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Rocky Seto won't be UCLA's defensive coordinator

UCLA FOOTBALL

Rick Neuheisel offered Seto the job last week, then the Bruins' head coach changed his mind the next day.

February 08, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • A day after accepting UCLA's offensive coordinator job, former USC assistant coach Rocky Seto was told by Bruins' Coach Rick Neuheisel that the team was "moving in another direction."
A day after accepting UCLA's offensive coordinator job, former USC… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

UCLA seems to be suffering from a lack of coordination.

Twice in the 52 days since defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough was fired Dec. 18, Bruins Coach Rick Neuheisel appeared on the verge of filling the position.

Yet, with Neuheisel just returned from vacation Tuesday, UCLA still has that key role and two other coaching vacancies to fill.

In the latest near miss, Seattle Seahawks assistant Rocky Seto was offered the job Feb. 1 only to have Neuheisel change his mind the following day.

Seto said in a telephone interview Tuesday that Neuheisel "verbally offered me the job and I said yes." However, the next day, "he called and said it wasn't the right time and they were moving in another direction."

Neuheisel, also speaking by phone, said he couldn't offer Seto the job without Board of Regents approval. He did, though, ask "Rocky for a commitment and he gave it to me."

Neither Seto nor Neuheisel would go into detail about the reasons for UCLA's change of heart.

"While waiting for regents' approval, I had time to consider a number of factors," Neuheisel said. "I didn't feel it was the prudent thing to go forward with at this time."

According to University of California bylaws, Neuheisel had the authority to make a job offer and negotiate a term sheet without the approval of the board of regents.

"It gives the campus flexibility to negotiate with a coaching prospect with the details of the contract to follow," said Steve Montiel, a media representative for the president's office. "It's my understanding that at this [coaching] level they can make an offer and agree on terms."

Seto believed the job was his, even sending a text message to a writer at USC's Daily Trojan saying, "[I] have accepted the position tonight to coordinate at UCLA," which was included in an online story.

"I was a little disappointed," Seto said about the offer being rescinded, "but I feel I had a positive exchange and I'll leave it for Coach Neuheisel to say what the reasons were. It was a really awesome experience for me and I learned a lot about myself."

Neuheisel wouldn't fully explain why he changed his mind, saying only that he "wasn't pressured to pull back" and, "there were a lot of factors that I don't want to get into. At the end of the day, it was my decision."

UCLA has had an off-season marked by the departure of both coordinators and a recruiting class that barely cracked the national top 50. UCLA is also in need of cornerback and tight end coaches.

Neuheisel appeared on track to hire a defensive coordinator in January, but the coaches he contacted landed jobs elsewhere.

Chuck Heater and Teryl Austin, former co-coordinators at Florida, both were considered, but Heater was hired by Temple as defensive coordinator and Austin took a spot on the staff of the Baltimore Ravens.

UCLA was also interested in Rocky Long, but San Diego State promoted him from defensive coordinator to head coach after Brady Hoke was hired away by Michigan.

According to people in UCLA's football program who are not authorized to talk about the search, Neuheisel also approached Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was not interested, and was denied permission by Oklahoma State to speak with Cowboys defensive coordinator Bill Young.

Neuheisel also interviewed former Miami head coach Randy Shannon.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

Times staff writer T.J. Simers contributed to this report.

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