Happy New Year Bruins,
As we look forward to a new year, it is important that we recognize those wonderful achievements realized by many of our coaches and student-athletes in 2011. The two national championships won by women's golf and women's volleyball, as well as great efforts by many of our other teams, served to continue to bring national recognition and a source of pride to the UCLA program.
Of course, not all of our programs achieved the excellence that we all desired, such as football, and in this particular case, it required us to bring in Jim Mora to take over the reins of the program. With national letter of intent signing day fast approaching (February 1), Coach Mora will be finalizing his staff this week and hitting the recruiting trail hard in order to sign a talented corps of future Bruins. He and his new staff have made great strides on the recruiting front so far and will no doubt finish strong as we get closer to signing day.
In addition, Coach Mora will be making an appearance and addressing the crowd at Thursday night's basketball game against Arizona at the Honda Center in Anaheim. If you haven't had the chance to see him speak, his Orange County appearance will be a nice opportunity for you to hear what he has to say about being our newest Bruin.
If you can't make it to Anaheim, rest assured that this will be the first of several speaking engagements for Jim in the coming months throughout the Southland. This calendar will include an event solely for UCLA Football alumni later this month. If you are a former UCLA football player and our staff has not been able to reach you about this event, please contact Bruin Varsity Club Director Courteney Cosso at email@example.com or 310.206.4458.
The Mora Era for our returning players will officially begin with his first off-season team meeting next Monday, January 9.
Bruin Family Mourns the Loss of Gene Bartow
I was deeply saddened this afternoon when my staff informed me that Gene Bartow had passed away. Gene was named the UCLA head coach following Coach John Wooden's retirement after the 1974-75 season.
In 1975-76, his first season as Bruin head coach, Gene guided the team to a 28-4 overall record, the team's eight consecutive Pacific-8 title and 10th straight Final Four appearance. The following year, in his second and final season, he led UCLA to another Pac-8 crown, a Sweet Sixteen appearance and a 24-5 overall mark. After the 1976-77 campaign, Gene left UCLA to start the basketball program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham as its athletic director and men's basketball head coach.
An important member of the Bruin family, he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November 2009 and is survived by his wife of 59 years, Ruth Huffine Bartow, their daughter Beth B. Long, sons Mark and Murry Bartow, and eight grandchildren.
Gene was truly a gentleman and a person I admired greatly. He was always available for counsel and an encouraging word. Our deepest condolences go out to his loved ones at this very difficult time.
Another source of pride for 2011 involves the success of our student-athletes in the classroom. In 2011, more scholar-athletes than ever before were named to the department's honor roll...another indicator of the overall excellence of the young men and women in the program. It also emphasizes the excellent work of our academic support staff as well. Will there be more in 2012? Let's hope so.
Men's Hoops Opens Home Conference Slate
After starting the Pac-12 schedule with tough back-to-back losses in the Bay area, the men's basketball team will need to get back on track in conference play this week when it hosts its first-ever conference home games at the Honda Center this week - Thursday at 8pm against Arizona and Saturday at 7:30pm against Arizona State.
The men had plenty of chances to defeat Stanford in Maples Pavilion. They fought back from deficits pretty much the entire game but could never quite get over the hump. Despite not having a stellar game, we had an opportunity to win the game on the last possession. I'm sure that Coach Howland will use the game as a teachable moment and the next time we are in that situation, we will close the game out.
At Cal, we simply ran into a veteran team that shot the lights out. Hats off to Mike Montgomery and his team for a great effort in the second half of that game. Winning on the road is not easy and our team found that out the hard way this past week.
Again, we will be looking to bounce back in Anaheim against the Arizona schools. Both games will be televised locally. The game Thursday night will be a hybrid of sorts; while continuing to be a conference match-up, it will, for this year only, double as our annual Wooden Classic game and will be included in our season ticket package for the first time.
In addition, this week, ASUCLA is introducing a new line of John Wooden t-shirts to coincide with the Wooden Classic. They will be on sale at the Honda Center on Thursday and are also available at the UCLA Store on campus.
Women's Basketball Hits the Road
After opening the Pac-12 schedule with a split against the Bay Area schools last week at the Wooden Center, Coach Cori Close and the women's basketball team head to the desert for games against Arizona and Arizona State.
The Bruins never trailed after taking the lead with just under 16 minutes to go Thursday en route to a well-deserved 60-55 victory over Cal, and then battled a much deeper Stanford side Saturday for the first 20 minutes before running out of gas in a 77-50 loss to one of the nation's top teams.
There was a great deal of hustle and effort from the Bruins in both games, and they will surely take that into this week's contests.
The Bruins will meet the Wildcats at 6pm PT this Thursday and face the Sun Devils at 3pm PT on Saturday. If you happen to be in front of a computer on Thursday evening, be sure to tune in to all the action on UCLABruins.com. In addition, Saturday's contest will be televised LIVE on Prime Ticket.
Olympic Sports Report
The gymnastics team, ranked #1 nationally in the preseason, opens its season against conference foe Utah at the Wooden Center on Sunday (Jan. 8) at 2 pm. It is important to note that UCLA and Utah have combined to win 15 of the 30 NCAA Gymnastics Championships ever contested ... The swimming and diving teams will each host meets this week at Spieker Aquatics Center, with swimming taking on Boise State Wednesday afternoon at 1pm and diving welcoming Nebraska on Saturday morning at 10am - they will be the first home meets of the year for either team ... The men's volleyball team begins the 50th and final season of legendary head coach Al Scates' career this weekend with two matches Friday and one Saturday at the Santa Barbara Invitational.
Ask Dan Guerrero
Q: Dan, after reading a lot of the coverage surrounding it, I'm concerned that the expansion of the relationship between the Pac-12 and the Big-10 seems like it does more for the Big-10 schools than the Pac-12. Is that true?
A: Thanks for the question, Larry. You are right in mentioning what you have read - I too have seen some critics both clearly state and insinuate that the relationship does little for our conference member institutions, while potentially opening up recruiting on the West Coast to the Big 10 schools.
I can assure you that this is simply not the case; as a conference, we, the members of the Pac-12, would never have agreed to such a one-sided proposal that some media have described. As I said last week to the local media, I have been involved in these discussions from the beginning, and I believe it's great that two of the nation's premier athletic conferences have decided to expand their relationship. Among the many benefits, this enhanced partnership will allow our student-athletes to travel to new areas of the country for competition and improve the experience for our fans by creating exciting interconference matchups that have not been possible in the past.
It will also allow for greater exposure through cross-programming in both of our networks. Our games, in a variety of sports,will now be featured in a significant portion of the country that has never seen this type of coverage. It is important to note, that recruiting exposure works both ways. Many of the Big 10 schools have long recruited the west coast, but this new arrangement will allow for Pac-12 schools to garner exposure in Big 10 territory in a manner never before realized.
As leagues, we are very similar in terms of athletic and academic tradition, and this will bring us even closer together. Clearly this is an arrangement that will prove to be mutually beneficial.
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