March 27, 2012Fellow Bruins,
As you already know, we are very proud of our championship tradition on this campus. When many people think of the Bruins, they often think of our 108 NCAA national team championships (by the way, to put that into perspective, that total is more than the amount won by all the schools of the Big East Conference combined). However, in the pursuit of national championships, it shouldn't be overlooked that we are rewriting the history books on a weekly basis. In fact, this last week alone, the Bruins were part of three historic moments:
Women's Gymnastics captures first-ever Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship
On Saturday night, our #3-ranked women's gymnastics team showed what Bruins are made of when it took home the first-ever Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship in Salt Lake City (also UCLA's first women's Pac-12 Championship since the conference expansion). The Bruins did so in dramatic fashion, rallying on the balance beam in the last rotation to win by five one-hundredths of a point. As if that wasn't reason to celebrate enough, Coach Valorie Kondos Field was awarded Pac-12 Coach of the Year that same night, her first since 2003 if you can believe it. Miss Val and her coaching staff have had these student-athletes performing at an incredibly consistent and amazingly high level all year long, and there was no one more deserving of this recognition. It was a great capper to the conference season, and I know it will give the team plenty of momentum as it heads into the NCAA postseason. The women will compete in two weeks at the NCAA Regional in Arkansas and will be the #1 seed.
Pac-12 Conference becomes first college conference to be a finalist for "League of the Year" at Sports Business Awards
Some of you may have seen that the Pac-12 Conference has been selected as one of the five finalists for "League of the Year" at the 2012 Sports Business Awards. The other nominees are the MLB, NFL, NHL, and the PGA Tour. This is the first time in history that a collegiate conference has been a finalist for this prestigious award. The nomination in and of itself is an honor for Larry Scott and his team and 12 member schools. The recipient will be announced in a live ceremony on May 23.
Mike Woepse clears 18-2.50 in the pole vault to break meet record and set NCAA high
In an upset win over #7 Texas in men's track and field, Mike Woepse won the pole vault with a clearance of 18-2.50. That mark broke the meet record set in 1982 by our own pole vault coach, Anthony Curran (17-8), moved Mike into a tie for No. 4 all-time in school history (with Coach Curran), and ranks No. 1 in the NCAA this season by over five inches. The men's and women's track and field teams host Tennessee and Washington State in twin dual meets at Drake Stadium this Saturday. Keep your eye on Mike!
With the rest of the UCLA student body on Spring Break this week, many of our teams will return to action, among them:
Finally, I am also very excited that the football team hits the gridiron for the first time as a unit in the Jim Mora era next Tuesday afternoon (April 3) at Spaulding Field for the start of Spring Ball. The team will practice on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays over the next five weeks, culminating in our Blue vs. Gold Spring Game on May 5 at 5 pm at the Rose Bowl. Remember that all practices are open to the public - I hope to see all of you here at least once.
Ask Dan Guerrero
Q: Dan, as the football team gets ready to start spring practice next week, what tangible results are you looking for that Jim Mora is already moving the program in the right direction?
A: As I indicated at the press conference when Jim was hired in December, the first thing he needed to face head-on was changing the culture of the program. Almost four months in, there is no doubt that he has already begun to do so.
One of the first orders of business was to set the tone for the players. He did this in his first meeting with the team in the Acosta Center. For future meetings with the team in Acosta, he expected everyone to be on time, to always bring a pen and notebook with them and to be ready to learn. He talked about making a true commitment to being the best that they can be as football players and as students. He also challenged their willingness to pay the price to be great. Did they have what it takes? The answers to those questions have been evident in the early results of our off-season strength and conditioning program, with several players having gained much-needed weight, while body fat percentages have dropped, sometimes significantly.
Secondly, he compiled a hard-nosed, aggressive coaching staff with 70-plus years of playing or coaching experience in the NFL (not including his own 25 years at that level). Jim loves this staff, and they have been working tirelessly to get ready for spring ball. They can't wait ... and based on my conversations with some our players, neither can they.
Finally, Jim is opening up the depth chart at every position, in each phase of the game, thereby creating healthy competition for every position on the field. In Spring Ball, the coaches are looking to see not only who is ready to play at the level that we all desire, but who will step up to accept leadership roles on the team. This is especially true at the quarterback position, where they will see if one of the candidates for the position clearly emerges as the starter by the conclusion of Spring Ball.
The coaches have installed a new offense and a new defense. Spring Ball will give us a chance to see how well the players have adapted to the new schemes. The coaches want to see us play fast, with tempo and with tenacity.
Without the benefit of opponents and live competition, it will still be too early to see all the fruits of Jim's labor, but be assured that the mindset and culture of the team that hits Spaulding Field next week will be very different. And that is just the beginning.
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