February 7, 2012
I want to start by thanking everyone who came out for our Football Signing Day Event last Wednesday. It was an outstanding event, and I was pleased to see all of the excitement surrounding the program.
Head Coach Jim Mora has given Bruin fans a great deal to be excited about for the 2012 football season. He has assembled an amazing coaching staff, landed a tremendous recruiting class, and media, locally as well as nationally, has praised him for as much in their Signing Day coverage. That class, in combination with many of the returning lettermen, will form the nucleus of something that we feel is very special.
Football season ticket holders should have received by now your 2012 renewal information, complete with a video message from Coach Mora. Upon reviewing the email and renewal form, you may have noticed that the season ticket package is slightly higher in price than it was in 2011.
Let me assure all of you that those prices are a one-year anomaly, brought on by a rare confluence of events: namely a seven-game home schedule (there were only six home contests in 2011) and hosting marquee games against both USC (which has the same base ticket price as last year) and Nebraska. Keeping this in mind, we made sure that single game prices for five of the seven home games remained at their same levels from a year ago.
I hope this gives you better insight on how we set the pricing this year. What's very important to keep in mind is that Coach Mora and the team need your support more than ever in their quest to get us back to relevance on the national scene. This home football schedule is one of the most competitive we've had in years. Along with big games against national power Nebraska and our crosstown rival USC, it also includes match-ups with three bowl teams in Houston, Utah and Stanford. So we hope that you'll join us again this fall to, as Coach Mora has said, help make the Rose Bowl the toughest place in America for visitors to play.
Freshman Football Etiquette Dinner
This week, our freshmen football players will take part in the sixth annual Etiquette Dinner, hosted by our Academic and Student Services Department. They will be educated in the following areas: dinner etiquette, suitable dress, and formal introductions. They will then get the opportunity to put those lessons to practice with a formal dinner and networking with faculty and staff. As an athletic department, we are always striving to give our student-athletes opportunities to learn and grow both on and off their chosen field of play, and this program is just one example of that.
Elementary School Visit
Speaking of off-field endeavors, several members of the football team visited 186th Street Elementary School last Friday to speak to young students about the importance of education, sportsmanship and good citizenship. In a display of good sportsmanship, they joined forces with some USC players to greet the students and take pictures and sign autographs. Kudos to Greg Capella, Keenan Graham, Alex Cusick, Brandon Sermons, and Casey Griffiths for taking the time to talk to and inspire these kids. You would beam with pride in observing our student-athletes in their community service endeavors. "Champions Made Here" speaks about excellence in all of our endeavors, and our students-athletes shine in this respect.
Men's Basketball Takes on Bay Area Schools
The men's basketball team is back in the Sports Arena this weekend for a pair of big games against the Bay Area teams that could play a major role in seeding in the Pac-12 Tournament. First up is a Thursday 8 pm matchup against Stanford, who the Bruins are tied with in the conference standings. When these two teams met at Maples in December, UCLA came just a basket short of leaving with a win. Coach Howland's team will be looking to avenge that loss this week. Then on Saturday at 1 pm, the Bruins take on second-place Cal with a chance to close the gap with one of the conference leaders. The Bruins are 4-0 in conference games at home this season. I hope to see you at the Sports Arena.
Women's Basketball on a Roll
Coach Cori Close's women's basketball team enjoyed another remarkable weekend, making an improbable comeback to defeat Washington in overtime on Thursday and then blowing out Washington State on Saturday for its fourth consecutive win. Thursday's win came with the Bruins down seven with less than a minute remaining, and Rebekah Gardner once again had the game-tying layup with seconds to play. On Saturday, Markel Walker recorded the fifth triple-double in school history with 14 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. For her effort, she earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, a well-deserved accomplishment. Her triple-double was the first by a Pac-12 player since our own Noelle Quinn did it in 2004. Congratulations, Markel!
The Bruins are now in third place in the league with a 7-4 mark and will face the top two teams in the conference in Stanford and Cal on the toughest road trip of the season this weekend. For those of you who can't make it to the Bay Area, Sunday's game at Stanford will be nationally televised on FSN at noon, giving you the opportunity to see this team take on the fourth-ranked Cardinal.
Olympic Sports Report
Men's volleyball claimed the No. 1 national ranking this week after recording a five-set victory over Pepperdine on Wednesday and a sweep at USC on Friday. Al Scates' squad has won nine consecutive matches and is 11-1 on the year with one game to play this week, Friday at UCSB. Al and I had lunch at the Faculty Center on campus last week, and it is evident that he really likes this team ... Gymnastics had a strong performance on Sunday to defeat Stanford by eight-tenths of a point despite the absence of two top team members due to injury/illness. The seventh-ranked gymnasts head to Chicago this Friday for an invitational meet against Boise State, Missouri and Illinois. Special thanks to Tom and Terri Hacker for hosting Coach Val, her assistant coaches and members of the team for a lovely evening last Saturday with friends of the program, members of the athletic department staff and several alums from the gymnastics program, many who came from across the country to attend this event. It was fun to see them all there supporting their program ... The ninth-ranked men's tennis team earned a terrific sweep of the Bay Area teams on the road, defeating No. 13 Cal, 4-3, and No. 6 Stanford, 6-1. The team hosts San Diego State on Thursday ... Women's tennis plays at the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors this weekend. Last week, they were superb in shutting out both opponents, blanking both LMU and Cal Poly ... The fourth-ranked women's water polo team advanced to the championship match of the Stanford Invitational before falling to the second-ranked host team. The Bruins have their first home match of the season at Spieker Aquatics Center this Saturday at 6pm against Cal Baptist ... Mike Woepse highlighted the track and field team at the Bronco Classic, clearing a lifetime best 17-8.50 in the pole vault, which ranks as the No. 5 mark in the NCAA this season. On the women's side, Tori Anthony, Kylie Price and the 4x400m relay team were all victorious ... The fourth-ranked men's golf team placed fifth at the Amer Ani Invitational in Hawaii last week, while the top-ranked women's golf team finished in second place at the Wildcat Invitational that just concluded today ... Swimming & Diving has a huge meet, hosting USC this weekend at Spieker Aquatics Center. There's one diving event on Friday, and the rest of the competition will take place on Saturday, starting at noon ... Softball opens its season on Thursday with the 11th annual Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament. For those who don't know, Stacy Winsberg was a three-time national champion at UCLA who lost her battle with cancer in December of 2001, and since 2002, the tournament has been named in her honor.
While recently attending Pac-12 Athletic Director's meetings in San Antonio, I took the opportunity while I was there to congratulate Commissioner Larry Scott for his recent contract extension. Under his bold leadership, the Pac-12 has become the talk in intercollegiate athletics circles. I enjoy working with Larry and his staff and know that bigger things are in store for the conference, and consequently for UCLA, down the road.
Ask Dan Guerrero
Q: I know that the university has a student mentoring program as my BRUINS have acted as mentors to current students. Does such a program exist in the athletic department? For example, could Troy Aikman spend a day with next year's quarterback? Could Kevin Love spend a day with Josh Smith? Could Russell Westbrook or Darren Collison spend a day with next year's point guard? Is this permitted by the NCAA? Just wondering as I know that former BRUIN athletes stay connected with UCLA. GO BRUINS!
Proud Dad of three BRUINS
A: Phil, thank you for the question.
We have such a great base of alumni student-athletes who often take the time to talk to our teams about their experiences and to share general wisdom. In fact, tonight is our Bruin Varsity Club Networking Night, which I mentioned last week in the blog. We also have our Wooden Academy seminars, during which alumni come speak to the student-athletes about their experience since graduating from UCLA. In addition, there are a number of more informal opportunities, including summer pickup basketball games at the Student Activities Center, alumni games held before the start of a season, honorary captains who come back to speak to a squad, and team socials that bring past and current student-athletes together.
Can an alum spend a day mentoring a specific player in a coaching or instruction-based capacity? No, the NCAA does not allow that due to limits on the number of individuals on a coaching staff. However, our alumni have much more to offer to our student-athletes than just their sport-specific expertise, and we encourage them to reach out through a variety of different avenues.
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