game), 43rd in total offense (397.4 ypg) and 86th (197.4 ypg) in passing.
"I thought we underachieved this season," Long said.
New Mexico, which hasn't won a conference title since 1964, finished second in the Mountain West Conference three straight seasons (2002-2004) and went to three consecutive bowl games. New Mexico was expected to contend again for the conference title this season, but finished 6-5 and failed to get a bowl bid.
"We've come real close three times to winning a conference championship and haven't won one yet. That means we're missing something," Long said. "It might not be very much."
Toledo said he plans to run an offense with multiple formations, while emphasizing the running game.
"If you can run the football, then you can make big plays with play-action passes," he said.
The 59-year-old Toledo will begin work next month. He will replace Dan Dodd, who has been New Mexico's offensive coordinator since 2000 but is expected to be reassigned to another position.
Toledo coached at UCLA from 1996-2002, compiling a 49-32 record that included the 20-game winning streak in 1997 and 1998 and two Pac-10 championships.
"I think Bob Toledo is one of the best offensive mines in the game," Long said. "I think he's one of the best play callers in the game. To get a guy of his caliber gives you an automatic spark in your program."
Returning quarterback Kole McKamey said some of that spark is already evident.
"Something different is always exciting," McKamey said. "But when it comes down to it, it's still football. We've got to learn a new offense and we've got to make it work. There's a pretty good buzz around here."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press