Reports: UCLA interviews Neuheisel for second time

Updated: December 20, 2007, 1:45 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Rick Neuheisel had a second interview for UCLA's open coaching position, this time with chancellor Gene Block, several Los Angeles media outlets reported Wednesday.

The former Bruins quarterback, now the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, confirmed Wednesday that his alma mater has contacted him about replacing the fired Karl Dorrell. And Neuheisel's current boss, Ravens coach Brian Billick, is unabashedly lobbying for him to get the job.

"I have been contacted and, as an alum, I want what's best for them. And if I can help I would certainly be excited," Neuheisel told The Associated Press in Owings Mills, Md., where he was helping prepare the Ravens for Sunday's game at the Seattle Seahawks.

When asked if returning to the Bruins, whom he quarterbacked to victory in the 1984 Rose Bowl and before he became a UCLA assistant from 1986-93, would be his dream job, the 46-year-old Neuheisel said: "Yeah.

"But I want what's best for them ... All of us [Bruins] want to see that football program on top."

On Thursday, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow said he has withdrawn from consideration for the job. Chow interviewed for the opening.

"I appreciate the interest that UCLA has shown," Chow, the former USC offensive coordinator, said in a statement. Chow, who did not give a reason for withdrawing, had been given no indication as to UCLA's hiring timeline.

Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, the interim head coach for the Bruins' game Saturday against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, is another candidate for the job. So is Philadelphia Eagles assistant coach John Harbaugh.

Neuheisel, whose previous head coaching stints at Colorado and Washington included winning and turmoil, is reportedly the only candidate to have completed a second interview with UCLA. Neuheisel reportedly is the only potential coach to meet with the school's chancellor.

Sources said Guerrero was initially uninterested in speaking with Neuheisel because of the coach's previous run-ins with the NCAA -- Colorado was placed on two years' probation for rules violations, and Neuheisel was fired from Washington for his involvement in a NCAA tournament betting pool. However, support from alumni and former players led to an interview.

Neuheisel wouldn't discuss to The AP the specifics of his contact with UCLA.

He hasn't been in the college game since Washington fired him in 2003 for participating in a betting pool on the NCAA basketball tournament. He sued for wrongful termination from Washington and settled in March, 2005, with UW and the NCAA for $4.5 million.

Neuheisel began his road back to coaching in the fall of that year as a volunteer assistant coaching quarterbacks at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School. Billick hired him in '05 to be Baltimore's quarterback coach.

When asked Wednesday about whether he had concerns over hiring Neuheisel in the wake of the mess he left behind with the Huskies, Billick said: "No, because I think, frankly, most of that was just B.S.

"I mean, it was a [gosh darned] basketball pool. Are you kidding me?" Billick said in a conference call with Seattle media.

"Clearly there were other issues, there were other agendas being played out. I think Rick has come through and I think the NCAA, rightfully so, has made it very clear in exonerating Rick."

Last January, Billick promoted Neuheisel to offensive coordinator -- though Billick calls the plays for the Ravens (4-10).

"I think Rick has learned the college game is the thing for him," Billick said. "He's an excellent pro coach, but the enthusiasm and the affection he has for the college game, it's better suited for the college game.

"He certainly was one of the bright young head coaches in this game. Had this not come about in terms of some of the difficulties, I think you'd be looking at Rick Neuheisel at this level as a potential head coach in the NFL in the same way you rumor whoever, the Urban Meyers ... He'd be right at the top of that list, except for an unfortunate set of circumstances."

Neuheisel's settlement still rankles many in Seattle. And his destructive departure left the Huskies' program -- which Neuheisel had led to the 2001 Rose Bowl -- in a spiral it has yet to reverse.

Yet Neuheisel is looking forward to returning to the city Sunday.

"It will be fun because I have a lot of fond memories of my time in Seattle," he said.

"The ending was no fun, but we won a lot of games while I was there and made a lot of friends and had some very rewarding times. I don't have any ill will toward the city, nor the people, nor the school."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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