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DeWayne Walker to UCLA?

For the second time in four years UCLA is looking for a football coach, and NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker could be a candidate. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

When UCLA hired Rick Neuheisel in 2008, their marketing department famously took out a one page ad in the L.A. Times proclaiming the ‘football monopoly in Los Angeles was officially over.’

If they meant they knew USC was about to go on probation they were right.  On the field they were dead wrong.  In four seasons Neuheisel’s Bruins never defeated their crosstown rival.

A 50-0 loss by the Bruins to the Trojans over the weekend cost Neuheisel his job.  Because of USC’s postseason ban, UCLA will play Oregon in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.  Neuheisel will coach the Bruins against the Ducks this Friday.

Now that Neuheisel is out, the search begins for the next head coach at UCLA.  The usual suspects like Chris Petersen and Mike Leach will be great fodder for the message boards, but according to one article multiple university sources indicate their is mutual interest between the school and NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker.

Walker is no stranger to Westwood.  He was the defensive coordinator under Karl Dorrell from 2006-2008.  When Dorrell was dismissed before the ’07 Las Vegas Bowl, Walker coached the Bruins to a 17-16 loss against BYU.  Walker interviewed for the Bruin job, but UCLA went with the big name, sexy hire to try and generate interest in a fading program.

Nearly four years later UCLA finds itself looking for a new coach.  There is no doubt Boise’s Petersen is at the top of the list, but if he spurns Hollywood for rural Idaho expect Walker to be on the short list.

Predictably, Walker denied all rumors in a phone interview with ABC-7’s Paul Cicala.  If he was interested in the job in 2008 you’d have to think he’d still be interested in 2011.  Walker even stayed on as defensive coordinator in Neuheisel’s first season before taking the NMSU job in December 2008.

It’s easy to look at Walker’s record at NMSU and pooh-pooh him as a good choice.  NMSU is one of the most difficult places in the country to win, and the Aggies have shown steady improvement in Walker’s three seasons.

Despite a 4-8 record thus far in 2011, the Aggies did go on the road and defeat Minnesota.  They have been competitive in most of their games despite losing their starting quarterback in the UTEP game.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero may once again pass over Walker for a bigger name, but I do think he could be the right man for a program desperate to regain a strong national reputation.

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