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Al Borges Goes From Top To Bottom Of Pac-10
Courtesy: UCLA Athletics  
Release:  10/19/2001

Oct. 19, 2001

By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES - Al Borges realizes he might have left UCLA a year too soon.

Borges received an offer he couldn't refuse from California last winter, and now, instead of having a job as offensive coordinator for one of the country's best teams, he's holding down the same position for one of the worst.

And it's possible he could be out of a job at season's end.

"When you make a move, you roll the dice a little," said Borges, who returns to the Rose Bowl for Saturday night's game between the unbeaten, fourth-ranked Bruins and the winless Golden Bears. "It's the risk you take.

"In this profession, it's so funny. It's, 'What have you done for me lately?"'

The 46-year-old Borges took the job as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Cal after being offered a 2{-year guaranteed contract and a raise of around $50,000 per year.

Along with everything else, the new position seemed a step toward a head coaching job.

"If you want to be a head coach, as an assistant, you have to rebuild something that's not there," Borges said. "You have to go to a place that's not very good at something and turn it around. Then people will say there's a reason it's good.

"At UCLA, if they had a great offense, they'd already done that."

The Bruins averaged 31.9 points during Borges' five years as their offensive coordinator.

UCLA's scoring has dropped a bit from last season (29.6 points) to this year (29.4). But the defense, which allowed 30.7 points a year ago, is giving up 12 now.

The Bears are averaging 17.6 points under Borges - lowest in the Pac-10 and five lower than last season, when they also ranked at the bottom of the conference.

"Turnovers have killed us, and our inability to make a big play," he said. "We don't have a big-play guy."

Now, as the Bears (0-5, 0-3 Pac-10) face the Bruins (5-0, 2-0), they're without quarterback Kyle Boller, a three-year starter sidelined with a back injury. He'll be replaced by Eric Holtfreter.

Not surprisingly, the Bruins are favored by 28 points over a Cal team off to the worst start in school history.

UCLA coach Bob Toledo said Borges left because of the opportunity, and no other reason.

"Al was with me the last five years and did a great job," Toledo said. "We left on good terms, he's a good friend. There's nothing between Al and myself. We're as close as any coach I've ever been associated with.

"I talked to him two weeks ago, he's struggling. I tried to cheer him up - `Go good, but not against us.' He wants to be a head coach, that's why he did what he did."

Cal coach Tom Holmoe said Borges has reviewed UCLA's personnel with the Bears' staff.

"Al can help us by giving us a scouting report on who to attack and who not to attack," Holmoe said.

The way things have gone, with the Bears being outscored 218-88 this year, it might not matter.

"Hopefully he doesn't have the secret weapons of how to shut me down," Bruins quarterback Cory Paus said of Borges, who recruited the fourth-year junior to UCLA.

"We were pretty close," Paus said. "I knew that by the time I was gone, he wouldn't be here anymore. It seemed to me that, year in and year out, he was interviewing for other jobs."

Considering Holmoe said over the summer he and his staff would be replaced if the Bears didn't have a winning season, Borges might soon be interviewing again.

"You always wonder about that," he said. "If I'm given enough time, there's no doubt in my mind this system can work. But I don't know if we will have enough time."


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