When is Gene Block going to make the same commitment to athletic excellence that he has made toward academic excellence? Or is he content to led UCLA squander its unique position as the nation's leading university, both in the classroom and on the field? Photo Credit: UCLA Newsroom
Yes, it's happened again. In what seems like a never-ending, constantly-repeating cycle, the bureaucrats in Westwood have once again managed to take their feet and place them straight in their respective mouths. Of course, this comes as no surprise to anyone who has regularly read BN the last few years. We've seen Dan Guerrero's Reign of Error has already given us the Pauley student seating fiasco, the Veto Seto campaign, and a complete tone-deaf handling of our university's revenue sports. Sadly, those examples are just a few from bureaucrats who have made mistake after mistake and misstep after misstep, which as led to BN openly wondering if we have the right people at the helm.
By now, most, if not all of you, have seen the e-mail that Chancellor Gene Block this past Wednesday re-capping the 2010-11 academic year at UCLA. In a 19 paragraph e-mail titled "UCLA: The Year in Review" Block laid out a summary of the various happenings that went down in Westwood this last year. The overwhelming majority of the news he reported is cause for acclaim: but they are the kind of scientific, academic, and educational excellence we see annually from UCLA. After all, at our core, we are one of the nation's premier universities. And many of the things Gene laid out in his e-mail are awesome and make me proud to be a UCLA alum.
But, as we all know, UCLA is unique because not only do we enjoy wild success in our academic pursuits, but also in our athletic pursuits (well, usually). It's the combination of the two that make UCLA the unique and magical college experience that we all enjoyed. Generally, it's academics that brings interest from America's best students to Westwood, but it's athletics that builds the bonds between each other and our alma mater. For many of us, our love of UCLA is built not just from our gratitude for the world-class education we received, but from the joys and agonies of following UCLA sports and living and dying Bruin blue and gold.
So, imagine my surprise when Gene decided he'd devote just one paragraph to UCLA athletics. Nineteen paragraphs and just one for athletics. If there was any question that Gene Block and the Murphy Hall bureaucrats don't have any interest in UCLA athletics or our proud traditions, this e-mail is an affirmative and clear sign that, to Gene, athletics is just some ancillary portion of the university, relegated to nothing more than a passing mention.
For UCLA, that's just wrong.
Let's break this down more after the jump.
It's bad enough that the bureaucrats at Murphy Hall don't think UCLA athletics is worth more than a passing mention, but what's even worse is that they can't even be intellectually honest about the kind of year 2010-11 was for our sports. Here's what Gene had to say:
Highlighting the year in athletics, our women’s golf team earned its third national championship and UCLA’s 107th NCAA title overall. The victory continued an astounding streak during which we have won at least one national championship in a team sport each year since 1995. Bruin student-athletes excelled across the board again in 2010-11, with several teams concluding their seasons ranked among the best in the NCAA.
Now, if you read this, you'd walk away thinking this was another successful year in Westwood. Another national title, another year where our programs finished in the top tier across the board. It's a nice gloss Gene, but it's nothing but a spun caricature of reality. Let's be blunt: it was a sub-par year. Actually, sub-par is being generous.
But perhaps Gene was just getting his rosy picture from his inept athletic director. About two weeks prior to the chancellor's email, the UCLA Athletics official site posted the same kind of lame, spin-filled tripe from Guerrero:
This past year saw the program win its 107th NCAA team championship - the most of any school in the nation - in women's golf. We also finished second in women's gymnastics, third in women's water polo and women's tennis (tied), fifth (tied) in men's golf and men's soccer, ninth (tied) in men's tennis and women's soccer, 17th (tied) in men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, softball and women's volleyball and 20th in women's swimming.
When you read the whole post, you'd think that this year was something Morgan Center was proud of. Now, let's make one thing very clear: everyone at Bruins Nation is proud of the effort our student-athletes have put in this last year. The young men and women wearing blue and gold deserve a round of applause, a pat on the back, and our continued, unwavering support. But, I think it's safe to say that every one of those student athletes that didn't finish the year lifting a NCAA championship trophy thinks that their season could have been better.
And it could have been. But the tone-deaf bureaucrats in Murphy Hall and Morgan Center have completely failed to give our hard-working student-athletes the tools (facilities, equipment, coaching) and support to be in a position to win a national championship every year, as used to be the standard at UCLA.
But, as you can see from Gene and Dan's communications to the rest of the UCLA community, they're more than content with the kind of sub-par year we saw in 2010-11. Let's recap what this year really meant:
- Just one national championship (women's golf)
- Another year with no men's championships (none since 2008)
- The football program took a major step backward, finishing 4-8, losing to Lame Kitten and U$C to end the season, and failing to even come close to qualifying for a bowl game
- The men's basketball team failed to reach the Sweet Sixteen, something that even walking corpse Lavin could regularly do
- The most promising young women's basketball coach left Westwood because we could not financially compete with LSU
- The Pauley Pavilion renovation has been a mishandled boondoggle, with fundraising under the needed benchmarks, in large part to the failure of Morgan Center to get the fan and alumni base fired up about UCLA basketball
- Incompetent Morgan Center bureaucrats tried to underhandedly steal the students' sideline seating at Pauley by using a bait-and-switch "survey", Facebook censorship, and liar Mark Harlan.
- Despite Ryan's repeated calls (here, here, and here) for renovations and improvements to Jackie Robinson Stadium, it remains a sub-standard joke not worthy of the high quality program John Savage has built
This is not "success" by any definition of the word. 2010-11 was an underachievement by the high standards that are expected at UCLA. Instead, Gene and Dan are more content to spin this year as something we should be proud of. While we're proud that our student-athletes continue to strive for excellence, we should not accept the fact that Morgan Center and Murphy Hall is willing accept anything less than victory. No one expects every team to win a title every year, but to even pretend that this year was anything remotely close to successful is just a lame joke.
We're not alone in that assessment. As of this writing, the overwhelming majority (86%) of BN readers who voted, do not consider 2010-11 a success. That's pretty damning.
Although, hey, maybe on second thought, Gene deserves a pass on the volume of athletics information in his e-mail: it's not like UCLA's athletic programs did much worthy of note this year. Seriously though, Gene Block's apathy toward UCLA athletics is cause for concern. But, then again, if Block was a true leader, he would have been forthcoming about our revenue programs shortcomings and how the university would address those shortcomings.
A wise man once told me that a true leader has the courage to play up the positives while laying how he or she is working to find solution for the negatives. Doing the ostrich and burying your head in the sand and spinning the negative to a positive does nothing.
So, the question is, when will Gene Block and Dan Guerrero display true leadership? When will they commit UCLA to excellence in all of our athletic endeavors? When will they provide our student-athletes the tools and support they need to succeed and challenge for victory?
Or are they content to sit back and fiddle while one of our university's great institutions, our proud and storied athletic tradition, burns to the ground?