October 11, 2011
Members of the Bruin Family,
Welcome back to Word from Westwood.
As many of you know, this week is a very special one for UCLA Athletics, as this coming Friday, October 14, was the birth date of our very own Coach John Wooden, who would have been 101 this year. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss Coach Wooden or all the wisdom he shared with me over the years I knew him. In fact, I often reference him in the speeches or presentations that I give.
As such, I wanted to start out this week's blog with some roundball-related news.
Both Basketball Teams Open Practice
The middle of October means another rite of fall - the opening of basketball practice for both the Bruin men's and women's teams. While our women's team, under the direction of first-year coach Cori Close, officially tipped-off their practice schedule last week, Ben Howland and the men's squad host their media day this Wednesday before going at it for the first time Friday (October 14). With Pauley Pavilion under construction this year, the women will be playing all of their home games at the Wooden Center, and the men will embark on the Bruin Road Show, so please remember to plan accordingly.
Based on the sellout crowds for women's volleyball so far this season at the Wooden Center, please make sure you arrive with plenty of time to spare for events there. In fact, just this week gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field told me she hopes to have people so excited to see her team compete that students will be camping out for tickets to meets, so when you come, be prepared for the crowds. If you happen to be camping out for tickets, don't be surprised if you see me stop by to bring you some coffee and doughnuts.
Speaking of new Pauley, Ken Weiner, UCLA Senior Associate AD, recently brought Fox Sports West on a tour of the construction. For those who may have missed it, please click here for a great inside look at renovations (NOTE: The Pauley video begins at the 2:05 mark).
Wooden Book Hits Shelves
Released to coincide with what would have been Coach Wooden's birthday, I am thrilled to announce the publication of a very special book "Wooden: Basketball & Beyond: The Official UCLA Retrospective." Staff members from Athletics and ASUCLA spent more than a year culling through the ASUCLA photo archives for photos, many of which have never before been published, for this fabulous project. This coffee table book centers almost exclusively on Coach's years here at UCLA, both during his coaching career and following his retirement.
I have seen the proofs and I can assure you with the highest degree of confidence that it is a must-have for any UCLA basketball fan and would make a great holiday gift for any Bruin - and is currently available for pre-order at the UCLA Store.
Football News & Notes
I am certainly pleased with the heart and passion shown by our football team on Saturday night. The coaches and players deserve praise for the character they displayed in coming from behind to defeat an improved Washington State team in dramatic fashion. I am encouraged by the dedication that I saw from everyone on the UCLA sideline.
Saturday night's game was also our first since the new school year began and it showed. Having an enthusiastic and robust student section and band really contributed to the atmosphere, and the Rose Bowl was raucous at times, especially on Washington State's final possession.
In addition, the presence of so many great Bruins at the game, especially those of you who gathered before the game in the Bruin Fan Zone, was wonderful and I look forward to seeing even more of you at the Homecoming game against Cal later this month.
Olympic Sports Preview
This week will be a busy one for our Olympic Sports teams. Among the highlights are the first two tournaments of the season for men's golf, and men's soccer looks to extend its conference winning streak to eight games (dating back to 2010).
The women's volleyball, women's soccer, men's and women's cross country and men's water polo teams will all be competing this week as well. Click here for a complete schedule.
Finally, in case you missed it last Friday, Josh Samuels of the men's water polo squad launched an amazing, buzzer-beating shot from beyond mid-pool to tie Cal heading into halftime - check it out here.
UCLA in the Community
While I have you here, I just wanted to take some time to let you know about an upcoming philanthropic event that UCLA will be hosting.
The athletic department is joining forces once again with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation and Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA for the fourth-annual Dribble for the Cure event on Sunday, October 30. Participants are asked to bring their own basketball and "Dribble for the Cure" on a course winding through the UCLA campus. The Bruin men's and women's basketball teams and their coaches will be on hand for what will be a fun-filled day for fans and supporters alike, complete with a festival of games, autographs and pictures with players, along with food and entertainment prior to the start of the event.
Please consider joining us in this endeavor. Dribble for the Cure is an event very near and dear to our hearts. One of our own Hall of Fame basketball players, John Vallely, lost his daughter Erin to cancer when she was 12, and he himself is a cancer survivor. John is a member of the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation's Board of Directors.
Additional Dribble for the Cure information is available at dribbleforthecure.com/ucla.
Ask Dan Question of the Week
Q: It is always amazing to me how the other sports programs at UCLA have consistently been in the upper echelon for Division IA athletics, while our football and basketball programs have had their ups and downs for the past two decades. Coach Howland has managed to bring our basketball program back to respectability, yet our football program has suffered through some down times since Coach Toledo left. Football just happens to be the sport that attracts all the attention and buzz for Division I universities. My question is, "What is the priority for UCLA athletics when it comes to its football program?"
Dan S. Lagronio
A: Dan, I want to thank you for your frankness in asking this question. The thoughtfulness with which you ask indicates to me how much you care about the UCLA football program and our athletic department overall. I want to assure you that we are all committed to righting the ship in football, no one more so than our coaches and players who have been putting in countless hours to restore the program to the prominence that UCLA fans deserve.
Be assured that we will never waver in our commitment to the student-athletes and coaches that represent UCLA Football. In my tenure as athletic director, we have made major upgrades to our football facilities, something deemed critically-important to our future success. In the past year alone, we have made significant changes to the strength and conditioning facilities at the Acosta Athletic Training Center. In addition, in recent years at the Rose Bowl, we completely rebuilt the UCLA locker room and its surrounding "back of the house" infrastructure at a cost of more than $16 million, and I am proud to say that area is now as good as any in the country.
At the same time, we have significantly increased the salary pool available to hire assistant coaches, making it one of the most competitive in the conference and ensuring that the head coach continues to have the flexibility to make changes to his staff when necessary.
Please also note that the $160 million-plus stadium renovation to our home at Rose Bowl that is already underway is one of the largest ongoing facility renovation projects in the nation, and we are also constantly working with our coaching staff to determine other ways in which to improve our football program for both the short- and long-terms.
Dan, please know that we are all in the same boat, and hope to see a consistently successful football program in the future.
Thank you for your continued commitment to and support of UCLA Athletics.
Thank you all for your submissions - please know that each question submitted was read, and don't forget to submit a question to firstname.lastname@example.org this week.
Director of Athletics, UCLA