Football season is thankfully just around the corner, to be kicked off by this week's Pac-10 media blitz, with the summer 7-on-7 sessions soon to flow into Fall practices. With the season's approach, the official site posted a "Q and A" with Dan Guerrero wth his thoughts on the football program, his thoughts on success and on Coach Neuheisel and the changes that he made during this offseason. There's a bit of bureaucrat/PR speak in there, as would be expected from DG, but also some insightful quotes as far as how out athletic director sees the program. I'm using his quotes here to illustrate a couple of themes that have come to my mind, but you can of course read the Q&A in its entirety on the official site.
In terms of the current status of the football program, DG acknowledges that the recent travails that the team has faced has frustrated even the most loyal of Bruins, but is quite optimistic for this season and the near future of UCLA Football.
Q. What are your overall impressions of the football program?A. I know that the last few years have been frustrating for all Bruin football fans, but I am excited about the prospects of turning the corner this fall.... With the continued improvement of our players, I sense genuine optimism for this coming season. Rick has consistently recruited very well, and the young men in our classes have developed physically and gained valuable experience, which I believe will pay dividends.
As well, while talking about his take aways from Spring practice, DG sounds excited about the skill and intensity of the defense, and gushes about the talent and depth at running back. With taking into the talent in the program and the current state of the coaching staff, Guerrero believes the team is in good shape for a strong season and beyond. As he told the official site:
I really believe the coaching changes have upped the intensity in the program and that this team is ready to make a move.
Following his thoughts on the program as it now stands, Guerrero shared his thoughts on success, generally as well as how he measures it in terms of this year's Bruin Football team.
Q. What is your definition of successful?
A. A successful program wins football games and does it the right way. I expect us to be successful. We are all looking forward to improved results on the field. Rick knows that the goal is to move the needle forward, win football games and play in big bowls. Showing improvement on the field through hard work, focus and intensity is the best way to gauge the future of a program. You can never account for injuries and other types of adversity, of which we have had more than our share during the past several years. The key to our future success is how our coaches and student-athletes respond to these circumstances. I love the fact that Rick has never made excuses, and his complete focus is on our team getting better, and that is where his attention should be.
Dan's idea of success shares a lot with the "eye test" that we recently wrote about on the front page; hard work, focus and intensity are undoubtedly requirements for a team to improve on the field, and while wins and losses do not always tell the full story of the level of effort and preparation entering a game or a season, DG stated that the ultimate goal of this team is to "win football games and play in big bowls". This does not mean that failing to make the Rose Bowl or appear in the Pac-12 title game every year means that the season was a failure, but that UCLA Football is not to settle for ending every season playing in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Nut Bowl, or no bowl at all. The Bruins have now gone over a decade since playing in one of the Pac's leading bowl games (the Rose Bowl, or the Holiday Bowl), a drought that is unacceptable to us, and sounds like it is so to Dan.
With the talk of the measure of success for UCLA Football, discussion of Coach Neuheisel's ability to succeed in Westwood was an obvious topic. Here is what DG had to say on Neu:
Q. Do you believe Rick Neuheisel can be successful at UCLA?
A. I absolutely believe Rick can be successful at UCLA. Rick loves his alma mater. No one represents UCLA like Rick Neuheisel. He played here, graduated from here and coached here as an assistant. He knows how great this University is, and he does an outstanding job of getting prospective student-athletes and their families to understand all that is wonderful about this institution. But recruiting alone doesn't necessarily equate to wins. This past off-season, I know Rick did a lot of soul-searching, analyzing what he needed to do to get the program headed in the right direction, and he has taken the steps to make it happen. I really believe the coaching changes have upped the intensity in the program and that this team is ready to make a move.
While takling about the "soul-searching" and analysis by Coach Neuheisel of what went wrong with the Bruins last fall, Dan talked about this offseason's coaching changes at multiple points in the course of the session, and the effect that he believes that the upgraded staff will have over the course of the season, and has already had during Spring practices.
Rick and his revamped coaching staff, including new additions Mike Johnson, Joe Tresey, Inoke Breckterfield, Jim Mastro and Angus McClure, brought an exciting energy to the practice field during spring ball, and the enthusiasm among the players was infectious. With the continued improvement of our players, I sense genuine optimism for this coming season.
Of course, Angus is not really a new addition to the program, but is taking a coaching position for the first time at UCLA. Next, while talking about what he saw in the Spring Practices - including an evolving maturation of our players - DG touched on the new additions to the offensive side of the staff, and the productivity effects that the changes should lead to.
... Additionally, with Jim Mastro's extensive experience in with the Pistol offense, Rick taking over the coaching of the quarterbacks, and Mike Johnson's experience with the passing game, we should see a more formidable offense, resulting in greater productivity.
The post had a couple of tidbits in terms of the Rose Bowl experience; he closed the session by talking about the status of the Rose Bowl's ongoing renovation project, and the effects - good and bad - that fans will experience this fall.
The project is well underway, and fans will notice some definite changes when they come to our home opener against San Jose State on September 10. Included in these changes will be a new, state-of-the-art LED video board measuring 30 feet tall by 78 feet long on the north end of the stadium. There will also be a new clock on the south end, reminiscent of the historical Rose Bowl clock of the 1950s and `60s, a new, smaller scoreboard installed on the east end of the stadium, which will benefit those sitting on the press box side of the Rose Bowl...
And for the negative aspect of the project - at least for those with seats on the shady side of the Rose Bowl:
This construction has resulted in the removal of the permanent restrooms on the west side. For the upcoming season, fans will need to bear with us, as the Rose Bowl will set up higher-end portable restroom facilities on the west side of the stadium, similar to what was utilized on the north side of Pauley Pavilion this past season. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for progress!
While there's going to be some inconvenience in the short-term by the refurbishment, it is certainly a wise long-term move by UCLA Athletics, the Rose Bowl Committee and the City of Pasadena. Though another issue is seeing just how many people will be attending games in the Arroyo Seco this Fall. In this post, DG stated that Season ticket renewals were positive - and with Texas coming to town in September, there should be a solid early season turnout. Though as Bellerphron wrote last month, UCLA has seen the revenue derived from ticket sales stagnate over the past 4-5 years, and while the DG quote states that renewals are coming at a positive rate, it does not tell us the number of season tickets are, or what sort of renewal rate is "positive".