UCLA fires Dorrell after 6-6 season
LOS ANGELES -- Karl Dorrell was an acknowledged success in building his players' character as the UCLA coach. His won-loss record was another story.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who hired Dorrell to his first head coaching job five years ago, fired him on Monday after the Bruins completed a 6-6 regular season.
Dorrell was dismissed a day after UCLA accepted a Las Vegas Bowl bid and two days after a loss to cross-town rival Southern California.
"I hired Karl five years ago in the hopes that this program would grow and prosper under his leadership," Guerrero said at a news conference. "In many ways, it did.
"He established stability, established a solid foundation and dealt with the infrastructure issues that had occurred in our program at that time."
Dorrell, with a 35-27 record at UCLA, said he will continue to pull for the players he recruited.
"I know that the program is in much better shape than when I inherited it and I believe that it is ready to flourish," he said in a prepared statement. "I am proud of what the program accomplished during my five years, especially in the areas of academics, citizenship and recruiting."
Although he helped clean up the program, that was only part of what Guerrero wanted.
"The other was to build this program into a consistent winner, a program that would be in the national discussion on a regular basis," Guerrero said.
"But after an analysis of the five-year tenure at the helm, and my discussions with him through the season, my discussions with him even yesterday, I felt it was important for us and this program to move forward."
On Tuesday, UCLA announced Dorrell had decided not to coach the Bruins in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl against BYU (10-2) on Dec. 22. Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker will serve as interim coach for the game.
UCLA received bowl bids in each of Dorrell's seasons, and had an outside chance to reach the Rose Bowl before a 24-7 defeat by USC over the weekend.
The Bruins had 20 returning starters this season and were ranked No. 11 after their first two games. But then they were stunned 44-6 by Utah. UCLA later lost to then-winless Notre Dame, with quarterback injuries forcing the Bruins to use a third-string walk-on to run their offense.
Those types of defeats were the major blots on Dorrell's tenure.
"Certainly the issues of injuries came into play this year," Guerrero said. "But the concerns that have plagued us just in a general sense over this period primarily relate to inconsistent play.
"In my mind, it created a scenario that I felt needed to be changed."
Guerrero denied a report that Boise State's Chris Petersen, Texas Tech's Mike Leach and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci had been contacted about the job.
"Neither UCLA, my office, me directly or through any emissaries or third parties have been out there contacting prospective candidates for this position," he said. "That has not been the case. The decision has been made as of today and we will begin that process, our search for a new coach, imminently."
Leach, who was in New York, said he has not been contacted by UCLA.
"I'm just worried about getting first downs against Virginia," said Leach, referring to his team's Gator Bowl opponent on New Year's Day.
Dorrell's best season was 2005, when he guided UCLA to a 10-2 record. The Bruins went into Arizona with an 8-0 record and No. 7 ranking, but they had a meltdown there and lost 52-14. They were routed again in the final regular-season game, losing 66-19 to USC.
Along with the 10-2 record, a high point for Dorrell at UCLA was last December, when the Bruins knocked the rival Trojans out of the national championship game with a 13-9 upset.
Dorrell was under contract through 2011, but it included a buyout clause that would pay him $2.05-million over a two-year period.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.