May 8, 2012
If you were one of the 13,000-plus fans at the Rose Bowl on Saturday for the UCLA Football Spring Game, I hope that you enjoyed what turned out to be quite a festive, day-long event. After having conversations with some of them since, I can tell you for sure that the players were delighted to take part in live action in front of a very engaged crowd and that it was a treat for me to see the exuberance of the coaches as they saw the fruits of their labor come to life.
As I headed home from the Spring Game, I thought not only of them, but also of the spring sports teams that will be competing for NCAA Championships. For some, that quest gets underway beginning this week, and for others, it is still a few weeks away. Regardless, this truly is the stretch run of the season for spring sports, and many of our student-athletes are poised for deep runs into the competitions that await them.
The teams already in the NCAA mix are as follows:
* The #1-ranked UCLA women's water polo team kicks off NCAA Tournament play on Friday at Noon at San Diego State with a quarterfinal matchup against Iona. Should they win, a possible rematch with USC is looming in the semifinals the next day.
* The #1-ranked women's golf team will officially begin defense of its 2011 NCAA Championship at the NCAA West Regional in Colorado on Thursday. As reigning champions and the top-ranked team for most of the season, the Bruins are again among the title contenders. The top eight teams from this regional will advance to the NCAA Championships.
* On Friday, the #1-ranked women's tennis team opens play in the NCAA Tournament when it hosts Eastern Kentucky at LATC. Should UCLA win that match, they will host a second round match on Saturday against either Arkansas or Long Beach State.
* The #5-ranked men's tennis team opens play in the NCAA Tournament Saturday at LATC when it, too, hosts Eastern Kentucky in the NCAA first round. A win then means a second round match at home on Sunday against the winner of the San Diego-Fresno State match.
* Meanwhile, next week, the #3-ranked men's golf team will compete in the NCAA Central Regional in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The top five teams from this regional will advance to the NCAA Championships at Riviera Country Club.
A couple of teams will also be competing for conference championships this week:
* Both the men's and women's track and field teams return to Eugene, Oregon for the first-ever Pac-12 Outdoor Track Championships. Anyone who has ever been to "Tracktown USA" knows that the atmosphere should be electric and the competition exciting.
* The #7-ranked women's rowing team will compete in the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships on Saturday and the Pac-12 Championships on Sunday, both in Rancho Cordova in their final race before NCAA Championship selections next Tuesday.
* The #17-ranked softball team wraps up its regular season this weekend in Eugene before learning its NCAA tournament fate. The Bruins took two of three from Arizona last weekend and are just one game behind the Ducks in the Pac-12 standings.
* The #11-ranked baseball team is also in position for an NCAA Tournament berth after winning two of three in an important non-conference series against Purdue at JRS last weekend. After today's game at Pepperdine, the Bruins are on the road for the next two weekends, at Washington and at Cal, before hosting USC in the final regular season series.
Off the field of play, the department also made some news last week ...
Men's Basketball Team Headed to China
Our men's basketball team will be going to China for a preseason tour this August. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and I have been in discussions about the possibility of this tour for more than a year, and, as a result, we were able to execute it with the help of the Pac-12 Conference. We are excited to provide our players with this unique cultural opportunity. The NCAA rules allow incoming freshmen to join, so it will be a great chance for Coach Ben Howland to integrate the newcomers with the strong nucleus of returning players early on for 10 days of practice plus the games in China.
Special Honor for UCLA Olympians
Last Saturday, before the Spring Football Game, the Athletic Department and the Alumni Association had the unique chance to honor UCLA Olympians past and present with a brunch in the Morgan Center Hall of Fame Press Room. A number of very important Bruins were able to make it out for the occasion, and I wanted to thank each of them in this forum for their attendance at that special event. It was quite an impressive collection of athletes and coaches: Brent Ballatore (representing his late father Ron), Keith Erickson, James Ferguson, Natalie Golda, Laurie Havel, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Rafer Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Bob Larsen, Ann Meyers Drysdale, Monte Nitzkowski, Samantha Peszek, Ting Quah, Dot Richardson, Gary Sanserino, Tasha Schwikert, Art Shurlock, Sinjin Smith and Dwight Stones.
Ask Dan Question of the Week
Q: I love watching the student-athlete video blogs. It's great to find out a little bit more about some of the student-athletes. There are upperclassmen, underclassmen, student-athletes who get significant minutes, and then some who don't at all. I'm wondering how you pick the student-athletes featured?
A: There is always a range of different personalities on any given team. Therefore, the process of finding student-athletes for the video blogs on UCLABruins.com actually involves numerous people, including coaches, marketing staff and sports information personnel who are all consulted along the way. The goal is to find a student-athlete who will showcase unique aspects of each team while being insightful and comfortable in front of the camera. This often means that a team's "star player" or most experienced one on the roster doesn't necessarily become the video blogger. The video blog is a great experience for the student-athlete participants, and many have enjoyed being involved with it. They get an opportunity to program the content for their episodes and also hone their on-air skills. It's been a great addition for our student-athletes and our fans alike. We hope that you continue to enjoy it!
Thank you all for your submissions - please know that each question submitted was read, and please don't forget to submit a question to firstname.lastname@example.org this week.
Director of Athletics, UCLA