Sure, it started a while back. It started before SC. It started before the Arizona debacle. It likely started at some point last year when the positive momentum RN created the previous two seasons fell directly on its face. But it would seem that the movement around UCLA's Football team (whatever that can be defined as) began with a simple tweet.
Only thing worse than losing is apathy about losing...UCLA Football can't be that way, and it didn't used to be...#UCLA
Before that tweet, no one would have been surprised if Chianti maintained status quo and kept RN on board. After? Everything changed. And that is precisely why I have hope for this coaching search.
Let me be perfectly clear. Chianti is a joke and needs to go. I completely understand the frustration with UCLA's search to this point. I love the fact that this community is hammering on Block for change. And if everything we are hearing is accurate, I don't even know where to begin.
But I also have hope. I have hope because of that tweet and because of its author.
I don't pretend to know how much influence a prominent booster truly has on an athletic program. Does he have a seat at the table when a decision is made? Does he have the only seat? Is he merely a sounding board and a wallet? I truly have no idea. I worked in the Morgan Center when I was a student and I never once saw, spoke to, or heard of a booster. But I also know boosters are a HUGE part of college athletics. And I know that as far as UCLA is concerned, everything seemingly changed when a single booster logged onto his Twitter account. And because of that, I have hope.
This booster is highly intelligent, well-spoken, and very well thought of in the business community. He doesn't make stupid or rash decisions. He knows sports. He knows UCLA. And he is at the age when priorities start to change. It's no longer about making as much money as possible. It's about making an impact. Helping others. Leaving a legacy. And what better way to leave a legacy as a sports fan than to completely alter the direction and tradition of your alma mater's football program? And that is why I have hope.
So don't under-estimate the importance of that tweet. Much of what a booster does is obviously behind the scenes. It is quiet. It is private. That tweet though? It made everything public. It announced not only who this booster is (to those of us who pay attention) but that he cared. And cared enough to make his status public. And cared enough - or was frustrated enough - that he wanted to make the pressure on Chianti public. It was the first move in a very strategic game. Chianti wanted to keep RN. This booster didn't seem so inclined. He made it public. He didn't say this behind closed-doors where it could have been brushed aside. He put Chianti on public record and he specifically mentioned the word apathy (is there a worse word a leader can be associated with?). He specifically said that UCLA didn't used to be this way ("Hi Mr. Block. I spend a lot of money for your school. I know there is a problem with the Athletic Department and I'm not happy about it. If you don't do something, I will"). That was a huge move in a chess game against Chianti. It specifically under-minded his power and called into question the job he had done. And how did Chianti respond? He blinked. He suddenly decided RN had to go. He completely went against his previous public statements. He stood in front of the press and licked his lips for 25 minutes. And all of that put power or control in this booster's hands. All of that moved at least some of the decision-making responsibility to this booster. And that is why I have hope.
I don't claim to know how this will all play out or the level of input this booster has. And I don't like the way the search has played out to this point. But I do know the press can get it wrong. I do think we still have a chance to get this right. And I do know that if this booster is involved, we'll be okay. Personally, I don't buy the Mora rumors. It reeks to me of a coach's agent trying to insert his guy into an opening to manufacture demand. But if I'm wrong and Mora is hired - and if this booster is on board with the hiring - then so am I. He gets it. He knows it. And if he believes Mora is the guy, then I'm willing to give him a shot. Personally I don't like Mora as a candidate. But I do trust what someone like this booster has to say. And I guess that's my point to this whole post. As soon as this program's apathy was thrust into public view, the current regime's power was shaken. And that, if nothing else, gives me hope.