LOS ANGELES (AP) – While Karl Dorrell is proud to be fourth black coach in Division I, he believes UCLA hired him for another reason.
“They wanted the best man for this job – I believe I’m that person,” Dorrell said Thursday. “When I decided to be a football coach, I wasn’t going to let any obstacles stand in my way.
“I’m very thankful for this opportunity, I will work my tail off. I’m excited, I’m privileged, I’m honored. It’s been a dream of mine. I’m proud to be a Bruin, proud to be back.”
Dorrell, wide receivers coach for the Denver Broncos, was hired as his alma mater’s 15th coach Wednesday night, beating out New Orleans assistant Mike Riley and Kansas City assistant Greg Robinson.
He succeeds Bob Toledo, fired Dec. 9 after seven years on the job.
“Karl Dorrell is an extremely impressive individual,” first-year athletic director Dan Guerrero said. “I know what I want as a coach. I know how I want our student-athletes to represent us. It was very clear in my mind which direction we needed to go.”
“I went with my gut, I went with my instincts. I went with the person I thought could take us to the next level. After my first interview with him, I just had a feeling he was the guy. There’s a presence about him, he has strong convictions, he’s a fiery competitor.”
Guerrero made his recommendation Tuesday to Chancellor Albert Carnesale, who concurred.
The chancellor gave Dorrell a hug as the news conference ended.
“There’s a sense of quiet maturity, poise and leadership that he possesses,” Carnesale said. “You can spot passion without him jumping up and down.”
The head coaching job is the first for Dorrell, hired on his 39th birthday. He joins Notre Dame’s Tyrone Willingham, San Jose State’s Fitz Hill and New Mexico State’s Tony Samuel as black head coaches in Division I.
“That’s not why I hired Karl, I hired Karl because he’s the right man for the job,” Guerrero said. “The fact that he’s African-American helps to enrich our entire program here.”
Dorrell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UCLA in 1988 – two years after completing his playing career as a wide receiver for the Bruins.
“I’d like to thank Terry Donahue for starting me in coaching,” Dorrell said. “He said, `Hey Karl, I think you have the qualities to be a good coach someday.’ He saw something in me that obviously I didn’t see.
“He said, `You never know, you might be the head coach at UCLA some day.”’
Dorrell played on three Rose Bowl-winning teams in the 1980s under Donahue, who retired after the 1995 season as the winningest coach in UCLA history and is now general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.
“My goal is one thing, obviously, and that’s to re-establish the tradition and integrity in our football program,” Dorrell said. “I understand what it takes to play UCLA football. I’m going to be a grass-roots kind of coach, very hands-on.
“I’m going to believe in my players and they’re going to believe in me.”
He spoke briefly to the team before the news conference.
“I just told them how excited I was to be standing in Spaulding Field,” Dorrell said of UCLA’s practice facility. “I haven’t been back for a long time.”
Dorrell was an assistant coach at the collegiate level for 12 years including four seasons as offensive coordinator at Colorado and another in that position at Washington before joining the Broncos in 2000.
He will leave his job with the Broncos following their game in Oakland on Sunday, but won’t coach the Bruins in Wednesday’s Las Vegas Bowl against New Mexico.
Instead, he’ll focus on recruiting and hiring a coaching staff. He guaranteed he will have at least one former head coach on his staff and said he will interview some members of the current UCLA staff.
“My expectation for next year is to win the Pac-10 championship,” Dorrell said. “Winning the Pac-10 and beating our crosstown rival are the biggest things on my mind.”
Dorrell wouldn’t identify Southern California by name. The Trojans have won the last four games between the schools – the last two by a combined 58 points.