Nov. 22, 2011
It is unfortunate that this is now the second blog in a row marked by a loss in the Bruin family. It really hit me like a ton of bricks when I got the news last Friday afternoon that Walt Hazzard, a valued member of the Bruin family, had passed away after a long illness.
As an athletic department, we have been so blessed throughout the years to have so many former student-athletes come back to coach the programs that they played for, as Walt did. After playing for Coach Wooden and serving as the catalyst for the 1964 NCAA Championship team, he embarked on a professional playing career and eventually transitioned into the coaching world. He, of course, returned to Westwood to serve as head coach of the Bruins for four seasons beginning in 1984.
Those of us who had the pleasure of knowing Walt on personal level know that he was intensely loyal to his alma mater and to his players and that he took a great deal of pride in the four letters that he donned across his chest. We will miss him dearly.
Focus on Football Part I
As is always the case when we play our cross-town rivals in football, this week takes on some added meaning for those of us in the Bruin family. There will be some special events on campus (one of which I'll get to later), but more than anything, there is a heightened sense of anticipation and school spirit by the student body and alumni base as a whole, not just our football players.
With so many traditional college football rivalries like Texas-Texas A&M and Kansas-Missouri seemingly going by the wayside because of conference realignment, UCLA and USC, separated by just 12 miles, remain on each other's schedules indefinitely. Be rest assured that we wouldn't have it any other way.
Speaking of intense rivalries, if you are going to the USC game next weekend, we all ask that you please act responsibly when cheering on your beloved Bruins. It is important that we show up in big numbers to support our team, and do so respectfully.
Focus on Football Part II
The 45-6 victory over Colorado on Saturday was a fitting farewell in the final regular season appearance of our 18 seniors at the Rose Bowl. It was great to see them put it on the line one more time in front of the home crowd and walk away with a win. The win comes at an opportune time, as it keeps us in contention in the Pac-12 South Division race and means that more than city pride will be on the line when we play USC this week.
That said, against USC this week, we have an opportunity to garner the signature victory that has eluded our program for some time. Keeping that in mind, our team should be ready for the challenge.
What's That Up Your Sleeve?
There have been rampant rumors out there recently that our football team might be sporting a special look when they take the field for the USC game on Saturday evening. I can confirm that those rumors are indeed true. We will be unveiling a uniform that we have been working on with the adidas design team for several months. These new uniforms will provide us with an alternative to our existing road uniforms but will not replace them in perpetuity. That said, I'm not going to tell you everything in this blog - but look for hints the remainder of the week by liking UCLA Athletics on Facebook or following @UCLAAthletics on Twitter.
While the football team prepares for USC, the men's basketball team has its work cut out for it this week at the EA Sports Maui Invitational as a part of what may be the single-greatest preseason tournament field ever. Speaking of Maui, the sheer number of Bruin fans that made the Thanksgiving week trek to the Island is amazing - it's hard to go anywhere without running into someone in blue and gold ...
While the team has certainly encountered some early challenges to start the season, I am sure that Coach Ben Howland will have them on the right track once he gets the full roster back healthy and intact.
Hoop It Up
Fresh off its success in the preseason WNIT, where it battled blow-for-blow in the first half with the nation's top-ranked team, the Baylor Bears, our women's basketball team will be back in action over Thanksgiving Weekend. The Bruins will face West Virginia (Friday night) and either Cal State Northridge or Colgate (Saturday) in the Holiday Inn Thanksgiving Basketball Classic at Northridge.
While Head Coach Cori Close and her staff have been competitive on the court, they have been just as competitive in recruiting. In the early signing period, all three prospects they inked are ranked in the top 100 nationally, including Nirra Fields, a top-15 recruit from nearby Mater Dei High School.
MPSF Water Polo Championships at Spieker
Speaking of competitive, the premier men's water polo conference tournament in the country comes to campus this coming Friday-Sunday when the Bruins host the MPSF Championships at Spieker Aquatics Center. The eight-team field will feature many of the top programs in the country. Only one of them is guaranteed an automatic bid to the NCAAs the week following, so the action will be intense.
If you haven't already been to Spieker, you should make an effort to come out. It is one of the nicest and most energized venues in the nation for water polo during the regular season, but it should be even better this weekend. In fact, we have added 300 seats to accommodate larger crowds.
I can't wait to be in attendance to cheer on our Bruins.
Soccer Teams Charting Their NCAA Course
I sat in stunned disbelief last Friday night at Drake when the women's soccer team lost a heartbreaker to San Diego on penalty kicks after coming from behind late in regulation in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That said, I am proud of all that first-year coach B.J. Snow and his young team accomplished - the future of that program is very bright indeed.
Meanwhile, the men's team defeated Delaware 1-0 in its second round game Sunday night, thanks to an 83rd-minute goal from junior forward Chandler Hoffman, his 16th of the season. The win means that the Bruins will host Rutgers next Sunday at 5 pm at Drake.
Coincidentally, the only other time that the Bruins and the Scarlet Knights have met in the NCAAs was in the 1990 Championship game, when a wide-eyed freshman by the name of Jorge Salcedo slotted home the final penalty kick to give UCLA its second national title.
Speaking of soccer, I'd like to extend my congratulations to the former Bruins who now play for the LA Galaxy, who captured the team's third MLS Cup championship Sunday night at The Home Depot Center. Sean Alvarado, Chad Barrett, Frankie Hejduk, Brian Perk and Michael Stephens all enjoyed wonderful careers as student-athletes, and it was great to see them lift the trophy Sunday night.
Olympic Sports Recap
The women's volleyball team split a pair of matches with the Arizona schools at the Wooden Center, falling to Arizona on Friday before bouncing back to sweep Arizona State on Sunday afternoon.
The team concludes its regular season this Friday at 5 pm against USC - you can be assured that the Wooden Center will be packed and the atmosphere electric. Advance tickets for this match have already sold out, but it will be streamed LIVE on UCLABruins.com.
The swimming and diving teams competed in different meets on the weekend, with swimming at the Arena Invitational in Long Beach and diving travelling to Tucson to take part in the Wildcat Invitational.
Since both events were invitational in nature, there were no team scores kept, but Bruin swimmers picked up two event wins in Long Beach, and diver Emma Ivory-Ganja placed second among all collegiate competitors on the tower in Tucson.
The Leaders of Tomorrow
The Pac-12 Student Athletic Advisory Council (SAAC), which includes two student-athletes from each school as members and is overseen by Eric Price from the conference office, recently held a weekend-long retreat in the Bay Area.
Among the topics discussed in the meetings were current and new NCAA and Pac-12 legislation and student-athlete leadership. Additionally, a bowling event with Special Olympics athletes from the area was held.
I'm proud that our two Bruins, gymnast Kaelie Baer and jumper Taylor Hobson had the chance to represent us at the meetings. In fact, after the meeting, Kaelie spoke at our most recent coaches meeting about the SAAC, demonstrating polished presentation skills that belie her age.
Beat 'SC Bonfire and Rally
As I mentioned earlier, things are little different the week of the UCLA-USC Football game. Last night, many Bruins took part in one of the most storied traditions we have on campus, and one of UCLA students' favorite events leading up to this week's big rivalry football game, the annual Beat 'SC Bonfire and Rally.
Students, staff and alumni all came together at Wilson Plaza to celebrate one of the greatest rivalries in all of college sports. There was a fantastic buzz all evening long as players and fans alike were fired up and pumped up for the big game.
Before I sign off ...
The date for our annual football banquet is Monday, December 12.
Ask Dan Guerrero
Q: Dan, Why was only one woman inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame this year?
A: Kathleen, actually the process of someone being considered for the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame begins with Bruin fans like you. Each year, the athletic department allows anyone to nominate whom they see fit, so long as they fit in one of the following categories:
- Student-athletes who last competed at UCLA ten or more years prior to induction.
- Former coaches who last coached at UCLA five or more years prior to induction.
- Former UCLA Athletic Directors who last served as Athletic Director five or more years prior to induction.
- Current head coaches who served as a head coach at UCLA for 15 years, or who have won four or more NCAA championships.
Once nominations have been received, each candidate's bio is compiled and presented for review to a committee of 22 members, which includes hall of famers, athletic department staff, donors and others closely associated with the department.
Each year, up to eight nominees are selected for induction (12 votes are needed to get in) and, as with men, the number of women selected for induction varies from year to year. Though we only had one woman inducted in 2011, we had four in 2010, three each in 2007 and 2008 and two in 2009.
The fact of the matter is, due to our overall success as an athletic program, we have several nominees each year, both male and female, that don't make the cut.
That said, if you feel as though there is a deserving female (or male for that matter) who we have left out of the Hall of Fame and who meets the criteria we have laid out, we welcome you to nominate them for induction in 2012 or beyond. Please download the nomination form here.
I look forward to hearing from you and Bruin fans everywhere as we have already started the process for selecting the class of 2012.
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