Oct. 18, 2011
Members of the Bruin Family,
Welcome back to Word from Westwood.
I had the pleasure of speaking on the air with the two top sports radio drive-time shows in Los Angeles last week. I always enjoy the opportunity to talk to the local radio hosts. They are sometimes brash, very often funny, but yet also extremely informative regarding the local sports scene. After one of those conversations, to my dismay, I became aware that a "sound byte" from my comments about our football program was taken out of context by a third party, unaffiliated with these radio shows. This, in turn, caused my message to be misinterpreted subsequently by other media outlets. I would like to take a moment to address this matter further:
First and foremost, the primary goal we set for our football program has never changed from the outset - to be relevant on the national scene on a consistent basis, and to do it the right way. Any reports to the contrary are clearly mistaken. That said, in order to compete on the national stage, we must first achieve success in the Pac-12 Conference. Rick, his staff and players have worked hard to get us to the point where we are presently in position to vie for the championship in the South division. To that end, we recognize that our team needs to play consistently solid football.
I certainly believe that, based on what I have seen in the first three conference games, the 2011 team has improved over last year, though we are still not where we ultimately want to be as a program. Nevertheless, our coaching staff and players are working hard to get better every week and to improve upon the previous week's performance. Among the expectations for this year is to get back into a bowl game; to not accomplish this goal for a second consecutive season would be a disappointment. But be assured that returning to a bowl is just one of several steps we need to take to get this program to the level we all desire.
Lastly, I will reiterate what I have said many times in my tenure as Athletic Director here: as is the case for every other coach in the athletic department, the football coaching staff will be evaluated at the conclusion of the season. In the meantime, my staff and I will work hard to support Rick and the team in every way possible as we proceed through the season. Rick and his staff have recruited terrific young men to be a part of our program, and they all deserve our full support. Our goal continues to be to return UCLA Football back to its days of national prominence. I promise to you, the Bruin faithful, that we are working day and night to make this a reality, and I am confident we will get there.
Understanding that, let's take a look at some of the other happenings in the department:
Home Field Advantage Part I
After attending an event for our baseball student-athletes and their parents at Jackie Robinson Stadium last week, I am excited to announce that we have begun pouring concrete on a construction project that will install 580 additional chairback seats over both dugouts. This project was funded by another generous donation from one of the baseball program's most loyal supporters, the Gifford Foundation, established by the late Jack Gifford and his wife Rhodine. The seat renovation project is expected to be completed in December of this year and will allow us to permanently seat 1,820 fans, beginning with the first series of 2012, against Maryland on February 17-19. Click here for more details and a photo gallery.
Home Field Advantage Part II
I wanted to offer a heartfelt thank you to each of you for the large role you and your fellow fans have played in the success of our programs this fall. I can't remember a year since I've been here when so many coaches have brought up in our meetings how much of an advantage playing at home has been for them. From packed houses for volleyball at the Wooden Center, to boisterous capacity crowds at Spieker for water polo, big turnouts at Drake for soccer, and more than 60,000 in the stands for the Washington State football game at the Rose Bowl - we appreciate your support thus far and hope to continue to see you as we head into the pivotal part of our fall sports schedule.
Football News & Notes
When gathering with your fellow Bruin fans this Thursday evening to watch the football team as it travels to Tucson, you may notice something slightly different on your television. Some of the players' helmets will be adorned with ¾ inch tall hard hat decals (in navy blue) on the lower back portion. This is intended as a reward for, in coach Neuheisel's own words: "Toughness, dependability and a commitment to hard work and finishing the job." Helmet decals may be a new concept to the Bruin faithful, but these will be tastefully done and will not compromise the script UCLA on either side of the helmet in any way.
I also wanted to take this time to remind you that our next home game, October 29 at 4 pm against Cal, is our annual homecoming game. As a former UCLA student-athlete, I have to say one of the best things about the entire weekend for me is the Bruin Varsity Club tailgate. For those of you who are not familiar with it, all former UCLA varsity athletes are invited to spend some time with one another and their families before the game. It is always an enjoyable time seeing old friends and swapping stories.
Looking Ahead to Maui
Last week, I, along with coach Ben Howland and a handful of our men's basketball players, had the chance to sit down with producers from EA SPORTS, who are putting together a series of four shows titled: All Access: EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. These half-hour shows will air on ESPNU during the month of November and will feature a "behind the scenes" look at our program, as well as three other teams that are participating in this year's tournament, Kansas, Memphis and Georgetown.
Olympic Sports Update
Many of our Olympic Sports teams enjoyed successful weekends, including the women's volleyball team, which swept a pair of matches at the Wooden Center, and the men's water polo team taking two wins on the road, including a defeat of then #1-Stanford in their home pool. Both golf teams fared very well, with the women's team taking a tournament title for the second consecutive week and the men placing second in their competition.
I had the chance to personally witness our men's soccer team's 2-0 victory against San Diego State on Sunday evening at Drake Stadium. A terrific second half by the Bruins, led by two goals from junior forward Chandler Hoffman, proved to be the difference. The win puts the team in sole possession of first place in the conference standings with a perfect 5-0 mark at the mid-way point of the league schedule.
Looking ahead to November, one event that you won't want to miss is the "Revelry Before the Rivalry IV" dinner party. Our development staff has teamed up with UCLA Alums and supporters to form a committee, co-chaired by Greg Maffei '90 and Molly Hobin '85, designed to generate support and excitement for UCLA Athletics and the Wooden Athletic Fund. This unique event is being held on Friday, November 18 at 7:00pm at the Bel-Air Bay Club in the Pacific Palisades. There will be several UCLA greats and Hall of Famers in attendance; last year, more than 400 guests attended. Tickets start at $100, and all proceeds benefit the Wooden Athletic Fund. For more information, go to https://giving.ucla.edu/revelry.
Ask Dan Question of the Week
Q: Typically, there are six home football games per year. In the past, there was a nice mixture of start times for football games, i.e., 12:30 PM, 4:30 PM, and 7:30 PM. Now most of the home games are at 7:30 PM. I live in Riverside and would love to attend more games but 7:30 at night is not family-friendly and many times we have resorted to get a hotel room in Pasadena, which increases the overall price of attendance. My question is this, with the game scheduling at the whims of the networks, will we constantly be stuck with 7:30 PM start times? Thank you!
A: Aaron, thank you for your question and for your support of our football program. As you mentioned in your question, television does have a lot to with the start times for our games.
Simply stated, there are usually three to four games each week that are televised through the Pac-12's contracts with ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports Net. Generally, the ABC games will start at either at 12:30 and/or 5:00 pm, and ESPN has the option to air either a 5:00 or 7:30 game. If ABC is not televising a Pac-12 game at 12:30, FSN may choose to show a game at that time. FSN also has options in the 4:00 and 5:00 slots, through Versus and FX.
The games not chosen to be televised prior to the start of the season may be selected by the various networks 12 days prior to the date of the game. For example, the Oct. 29 selections were made yesterday. In addition, if our game is not selected for the conference television package at that time, we have the ability to televise it locally on Prime Ticket. Generally, we try to play these games at night in September (due to the heat) and in the afternoon in October or November, depending on other programming on Prime Ticket.
As a parent myself, I am always striving to balance the benefits of television exposure for the football program with the convenience of attending our home games for our fans of all ages.
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