A tightly focused eight-day search for a UCLA football coach is expected to yield a choice from three NFL assistants who interviewed with campus decision-makers the last two days.
Denver Bronco receivers coach Karl Dorrell and Kansas City Chief defensive coordinator Greg Robinson met Tuesday with the same small group of UCLA administrators who interviewed New Orleans Saint secondary coach Mike Riley on Monday.
Riley is considered the leader because he was the first candidate targeted by Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, who flew to New Orleans the same day Bob Toledo was fired after seven seasons. Riley said UCLA contacted him by telephone Tuesday but did not make an offer.
Dorrell and Robinson said they felt positive about their standing after interviews at the home of Chancellor Albert Carnesale. Both coaches, reached moments before boarding flights home, said no offer was made.
Said Dorrell: "They said they are considering me strongly but will go through the process. I'm receptive to that, and I'm eager to see how it develops.
"I told them I want to redirect the program to get back to an acceptable level of achievement and demonstrate the discipline, toughness and integrity the program should have."
Said Robinson: "Everything went well, but nothing was determined. I don't want to speculate because I don't want to put anybody in an awkward position. They made me do most of the talking."
The interviews were the second for each of the coaches. Athletic program sources said Guerrero has complete authority to make the decision after gaining input from Carnesale and Vice Chancellor Peter Blackman. Guerrero attended UCLA's basketball game Tuesday night and refused to comment.
"It's Dan's call," a source with intricate knowledge of the situation said. "This is his first big hire and he is free to make it."
The candidates possess vastly different backgrounds yet have a common thread: They are as singularly focused on landing the UCLA job as the school apparently is on hiring one of them.
And any of the three is expected to accept the anticipated offer of $700,000 to $800,000 a year, plus incentives.
Riley, 49, turned down a lucrative offer last week from Alabama, his alma mater, partly because he wanted to remain in the running at UCLA. He is the only candidate with head coaching experience, although his record of 22-48 with the San Diego Chargers and Oregon State is not exactly overwhelming.
Most of his experience is as an offensive coach.
Dorrell, 39, is a former Bruin receiver whose ascent in the coaching ranks includes stints as an offensive coordinator at Colorado and Washington. He is in his third year with the Broncos and was a finalist to become head coach at San Diego State last year.
"Mike Shanahan has been more of an influence on me than anybody," he said. "He runs a well-organized football organization."
Many former Bruin players support Dorrell, especially those who played under Terry Donahue in the 1980s. He would be a bold choice because he would become only the fourth African-American coach in Division I.
"I don't want to be [considered for other jobs]," he said "This is the only opportunity that means a lot to me. UCLA is very dear to me."
Robinson, 51, is in his eighth year as an NFL defensive coordinator and his second with the Chiefs. An astute tactician with a fiery nature, he was with the Broncos during Super Bowl victories in 1997 and 1998.
Robinson was a candidate when Toledo was hired after the 1995 season but was not invited to UCLA for an interview.
"I've followed the team closely," he said. "I'm from Los Angeles and I still have a strong interest in what goes on there. UCLA is a very special place for me."
Bob Field, an assistant athletic director and longtime Bruin assistant coach, is considered Guerrero's football advisor and sat in on every interview.
Field knows each candidate well. He was a young assistant at Alabama when Riley played there in the early 1970s. He coached alongside Robinson at UCLA in the 1980s, when Dorrell was a star Bruin receiver.
But the decision is in Guerrero's hands now. And its outcome will set the course for the athletic director's budding legacy as well as for Bruin football.