April 14, 2011
The storied UCLA-Stanford rivalry has written many outstanding chapters over the previous decades. Whether it has been the eight meetings in the NCAA Tournament, including three times in the championship match, Stanford's 18-match winning streak or UCLA winning two of the last three matchups, the Bruins and the Cardinal have pushed each other to greatness since the mid-1970's.
The next chapter in this rivalry will be a friendly competition between the two coaching staffs as they attempt to continue to bring the alumni of both schools back into the fold. UCLA head coach Michael Sealy and Stanford head coach John Dunning have embarked on a spirited battle to see which school can achieve the greatest alumni support over the next few months. The prize: seeing the losing staff wear the other team's colors next season.
"When I first inherited the program here, I knew I wanted to get the alumni back involved," Sealy said, "and it wasn't about a financial amount, but it was about drumming up interest and support in the program. In trying to build a program that is rich in tradition and legacy, you want to keep everyone involved."
So when Sealy stumbled upon a letter about a contest within the Stanford athletic department where all the programs compete to see who can get the higher percentage of athletes back involved, he thought it'd be a great idea for a similar competition between the two schools.
"UCLA and Stanford have battled for years and years and we are trying to accomplish the same thing, and adding any sort of wrinkle to make it more competitive is always a fun thing. So I talked to John and I said `why don't we battle each other.' We both pride ourselves in the tradition of our programs and if we are going to brag about it to all our recruits and people around the country about this rich legacy, then let's put our money where our mouths are."
"Stanford and UCLA have one of the longest and greatest competitive traditions in the history of our sport," said Dunning. "We want to extend the amazing battles we have had to another arena. We are going to compete to see which program can get the most alums involved during the next several months. We are putting the pride we have in our respective programs on the line."
Under the parameters of the competition, alumni have a $20 minimum donation to be counted and current players can be involved for $10. The contest is retroactive from January 1, so all alumni money received in the 2011 calendar year will count, and will conclude on Sept. 16, one week prior to the first UCLA-Stanford match.
Alumni are asked to contact their respective development offices to donate funds to the competition. UCLA alumni can contact Joel Moersch (firstname.lastname@example.org) or click here to donate online. Stanford alumni can contact Heather Owen (email@example.com).
The losing staff will wear the opponent's colors at the winner's venue. The Bruins host Stanford on Sept. 23 at the Wooden Center, while the Cardinal host UCLA on Oct. 29. If either of the matches is scheduled to be televised, the competition will be paid off during that contest.
The origin of the "punishment" of wearing the other team's colors came when Sealy saw that the governors of the two Super Bowl teams have a special contest with the loser having to do something.
"I tried to figure out what to do to make it uncomfortable for the loser in a fun way. It started out as John or I would have to wear the other's color tie, so if I win then I'd pick out a glorious blue and gold tie for John and if he wins I'm stuck wearing whatever color that is," Sealy quipped. "The assistant coaches then heard about it and wanted to get involved, so the entire staff will do something to honor the winner."
On the court, Stanford holds a 42-36 edge in an all-time series that has seen some long winning streaks by both sides. The Bruins won the first eight matchups from 1976-80 and then ran off another seven-match winning streak from 1988-1990. Following a home win in 1994, UCLA led the series 31-13. But since then, Stanford has won 29 of the last 34 contests to take a six-match edge. The Cardinal claimed nine in a row from 1994-98 and then reeled off 18 straight from 2001-09.
"Even with the numbers in their favor over the last few seasons, I'm sure most of the battles have been amazing throughout the years," Sealy said. "We recruit the same student-athletes, so even if we only play twice a year we are still competing with Stanford every week. Both programs are very respectful of each other and we use Stanford as a yardstick to measure how good we are doing."
Each of the last three contests has been an epitome of the storied rivalry. On Oct. 31, 2009 in Palo Alto, the Bruins led 2-0, dropped the next two, but came back to win the fifth, as Andy Banachowski won his 1,100th-career match. Last Oct. 9, Stanford came into Pauley Pavilion as the top-ranked team in the country and UCLA came away with a 3-2 victory after coming back from 2-1 down. The Cardinal settled the score on Nov. 5 at home with a 3-1 triumph.
"That win last year was huge for our program," Sealy said. "It was our first big win with this new staff and a nice confidence win for our program. It was just another chapter in this storied rivalry."
The teams have met eight times during the NCAA Tournament (5-3 UCLA lead), including three times in the championship match. In 1984, the teams met at Pauley Pavilion and spurred on by the home crowd, the Bruins gutted out a five-set victory, winning 15-13 in the fifth to claim their first NCAA title. In 1992, the teams met again in the title contest in Albuquerque, N.M., with Stanford posting a 3-1 victory. The Cardinal would knock off the Bruins for the second time in the final two years later in Austin, Texas with another 3-1 win.
The ultimate goal of the competition is to get the alumni back into their respective programs. "Let's see how involved we can get our alumni," Sealy said. "It's one thing to say I played at Stanford or I played at UCLA and it was great, but now we are challenging them to take that to the next level to bring them back in."
Of course, every competition comes with some good old fashioned ribbing. Sealy is very excited to possibly pick out a tie for Dunning.
"I think the blue will make John's eyes pop," Sealy joked. "With a new vibrant blue, it will really help out his closet and give him some more options. I'll make sure to bring a photo of him with me to make sure I'm doing him justice. And I don't mind wearing red. I think I can pull it off. But it's that dullish, weird off-color red that I don't know how to incorporate. So I think I have a lot more to lose in this contest."
Support the Bruins quest to beat the Cardinal by clicking here to make an online donation or by contacting Joel Moersch in the UCLA Athletics Development office at (310) 206-0787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.