Rick Neuheisel, who quarterbacked UCLA to victory in the 1984 Rose Bowl and who compiled a record of 66-30 as a collegiate head coach, has been named his alma mater’s 16th head football coach, Bruin athletic director Dan Guerrero announced today.
The energetic and personable Neuheisel returns to the collegiate ranks after spending the past three seasons in the NFL. In his eight years as a college head coach at the University of Colorado and the University of Washington, he fashioned a record of 66-30, winning at least 10 games on three occasions and finishing in the Top 10 on three occasions, and led his teams to seven bowl games. His winning percentage of .688 places him among the top 20 active coaches with at least five years in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He was also recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters during his college coaching days.
“Rick has enjoyed great success throughout his career and we believe he is the coach who can take our program to the next level,” said Guerrero. “His teams at Colorado and Washington continually challenged for conference championships and national rankings and that is what we are looking to do at UCLA.
“Rick is an outstanding coach and recruiter. He is outgoing and personable and can motivate our players, fans and supporters. We believe he is well equipped to lead the program and attain the success all Bruin fans wish to achieve.”
“I know there are some issues in Rick’s past that concern our constituency. We have discussed those at length with Rick and have investigated those issues with the NCAA. It has been at least five years and, in some cases, more than 10 years since the incidents occurred. We believe Rick has learned from those incidents and that he is more mature and experienced in the areas of compliance.”
“I am thrilled to be returning to my alma mater as its head coach,” said Neuheisel. “UCLA is a special place and I want to thank Dan Guerrero and Chancellor (Gene) Block for the opportunity to come home. We are going to build a program our supporters will be proud of, both on and off the field. I can’t wait to get started. I made some mistakes earlier in my career and I take responsibility for those mistakes. I have learned from that experience and I would never do anything that would reflect negatively on UCLA.”
Neuheisel, 46, spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. He served as quarterbacks coach in 2005 and 2006 and in January of 2007, was promoted to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. With the Ravens, he worked with quarterbacks Kyle Boller, Steve McNair and, most recently, 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith.
During his four seasons (1999-2002) as head coach at the University of Washington, Neuheisel led the Huskies to a record of 33-16 (.673) and four bowl games (one Rose Bowl, two Holiday Bowls and one Sun Bowl). His Pac-10 record was 23-9 (.719) and Washington won one league title and finished second twice in those four seasons. The Husky offense averaged over 390 yards per game in each season, topped by 420.7 in 2002 (17th in the nation) and 407.9 in 2000 (35th).
In his final season, the Huskies finished 7-6 and tied for 4th in the Pac-10 while ranking fourth nationally in passing offense (346.2 yards per game) and earning a spot in the Sun Bowl.
In 2001, Washington finished 8-4 overall and second in the Pac-10 with a 6-2 mark, earning a trip to the Holiday Bowl. The Huskies faced five teams ranked in the final AP Poll that season, winning three of those games.
In 2000, Neuheisel led the Huskies to an 11-1 record, a first-place finish in the Pac-10 and a victory in the 2001 Rose Bowl. It was a year of great comebacks as Washington trailed in eight of its 11 wins and recorded five straight fourth-quarter comebacks. It marked the first time Washington had won 10 games since 1991 and the school’s first Rose Bowl title since that same season.
In 1999, his first season in Seattle, Washington finished 7-5 but finished second in the Pac-10, earning a trip to the Holiday Bowl. Neuheisel became the first coach in school history to lead a Husky team to a bowl berth in his first season.
During his four seasons (1995-98) as head coach at the University of Colorado, Neuheisel won 33 of 47 games (.702) and won all three bowl appearances. In his final season, Colorado finished 8-4, including a 51-43 victory over Oregon in the Aloha Bowl, and the Buffaloes ranked 13th nationally in total defense that year. In 1997, Neuheisel suffered his only losing season as a collegiate head coach (5-6) but Colorado still led the Big 12 in passing offense (232.4).
During the 1996 season, Neuheisel recorded his second straight 10-2 season, including a 33-21 victory over Washington in the Holiday Bowl, and finished second in the Big 12 North. The Buffaloes were ranked eighth on both polls and outscored opponents 319-199 while setting a school record by winning 10 consecutive road games. That team produced three All-Americans, including Butkus Award winner LB Matt Russell, and averaged 452.1 yards of offense, including 303.5 in the air, while allowing just 315.5 yards to opponents.
Neuheisel’s 20-4 record in his first two seasons were the fifth most wins at the time for a first-time head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division IA).
In his first season as a head coach (1995), Colorado finished fifth on both major polls. He guided the Buffaloes to a 10-2 record (the best ever by a first-year CU coach) and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl (a 38-6 win over Oregon), becoming the first rookie Colorado coach to take a team to a bowl game.
Neuheisel spent the 1994 season as a Colorado assistant coach under Bill McCartney after going to CU from UCLA.
Neuheisel spent six seasons (1988-93) as an assistant coach at his alma mater. During his final four years he tutored the wide receivers, helping to develop some of UCLA’s all-time great receivers, such as J.J. Stokes, Kevin Jordan and Sean LaChapelle. In 1993, Stokes helped the Bruins reach the Rose Bowl while setting school records with 82 receptions, 1,181 yards (since broken) and 17 touchdowns. LaChapelle made 73 receptions in 1991 and Jordan made 45 as a sophomore in Neuheisel’s last year (1993). In 1990, three Bruins – Scott Miller, Reggie Moore and LaChapelle – all made at least 35 receptions for at least 600 yards.
Neuheisel joined the UCLA staff full-time in 1988 and coached quarterbacks for two seasons, including NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman’s senior year (1988). Aikman earned consensus All-America honors and finished third in the Heisman Trophy race, completing a school record 228 passes (since broken) for 2,771 yards, a .644 percentage and a school record 24 touchdowns (since broken). Aikman was the No. 1 selection in the 1989 NFL Draft.
In 1986, he served as a volunteer coach and his major assignment was to teach the offense to a transfer from Oklahoma who had to sit out the 1986 season – Aikman.
The new Bruin head coach also played some professional football. In 1987, he played in three games with the San Diego Chargers and started twice. He completed 40 of 59 passes for 367 yards and one touchdown and also ran for a score. Against Tampa Bay, he completed 18 of 22 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown, setting a team record for completion percentage in a game (81.8%).
He also spent two seasons (1984 and 1985) in the United States Football League (USFL), playing with the San Antonio Gunslingers. In his rookie season, he completed 211 of 385 passes (.548) for 2,544 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Neuheisel began his collegiate career at UCLA (1979-83) as a walk-on, holding for place kicker John Lee, and earned the starting quarterback job during his senior season (1983). He led the Bruins to the Pac-10 title after a 0-3-1 start, earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors while completing 185 of 267 passes for 2,245 yards and 13 touchdowns. His completion percentage of .693 that season is still a school record. In a classic game against Washington, he completed 25 of 27 passes for a then-NCAA record .926 completion percentage in a 27-24 victory. That mark is still a UCLA record.
In his final game as a Bruin, he overcame food poisoning to lead UCLA to a 45-9 victory against Illinois in the 1984 Rose Bowl. He was named the game’s MVP after throwing for 298 yards and four touchdowns. In 1998, he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame for his efforts.
During his career, he completed 198 of 290 passes for 2,480 yards and 15 touchdowns and his completion percentage of .683 is also a school record.
Neuheisel earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 1984. In 1986, while he was tutoring Aikman as a volunteer, he attended law school at USC and earned his degree in May of 1990.
Born February 7, 1961 in Madison, WI, he grew up in Tempe, AZ, attending McClintock High School. He and his wife Susan, a UCLA graduate, have three children, Jerry, Jack and Joe.
Statement from UCLA Chancellor Gene Block
“I'm pleased to welcome Rick Neuheisel back into the UCLA family as head coach of UCLA football. Rick is a proven talent, and the right person at the right time to lead our program to great success, both on and off the field, which is always our expectation at UCLA. Rick understands what it means to be a Bruin, and I have every confidence that he will maintain a first rate program that continues to bring pride to the entire UCLA family for years to come.”
WHAT THET ARE SAYING --
Dick Vermeil, Super Bowl and Rose Bowl (UCLA) winning coach:
“Rick is a great hire for UCLA. I feel that way because first, he is a Bruin and he played for and coached with one of the great coaches in Terry Donahue. I had the opportunity to broadcast a number of his games as a head coach and I respected how he handled himself. Being in the NFL for the last three years is like going to grad school and I think that will be a great asset to him as he returns to college. I am very excited about this decision.”
Tom Ramsey, College Football Analyst and former UCLA record-setting quarterback:
“Rick is a former successful head coach in the Pac-10 and Big 12 and he has been a Rose Bowl champion as both a player and head coach. He knows that it takes from top to bottom to be successful at UCLA, having been there as a player, assistant coach and now head coach. He is also well versed in the Pac-10, thanks to his four winning years as head coach at Washington. Rick is a dynamic individual and he will be embraced and supported by the Bruin alumni.”
Terry Donahue, College Football Hall of Fame Head Coach at UCLA:
“I think Rick is a great hire for UCLA. He knows the UCLA situation as well as anybody. Rick is a proven head coach with a very successful record in the Pac-10 and he will be able to compete with any team in the conference. He will do a great job in attracting some of the best football players in the country to Westwood. It’s great that they have kept it in the Bruin Family. A lot of the former players and alumni will be excited about this hire.”