April 17, 2012Fellow Bruins,
It would be an understatement to say college athletics recruiting is an exact science. Ask any coach across the nation, including our exceptional ones right here in Westwood, and they would tell you that it is definitely more of an art form than a science. A coaching staff must evaluate talent while also assessing whether someone is a good fit for the school and the coaching style.
Then, it's a delicate balance to explain the merits of UCLA relative to other schools that the prospective student-athlete may be considering. A coach must showcase what is important to the prospective student-athlete while often needing to appeal to the priorities of the parents, too. It is no easy task, that's for certain.
Despite this challenge, each of our coaches consistently performs well on the recruiting trail, and this year has been no different. Last Wednesday marked the official start of the spring signing period, and several of our coaches have used it to put the finishing touches on some exceptional 2012 classes.
Of course, a highlight this signing period was prospective men's basketball student-athlete Shabazz Muhammad's live announcement on television declaring that he will attend UCLA next season. Uclabruins.com was live in Coach Howland's office when the announcement was made, and you can click here to watch their reaction to the news. Shabazz's decision to be a Bruin adds to an already-stellar recruiting class that also includes Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams.
Coach Cori Close and the women's basketball staff have also attracted a top-notch recruiting class to UCLA, in their first full year in charge. The class is headlined by All-American and California Gatorade Player of the Year Nirra Fields; Kari Korver, whose success behind the three-point arc gave her a win in the national contest earlier this month; and Lauren Holiday, a quality student and tenacious defender who comes from a basketball family that includes older brother and UCLA alum Jrue Holiday. The trio joins Alyssia Brewer, a transfer from Tennessee who was the MVP of the 2010 SEC Tournament and was the conference's Sixth Woman of the Year.
To put it simply, New Pauley Pavilion awaits each of these future Bruins, as well as the solid returning core for both the men's and women's teams, and it's shaping up to be an exciting 2012-13 season. I can't wait to see you all there.
Athlete Ally Visits Campus
I had the unique opportunity to be in the room Monday morning for a very thoughtful presentation by Hudson Taylor, a three-time NCAA Division I All American Wrestler, Columbia University Wrestling Coach, and founder of Athlete Ally. He spoke about being an ally to the LGBT community and also being a champion for inclusion at UCLA. Hudson addressed our coaches and staff at the session I attended and later presented to our student-athletes as part of session for all UCLA teams (including varsity, club, and intramural) that evening.
It was a powerful and resonating message for student-athletes, students, coaches, faculty, staff, and administrators. It is a priority for our athletic program to be a safe space for everyone and a community driven by respect. I have no doubt that this endeavor has further reinforced our mission.
Special Event Planned With Mora for April 25 at the Rose Bowl
As mentioned last week here, Jim Mora's speaking tour will launch on April 23 with a reception at the L.A. Athletic Club. Two days later, it will kick into high gear with a very unique VIP event at the Rose Bowl. Guests will start the evening with appetizers at the Court of Champions (outside the stadium walls) and then proceed to the UCLA locker room for a chalk talk with Mora, and then head to the field to take photos. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit WoodenAthleticFund.com.
Gymnastics Poised to Compete at NCAA Championships
After taking home first place in the Fayetteville (Arkansas) regional two weeks ago, the Bruin gymnastics team again heads south as it goes for its seventh NCAA championship this weekend in Duluth, Georgia.
The competition begins on Friday with the semifinals, with the #2 Bruins competing in the first semifinal against #3 Oklahoma, #6 Nebraska, #7 Utah, #10 Stanford and #11 LSU at 9 am PT. The top three teams from each of the two semifinals will advance to the Super Six Team Finals, slated for Saturday at 1 pm PT. Individual event finals will take place on Sunday at 10 am PT. The Saturday and Sunday events will be streamed live on ESPN3.
Battle of #1 vs. #2 Set for Spieker on Saturday
Spieker Aquatics Center should be rockin' on Saturday night at 6:30 pm when the #2-ranked UCLA women's water polo team hosts Stanford (#1) in its final regular season home game of 2012. The Cardinal won the first matchup of the season by a 9-5 score on February 5, but the Bruins avenged that defeat in a dramatic 5-4 win three weeks later, so this one will be for all the marbles -- an MPSF regular season title and bragging rights will be on the line, not to mention a #1 seed in the MPSF tournament.
I have no doubt that head coach Brandon Brooks will have the team ready, but the real question is will you be there cheering them on?
Last Saturday, the #1-ranked women's tennis team became the first team to defeat Stanford at home in the regular season in more than 13 years, and the Bruins will now host USC on Friday afternoon at LATC in the regular season finale with the Pac-12 title on the line. The #6-ranked men, meanwhile, head across town on Friday for a match against the Trojans and are also gunning for a conference regular season championship.
Hardballers Do Us All Proud
I was fortunate enough to travel to Tucson with our baseball team last weekend. I came away impressed, not only with their skills on the field, where they took two of three games against a top-5-ranked Arizona team, but also with their classy and professional demeanor throughout the road trip. Coach John Savage, the parents of each of the young men on the trip, and the entire Bruin family should be honored that group has chosen to represent the Bruins.
Coach Savage's Bruins host Cal State Northridge tonight before traveling to Oregon State over the weekend. Also on tap around the athletic department:
* Winners of four of its last five, #15 Softball hosts Cal State Northridge Wednesday and Utah this weekend
* #1-ranked Women's Golf wrapped up play today with its sixth tournament win of the year at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate
* #5 Men's Volleyball heads to UC Irvine to open play in the MPSF tournament Saturday night in a must-win match to keep their NCAA hopes alive
* The Men's and Women's Track and Field teams compete at the Mt. SAC Relays
* The #4-ranked Men's Golf team takes a week off while preparing for the Pac-12 Championship
* The #4-ranked Rowing team has the weekend off and will return to action against USC on April 28
Ask Dan Guerrero
Q: Will fans be seated on both sides of the Rose Bowl for the Spring Game? When I went last time I parked on the East side of the Rose Bowl, then found out I had to walk around the stadium to the west side and I have arthritic knees. It is not easy to walk any distance without severe pain.
A: This spring, with the press box being reconstructed from the ground up on the West side of the stadium, we are doing something a little different than we have in years past. Fans will sit on the East side of the stadium for the Spring Game, and all of the related activities, such as the post-game autograph session, will also be located on the East side. To more easily access the East side of the stadium, be sure to park in Lot B when you arrive at the Rose Bowl.
The Spring Game is just one part of the festivities that our department has planned for May 5 at the Rose Bowl. Though the game itself will not kick off until 5 pm, and stadium gates do not open until 4 pm, the parking lots will open for tailgaters at noon. In addition, there will be a fan zone, complete with an area for kids and a gathering of food trucks, located on Arroyo Boulevard that will begin operations at 1 pm. Updated information will be posted on UCLABruins.com as we get closer to the day of the game.
In addition, we will have seats available on both sides of the stadium for fans looking to purchase seats for the 2012 season in our annual Select-A-Seat program.
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