Following a lawsuit filed by disabled veterans and their advocates against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a federal court judge ruled yesterday that the VA invalidly leased property to certain third parties. For the past 50 years, UCLA has operated Jackie Robinson Stadium on the property and, although UCLA is not a party to the lawsuit, we have been monitoring this case. In yesterday’s ruling, the judge delayed its impact for a full six months in order to give the VA an opportunity to file an appeal. If the ruling stands and, unless a settlement can be reached, the decision could force UCLA to vacate Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The ruling is especially disappointing because I consider UCLA’s partnership with our nation’s veterans to be truly exceptional. On a campus-wide level, UCLA serves veterans through Operation Mend, providing reconstructive surgery to U.S. military personnel injured and disfigured in Iraq and Afghanistan, and through the Nathanson Family Resilience Center, providing an array of programs for military families facing the challenges of deployment and reintegration. In addition, through our operation of Jackie Robinson Stadium, UCLA has employed hundreds of veterans through the years, furnished our heroes with complimentary admission to games, and provided a home field for local American Legion baseball teams for several decades. Our services to vets includes, but is not limited to, our use of Jackie Robinson Stadium and we intend to press our case to both sides in this lawsuit, to show how UCLA’s continued presence on the campus supports the core mission of the VA and those who have served our nation. Chancellor Block, our legal counsel and top officials on campus and in athletics will work tirelessly with all parties to ensure our partnership with the West Los Angeles VA continues for many more decades.
It is my expectation that we will, indeed, continue to play Bruin baseball at the current home of the NCAA Champions. I have been in regular communication with Coach John Savage, and he, along with our fans, has my commitment that UCLA will continue to do everything possible to work toward making this a reality.
Despite our optimism and high expectations of playing the 2014 season at Jackie Robinson Stadium, we are doing our due diligence to identify other viable locations, in the event that the federal court forces us to vacate the stadium.
While there are still many questions in this fluid process, we will work with the campus administration to find answers and will keep everyone abreast of further developments. We owe it to our coaches, student-athletes and Bruin supporters to do what is in the best interest of our program.