Word From Westwood - November 8, 2011
Nov. 9, 2011
As many of you know, the month of November is probably the busiest of the year for us in intercollegiate athletics, especially as many of our fall sports teams start to reach their conference and national postseasons, while the winter sports teams begin their schedules.
I would estimate that almost two-thirds of our student-athletes will represent UCLA in some sort of competition this month. For example, in the past four days the following teams played in games (both regular-season and exhibition): football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, men's water polo, women's volleyball, women's diving, women's rowing and softball.
As I mentioned last week, many of our teams are competing at the highest level in their sport (our teams have posted back-to-back undefeated weekends), so please make an effort to come out and support the student-athletes that make us so proud to be Bruins. I promise you will not be disappointed.
On the Road Again
After last weekend's outstanding, dramatic victory against Arizona State and playing two of our past three games at the Rose Bowl, the football team travels to Salt Lake City this week to take on Utah in what is a critical game for us if we are to stay in contention for the Pac-12 South title. Rice-Eccles Stadium has historically been a tough place to play, but with so much on the line, I know that Coach Neuheisel and his staff will have the team ready to go.
How `bout Them Bruins?
During my tenure as a member of the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee, I conducted a site visit at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in 2008 while it was still under construction to ascertain whether it could possibly serve as a future venue for the NCAA Final Four. Soon after this tour, Cowboys Stadium was indeed selected to host the Final Four in 2014.
As part of this visit, Jerry Jones walked me around and shared his vision for the stadium. Of course, football is his love, and he was adamant when he stated that there would be no finer venue in which to experience a football game. Soon afterward, it became my vision to somehow get the Bruins to play in that stadium and allow our fans to truly enjoy that special experience.
I am pleased to announce that this vision will come true in the not-so-distant future. We have negotiated a deal that will feature the Bruins playing an early-season game against a marquee opponent at Cowboys Stadium. An official announcement should be coming in the next few days.
Bruin fans, make sure to get those cowboy boots ready because the two-step awaits.
Now the Games Count
After nearly a month of practice, and with one exhibition win under each team's belt last weekend, our men's and women's basketball teams each open their home seasons this week, albeit at different venues.
The men's team will play its first regular season game at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, on Friday when it hosts Loyola Marymount at 7:30 pm, while the women will host McNeese State in the first round of the preseason WNIT Friday at 2 pm at the Wooden Center.
Before we begin the regular season, I want to take some time to thank the building staff and fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario for the wonderful hospitality they provided to the UCLA staff and, especially, the team. An Inland Empire crowd of more than 6,000 strong came out to see the Bruins - many of whom typically don't get the chance to see the team play. It was also great to see Darren Collison, Malcolm Lee and Alfred Aboya - three great Bruins in the audience.
Putting Things in Perspective
Having both of our basketball teams open their seasons on Friday is exciting in itself, but it also allows me to reflect on the greater meaning of that day to all of us as Americans.
November 11 is Veterans Day, and our great country would not be what it is today without those who sacrificed so much for all of us. On behalf of everyone at UCLA Athletics, I wanted to say a personal thank you to all the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces during our country's history.
Checking the Mail for Letters
November 9 is an important day for all of us associated with UCLA Athletics. It is letter-of-intent day for most of our sports and the opportunity to really get our first look at some of next year's freshmen and how they can help add to our nation-leading total of 107 NCAA championships.
While I can't give you any names under NCAA rules until after we receive the actual letters-of-intent, I can tell you that we are doing very well overall. In this list of signees will assuredly be some All-Americans, high professional draft picks, national champions, civic and national leaders, as well as difference makers in the vast world outside of athletics. The sports that sign tomorrow are men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's golf, women's gymnastics, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's volleyball, rowing, women's swimming & diving and women's water polo.
I'll be sure to provide you with a report again here next week.
Women's Soccer Draws #2 Seed in NCAA Tournament
Thanks to a 15-1-3 regular-season record, capped off with a 5-2 win over USC last weekend, the women's soccer team has received its seed for the 64-team NCAA Tournament. This is a true testament to B.J. Snow, who, in just his first season at the reins, has led the Bruins to an extraordinary season to date.
It is phenomenal in that it features a roster that includes 14 freshmen, all whom have contributed to the team's success this year. The Bruins are one of five Pac-12 teams selected and were granted a No. 2 seed. They will host New Mexico in the first round at Drake Stadium on Saturday evening. With a victory they will face the winner of the San Diego-UC Irvine game the following weekend.
Hall of Fame Dinner
As I mentioned last week, one of my favorite athletic department events each year is the Hall of Fame induction dinner. This year was no different. Not only did we have the chance to induct eight great Bruins into very select company, but I personally had the chance to catch up with some other great Bruins I hadn't seen for some time, including former UCLA baseball stars, Chase Utley, Dave Roberts, Eric Karros, Todd Zeile and Vince Beringhele, just a to name a few, who were there to honor their coach, Gary "Skip" Adams.
Devers to the Hall
On December 3 in St. Louis, Missouri, UCLA's own Gail Devers will be inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame. Devers, who battled Graves' disease early in her career, competed in five consecutive summer Olympics for the USA (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004) and won three Olympic Gold Medals. She will be inducted as a Modern Athlete, meaning that she retired less than 25 years ago. We couldn't be more proud to have her as a member of the Bruin family.
From One Runner to Another
While Gail Devers spent her entire career running races of a 200 meters or less, another former Bruin has done a wonderful job in races of a significantly longer distance. Meb Keflezighi, who won the New York Marathon in 2009 and finished second in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, ran the New York race again this past weekend and was the top American finisher, placing sixth overall.
A side note on Meb's New York adventure. Legendary track and field coach Bob Larsen, who coached Meb at UCLA, attended the Hall of Fame dinner last Friday. I had a chance to speak to Bob, who looked fantastic. He was there to see former Bruin track and field greats Ato Boldon and Janeene Vickers-McKinney get inducted.
He also said that immediately after the dinner he was heading to the airport to catch a red-eye flight to New York to be there to support Meb's marathon run. It was very inspiring for me to see Bob and to know that after all these years, he is still very much supporting his Bruins.
Olympic Sports Update
As I mentioned earlier, last weekend was chock full of action for our Olympic Sports teams. It was really special to be able to see the Daily Bruin headlines Monday morning about amazing accomplishments of our teams ... Aside from the women's soccer team's defeat of USC, the highlights include the men's soccer team (#6) knocking off Cal (for head coach Jorge Salcedo's 100th career win) and Stanford on the road to clinch UCLA's first Pac-12 championship in any sport ... the top-ranked women's volleyball team blanking both Washington and Washington State at the Wooden Center ... the #1 ranked men's water polo team taking a pair from Pacific and UC San Diego ... the #1 women's golf team winning the Rainbow Wahine Invitational early last week.
This coming weekend so many of our teams will be in action: women's volleyball travels North to the Oregon schools for a pair of matches, women's swimming and diving competes in a pair of meets in Arizona, men's soccer looks to wrap up a perfect Pac-12 season in San Diego, men's water polo hits the road for two games locally, and cross country will compete in the NCAA West Regional at Stanford.
One More Thing ...
Last week in this blog, I mentioned that, as part of a new overarching communications strategy, we have added bloggers that will cover our men's and women's basketball teams on UCLABruins.com.
What I failed to mention at that time however, is the fact that those bloggers are not the only new piece of the puzzle for the website. Since late September, as you may have already noticed, we have increased the amount of feature content on the website, focusing on all sports, not just football and basketball.
We hope that these stories will give you a better feel for each of our 24 teams, and we welcome your feedback ...
Ask Dan Question of the Week
Q: Dan, what is your opinion on the new reforms recently passed by the NCAA?
A: Since NCAA President Mark Emmert took over the reins of the organization, he has been a strong advocate for change in a number of areas. As such, he has aggressively pursued this change on multiple fronts, including, but not limited to, Compliance and Enforcement, Student-Athlete Welfare and Academics. Most people in our enterprise view these efforts as extremely positive and welcome the passage of many of the recent reforms.
Rather than delve into all of them, I will focus on one issue that continues to be a hot topic. Is there a way to provide additional financial support to a student-athlete above and beyond a full-ride scholarship? An annual full scholarship is defined by the NCAA as the cost for tuition, fees, room, board and books. At UCLA, an in-state, full-ride scholarship is approximately $27,767 and an out-of state full-ride scholarship is $50,645. This full-ride scholarship has never covered what universities refer to as the "full cost of attendance" - which also includes additional funds for transportation, supplies and other miscellaneous and personal expenses. The delta between a full-ride scholarship and the "full cost of attendance" varies from school to school, depending on a number of factors, including the geographic location of the campus. This delta can range from approximately $1,500 to $4,000.
The recent decision by the NCAA Board of Directors to allow for universities to provide for an additional $2,000 above the full-ride scholarship is certainly a step in the right direction. The decision, however, does not come without some controversy. A number of Division I institutions across the country may not have the financial means to increase full-ride scholarships by the $2,000 figure. Their argument is that schools that can afford to cover these additional costs will have a competitive recruiting advantage over those that are unable. On the other hand, there are some schools who would argue that the amount of $2,000 is not reflective of what the true "cost of education" delta represents. In many cases, the number is higher than $2,000.
I have long been a vocal advocate for increasing the scholarship to the "full cost of attendance". As I said earlier, while the $2,000 doesn't cover delta on all campuses, it certainly demonstrates that we are moving closer to that benchmark. We will rely on the NCAA to provide clarification on how this will unfold and we look forward to working with other colleges and universities in the implementation phase.
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.
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