Former UCLA players and coaches, some of whom felt distanced from the football program during former coach Bob Toledo's tenure, are praising Wednesday's hiring of Karl Dorrell as UCLA's 15th head coach.
They universally feel that the off-field problems will quickly stop with Dorrell, who has a strong sense of discipline that can be traced back to his playing years at UCLA from 1982-86, when teammates would practically try to drag the former receiver out the door on weekend nights, only to be rebuffed by the serious-minded Dorrell.
"I believe Karl is going to make an immediate impact," said former UCLA receiver Michael Young. "Give him two years and I think you'll see a big change in the makeup of the players and how they conduct themselves. He will not stand for players to not be disciplined.
"In the last few years, it was like we were becoming another Miami. A lot of alumni could have stomached some of these incidents if [the Bruins] were in the running for a national championship or beating USC, but that was not happening. It really marred the university."
Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue, now the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, coached Dorrell in the mid-1980s at UCLA.
Donahue, who was somewhat estranged from UCLA during Toledo's tenure, now feels like he is again a card-carrying member of the Bruin family.
"The fact that one of our own is head coach is certainly going to bring me a lot closer in terms of involvement and participation," Donahue said.
Starting in 1999, Toledo began to distance the UCLA program from the image of its past, showing particular disdain for the "gutty little Bruins" phrase that characterized the undersized but overachieving teams of the Donahue era.
"I don't like that term," Toledo said in September 1999. "I hate to keep talking about it because there's a lot of great old, gutty little Bruins out there, but this is a new era. We're no longer that. We're not little anymore. I appreciate what they were in the past and I respect them, but it was a different era. And this is an era of big people."
Former players said they were not encouraged to drop by practice and were not asked to offer insight in a mentoring capacity.
"That's the one thing Coach Donahue did -- we liked to see the Freeman McNeils and Kenny Easleys, the Mark Harmons and John Sciarras. They used to be around and they'd come and work out with us in the off-season," Young said. "From what I was told, that was not something that was part of the program [in recent years]."
Said former quarterback Matt Stevens: "I think there should be a lot more mentorship between ex-players and young players. I don't know if that was happening when Bob Toledo was there."
Dorrell is being described by former teammates as a reserved, even-keeled type who will neither grieve after a loss nor dance at midfield after a victory.
"Karl is very consistent in his demeanor, and I can tell you from my years in the NFL and at UCLA that players like that in a coach," Young said. "What players do not like is a coach that you don't know who is going to show up from day to day. That's where players begin to have problems. Karl will be the same guy when they get beat as when they win.
"If I'm a kid in Southern California right now, if they had not made these changes, there is no decision ... you go to USC."
Former UCLA receiver Mike Sherrard, who played most of his nine years in the NFL with San Francisco and the New York Giants, said Dorrell was a solid choice.
UCLA defeated USC in three of the four years Dorrell played (they also won in 1984, when he used a redshirt season).
"He knows how to beat USC and he knows how tough it is to lose to them," Sherrard said. "It's a gutsy move by [Dan] Guerrero ... it would have been easier to go with an established head coach, but I give Guerrero a lot of credit for going with a younger guy."
Former players also approved of Dorrell being selected instead of New Orleans Saints' assistant Mike Riley ... and not because Riley is a former USC assistant.
"I've heard nothing but good things about Riley, but [the UCLA job] might have been more of a nice stop for him," Stevens said. "For Karl Dorrell, this is not only his dream, but his destiny.
"If Karl Dorrell was going to run for president, you wouldn't find anything wrong with this guy."
Times staff writer Steve Henson contributed to this report.