BERKELEY — The heat is momentarily off the UCLA Bruins, but guess who is still on the hot seat.
It's none other than Joe Kapp, the beleaguered coach of the California Golden Bears. If the whispers are true, the Bruins will be seeing Kapp for the last time when they play the Bears today in Memorial Stadium.
Kapp's team is 1-4 and sinking fast in the Pacific 10 race. Cal beat Washington State the second week of the season, but has since been on the wrong end of a 32-point blowout by Washington as well as a 14-12 small gust of wind by Oregon State last weekend.
If the Bruins defeat Cal, the Bears will fall to 1-3 in the Pac-10, and Kapp will probably be standing on ground a lot shakier than the quicksand he seems to be on now.
Not all of Kapp's problems have been on the football field, although they have been bad enough there. In his fifth year at Cal, Kapp is 19-28-1 and coming off a 4-7 season, which would have been a lot better except for three Pac-10 losses by a total of 10 points.
The rest of this season doesn't appear to be very favorable for a turnaround. After playing the Bruins, Cal still has games against Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Stanford. The only soft touch left on Cal's schedule is Oregon (2-4).
It is expected that Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman will ask for an evaluation of Kapp, although that probably will not happen until after the season. Athletic Director Dave Maggard has already said that he would review Kapp's status only at the end of the football season.
At this point, Kapp doesn't have much to say about his own job security. He was asked this week whether he thought his players would be under pressure to save his job.
"Side issues are side issues, and a game is a game," Kapp said.
True, but it may also be true that if the games don't get Kapp, the side issues will.
There have been two incidents in the last two weeks, and apparently both have harmed Kapp's standing at Cal.
Four unidentified freshman football players are under investigation for an alleged rape of a female student after the San Jose State game Sept 27. The alleged victim, also a freshman, filed a complaint last week against the four, who are still on the team.
The players, who claim the woman consented to having sex with them, have not been charged by the police, nor has the investigation been turned over to the district attorney's office. Campus police are still handling the case.
Kapp had direct involvement in another incident that hurt him. After the Washington game, Kapp was asked by a reporter whether coaching had anything to do with Cal's losses.
"Do you want to see my (bleep)," said Kapp, unzipping his trousers.
Kapp later apologized, but Maggard said he could not condone Kapp's action.
So it is a troubled team and a troubled coach that the Bruins are playing, and UCLA must be relieved that it's somebody else's turn to have problems. For the first time this season, the Bruins are feeling upbeat, probably because they scored 25 points in the fourth quarter last Saturday and beat Arizona, 32-25, for their first Pac-10 victory.
Now, the Bruins can jump up to 2-1 in the conference with a chance to improve upon that at home next Saturday against Washington State. Even so, Coach Terry Donahue is taking the usual cautious approach.
"We just desperately need to get another win and stay in the conference race," Donahue said. "We won't play another team as emotionally hungry to play UCLA as Cal is."
Donahue continues to express concern about his offensive line, which he has regularly identified as one of the Bruins' biggest problems this season.
"Right now, I don't think it's any secret we're not playing very well on the offensive line," Donahue said. "But the line blocked better in the fourth quarter (against Arizona) than they did earlier in the game. There are no major changes planned, but the backups will play some and could become starters."
The Bruins still start tackles Eric Rogers and John Kidder, guards Jim Alexander and Onno Zwaneveld and center Joe Goebel, but Donahue is also giving a lot of playing time to backups such as tackles Ray Villalobos and Bobby Menifield, guards Frank Cornish and Mark Schmidt and center Tory Pankopf.
There was one important change at Cal last Saturday: Kapp switched quarterbacks. Freshman Troy Taylor completed 13 of 23 passes for 138 yards as a replacement for junior Brian Bedford.
Many expect the biggest change to happen at Cal, though, after the season.