The label "long time listener, first time caller," is suited for me on this blog. I've read various articles and comments over the years but never felt compelled to write until now. What follows is ten years of frustration unleashed, so it will be light on statistics, concrete facts, etc and heavy on emotion. Nonetheless, hopefully my point comes through.
My freshman year at UCLA was 1997, which coincided with the beginning of Coach Toledo and UCLA's 20 game win streak: the historic 66-3 "Route 66" over the University of Texas. If my memory serves correctly, that was the first win that season (with close loses to WSU and Tennessee before.) At the time, being a freshman I was ecstatic and of course that feeling kept going for over a year. Looking back on it, it becomes clear to me that this was the beginning of our downfall. Let me explain.
When I graduated in 2001 I went to law school at the University of Arizona. This was my first time living outside of California and more importantly the UCLA bubble. At Arizona, I met people who had gone to school all over the United States for the first time. Because I loved college football I ended up friends with a 4-5 people that had gone to Texas for undergrad, and became a loose follower of their program. Again, from my memory, UCLA got off to an incredible 6-0 start that year before Deshaun Foster was suspended for improper benefits. During the painful loses and seasons that followed for the first time I was forced to acknowledge something: maybe UCLA football wasn't all I thought it was. At that time Texas was the easiest school for me to compare UCLA to, so that's what I did.
It's obvious that "Route 66" meant different things to UCLA and Texas. At Texas John Mackovic was fired that year and a coach that had experienced some success at North Carolina, Mack Brown, was hired at a fairly high salary for the time (I believe $2M/year.) While Mack Brown was an excellent coach and recruiter, Texas went on to make capital improvements like building an indoor practice facility. (Also of note, Texas has something I think called the Longhorn Foundation that is fundraising devoted exclusively to football.) It was clear Texas was posturing themselves to become a national player and it came to fruition with their victory in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Meanwhile I would argue that "Route 66" set us up for the past "lost decade" of UCLA football. I think that that game vindicated the "UCLA way" of doing things to our administration, e.g. we don't need to invest in building a football program because we have great weather, a great school and great southern California athletes. So for the next decade we hired coaches on the cheap and made minimal (if any) substantive improvements in our facilities. The problem was that this was precisely the time that other schools were moving precisely the opposite direction. The reality is that after "Route 66" college football became a huge sport that would require big time money to be a player in. It would be very close to looking like an NFL franchise. Schools like Florida, LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, etc. moved in this direction while UCLA did nothing. The world of college football changed and we did nothing to keep up. Our 0-50 loss to USC and failure to be a player on the national stage for a decade is a predictable result of this.
If he is to be believed, Dan Guerrero might finally understand this from his press conference comments last Monday. I love UCLA and want them to do well, but it's obvious that as long as we fail to make substantial improvements to our football facilities/staff the next decade of UCLA football will be as painful as the past one.