February 14, 2012
As a department, we have always prided ourselves on broad-based excellence. That principle has always been one of the hallmarks of UCLA Athletics, as evidenced by our NCAA-best 108 team national championships.
This week, I was reminded of how much our teams truly live up to the mantra "Champions Made Here" when our women's tennis team picked up one of the biggest wins in program history, defeating top-seeded Duke, 4-0, in the finals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
This outstanding performance demonstrates our continued ability to succeed at the highest level across our entire athletic program. I was very proud of Stella Sampras-Webster and her team's outstanding play throughout the week. Please join me in celebrating yet another Bruin victory!
Men's Hoops Prepares for USC and St John's
With just six regular season games remaining on the schedule and tight Pac-12 standings at this point, the men's basketball game against USC Wednesday night at the LA Sports Arena will mean much more than just a battle for city supremacy. Our Bruins are jostling for the best-possible seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and need much of the same boisterous support you have shown them in recent weeks as they look to defend their home court, especially in such close proximity to our rival's territory. I look forward to seeing you at the Sports Arena with your blue and gold on tomorrow night.
Then, the very next morning, Ben Howland and his charges will head to New York for their matchup against St. John's on Saturday. A cross-country trip followed by an early tipoff (10 am PT on CBS) will be a challenge, but playing in as iconic a venue as Madison Square Garden presents a unique opportunity for our Bruins to shine on the national stage.
I will be making the trip with the team and look forward to catching up with Steve Lavin, even though he will not be on the sidelines for the game. I think I speak for the entire Bruin family when I wish him all the best for a speedy recovery from prostate cancer.
An Off-Court Note
Saturday's game at St. John's will also serve as the launch for that institution's 2012 campaign of a cause near and dear to all of our hearts in the Bruin family, Dribble for the Cure. As many of you already know, UCLA basketball alum John Vallely spearheads this amazing cause nationwide (entering its fifth year at UCLA in 2012 and supported by both Ben Howland and Cori Close) and is looking to grow its presence in the New York market. For more information on the program at St. John's, please visit dribbleforthecure.com/stjohns.
The women's basketball team will make its first of two trips to the Galen Center (its second will be the Pac-12 Tournament next month) Sunday at noon. The game will be a rematch of the 47-43 duel between the teams at the Wooden Center on January 14, and it, too, will play a large role in Pac-12 Tournament seeding.
From an exposure standpoint, it's great that this will mark the third Sunday in the last four weeks that our women will be on national television. A year ago, our fan support for this game was amazing, and we turned the Galen Center into Pauley East. I would love nothing more than to see that again this year.
Mora, Aikman to Discuss NFL's Future in LA
This Friday evening, Bruin Head Football Coach Jim Mora and former Bruin quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman will be a part of a unique panel at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) entitled "Is L.A. Ready for the NFL?", alongside UCLA economist Lee Ohanian and L.A. Times NFL writer Sam Farmer. The panel will discuss the benefits and costs of a possible NFL return to the Southland. It is free to attend, but reservations must be made in advance. For more information or to reserve your seat today please visit the Zocalo Public Square website.
Kareem's Documentary a Must-See
For those of you who have SHOWTIME, the documentary `On The Shoulders of Giants', produced by Bruin legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, will be airing on the network's various channels over the next couple of weeks in conjunction with Black History Month. The story is that of the Harlem Rens, the extraordinary all-black basketball team that regularly trounced all-white teams in the years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional sports, even going 112-7 in 1932-33. Trust me, this is one worth watching.
Baseball Opens Season
As a former Bruin baseball player, I look forward to middle to late February each year because that usually means the start of the season. This year, John Savage and his team open with a three-game series against the Maryland Terrapins from the Atlantic Coast Conference this coming weekend. I was at Jackie Robinson Stadium a few weeks ago watching practice with Coach Savage and got a good look at the renovations that added nearly 600 seats, and it was awesome. Everyone should make plans to spend plenty of time at the ballpark this Spring ...
Olympic Sports Report
The top-ranked men's volleyball team puts its 10-match winning streak on the line tonight against Long Beach State before making its second trip of the year to Hawaii for a two-match swing next weekend ... The softball team started its season with a bang, sweeping its four games last weekend at Easton Stadium. They will play seven games this week, starting with Tuesday's 24-2 win at LMU ... The top-ranked women's golf team is competing locally this week in the 17th annual Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge at the Palos Verdes Golf Club. The tournament field features nine women's golf teams ranked among the nation's Top 25 ... The 7-1 women's water polo team will face San Diego State on the road in its only contest this weekend ... The gymnastics team travels to Oregon State (another Top 10 team) for a tri-meet against the Beavers and Cal ... The swimming and diving team is off this week after setting two school records and notching more than 40 season-best or lifetime-best marks and over 20 NCAA qualifying times despite a loss to USC ... The men's and women's track and field teams will have the weekend off in advance of the MPSF Championships, held Feb. 24-25 in Seattle ... The fourth-ranked men's golf team is currently playing in the San Diego Intercollegiate, Feb. 13-14, at the San Diego Country Club and will be off next weekend. Six current or former Bruins will be participating in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club this weekend ...The men's tennis team defeated Pepperdine Tuesday afternoon and will be looking to equal the performance of the women's team at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships this weekend. After sitting in the stands last week as they defeated San Diego State, it was clear that the Bruins are deserving of their top-10 ranking.
A Note on Recruiting
Now that the dust has settled a bit from National Signing Day, I wanted to commend all of our coaches and staff for their hard work in this area. Many of our coaches landed some of the best athletes in the country, if not the world, in their chosen sport.
In track, the women's signing class includes the world junior champion in the 100-meter hurdles, Trinity Wilson, and the men's group features middle distance runner Nick Hartle, winner of the Nevada Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year award.
Both water polo programs signed the top classes in the country. In fact, at a recent marquee high school women's water polo tournament, five UCLA signees were named to the all-tourney team, and top recruit Rachel Fattal was named the MVP.
Women's tennis recruit Kyle McPhillips recently won matches in both singles and doubles at the Australian Junior Open. Earlier this year, the softball team signed Paige McDuffie, who took the Gatorade National Player of the Year award as a junior in 2011.
Not to be outdone by the others, two of our basketball recruits, Kyle Anderson (men's) and Nirra Fields (women's) were each named to the rosters for the McDonald's All-American Game. Finally, the men's and women's soccer teams did well in recruiting, and I expect both teams to be among the nation's elite this fall.
Recruiting is a never-ending process for our coaches, and I know that they are not resting on their laurels from any of the 2012 classes I have mentioned above and are already hard at work on top 2013 recruits.
Development Corner - Wooden Athletic Fund 1500 Campaign
As many of you may already know, the Wooden Athletic Fund has begun a campaign to register 1,500 new members, 100 for each of the 15 blocks in Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success. Today, I wanted to take a few seconds to recognize one of our new donors, Rick and Paula Wilkes. Rick is a former Bruin football player who knows the Pyramid of Success well from his playing days here, while Paula teaches education classes and uses the Pyramid as a teaching tool for the future teachers who attend her classes. Thank you Rick and Paula, it means a lot to all of us in Athletics, but especially our student-athletes, to have folks like you on our team!
Ask Dan Guerrero
Q: Dan, after hearing all about the great football recruiting class, I'm really excited to see Jim Mora and his team on the field, when will Spring Practice begin? Is there a date yet for the Spring Game? Where will it be played?
Mel Goldfarb, Riverside
A: Mel, thank you for your enthusiasm about our football program and for the questions.
We have indeed recently finalized the dates for 2012 spring football practice. Our Bruins will open Spring Ball on April 3 and will hold three practices a week (on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) for a month, culminating with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, May 5. We are working with Rose Bowl officials to play the Spring Game there that day, but have yet to finalize a time. Once we have determined that, as well as some other Spring Ball logistical details, we will be sure to pass them along.
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