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Walker gets his own team

UCLA's defensive coordinator is hired as the head coach of New Mexico State's struggling program.

December 31, 2008|Chris Foster

DeWayne Walker will be introduced as New Mexico State's football coach today, ending three seasons as UCLA's defensive coordinator.

Walker, 48, becomes the seventh African American head coach in major college football.

UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said in a statement, "DeWayne is a first-class coach and a first-class man who certainly deserves the opportunity to run his own program. DeWayne has been a terrific asset to UCLA, both on and off the field, and he will be missed. I, and the entire UCLA family, thank him for what he has done for our program and wish him well."

Attempts to reach Walker were unsuccessful. He is scheduled to attend a news conference this morning in Las Cruces, N.M.

Walker's departure costs UCLA one of its top recruiters and a coach who coordinated a unit that was the team's strength.

When Walker arrived at UCLA, the Bruins were coming off a 2005 season in which their defense ranked 113th among the nation's 119 major college teams. He turned that around quickly, developing speed-based schemes that vaulted the Bruins to a ranking of 33rd in 2006, which included a 13-9 upset of second-ranked USC that knocked UCLA's rival out of national championship contention. UCLA's defense ranked 29th in 2007 and 48th this season.

At New Mexico State, Walker takes over a program that has had only four winning seasons since 1967 and has not been to the postseason since the 1960 Sun Bowl.

He replaces Hal Mumme, who had a four-year record of 11-38, including a 3-9 mark last season when the Aggies were 1-7 in Western Athletic Conference play.

UCLA's search to replace Walker began before Tuesday's confirmation that he had been hired away.

"I hope to fill the defensive coordinator position in the next few weeks," Neuheisel said in his statement. "Because I felt there was an excellent chance DeWayne would get a head coaching opportunity, I have a list of candidates for the position."

Linebackers coach Chuck Bullough and defensive line coach Todd Howard could be considered as coordinator.

Neuheisel a year ago expressed interest in coaxing USC assistant Ken Norton back to UCLA. Norton was an All-American linebacker for the Bruins.

But this week Norton accused UCLA of using underhanded tactics against USC, saying recruits were being told that Norton -- a main recruiter for the Trojans -- would be joining UCLA if Walker left.

Norton said he was staying at USC and Neuheisel, in denying the allegations, implied that Norton would not be a candidate if Walker left.

Walker was an NFL secondary coach for four seasons -- two with the Washington Redskins, two with the New York Giants -- before coming to UCLA. Before that, he spent one season as associate head coach and secondary coach at USC.

"I'm thrilled for DeWayne," USC Coach Pete Carroll told reporters.

" . . . I hope we always showed the respect openly so you guys realized how much regard we had for his work when he was [at UCLA]. They played great defense and he did a fantastic job.

" . . . He's a great guy and he knows this recruiting area here. He's going to draw out of Southern California. I think it's a great choice, and I wish him the very best of luck and I know he's going to be successful."

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Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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