Looks like lot of folks missed this. SI.com zeroed in on UCLA football this week leading up today's game against the Longhorns. First, George Dohrmann took a macro/micro look at our program which has been languishing in "irrelevancy" this past decade:
Why the struggles? First, consider the macro issues, including facilities that are arguably the worst in the Pac-12. Then there's the inconvenience of playing almost 30 miles from campus at the Rose Bowl: Last season the Bruins drew 60,376 fans per game but played to 66.3% of capacity, which ranked 89th in the country. Finally, there's ever-increasing apathy toward football. UCLA is often labeled a potential powerhouse because of the fertile Southern California recruiting ground, but the program has more in common with Indiana, Maryland and other schools where basketball is the priority. Look no further than the $135 million renovation under way at Pauley Pavilion and the absence of any plans to upgrade the football facilities.
The micro issues relate mainly to Neuheisel. His hiring of Norm Chow as his offensive coordinator in 2008 was a splashy move-USC's former offensive architect orchestrating UCLA's attack-but was a poor match with a head coach with his own offensive ideas. Chow departed last January, a year after Neuheisel diminished his authority by switching to the Pistol offense and following years of what Neuheisel called "chemistry" problems.
Before Neuheisel's arrival, the Bruins had not had an offensive lineman or quarterback drafted by the NFL since 1999-a streak his regime has kept intact. The 2009 recruiting class was ranked fifth nationally by Scout.com (four spots above USC's) and included a number of touted offensive linemen. Then tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo decided to go on a two-year Mormon mission (he could return next season), tackle Nik Abele retired because of a recurring neck injury and guard Stanley Hasiak left the team after being ruled academically ineligible. Subsequent classes haven't filled the voids.
Dohrmann is generally right. Although in Morgan Center's defense the Bruins don have the worst facilities in the Pac-12. Yes, Spaulding field is an issue, but in recent years UCLA has made substantial improvements to our training facilities in the form of Acosta Center. The Rose Bowl locker rooms and a offices have also gone through renovations, which has been blogged about here on BN. While UCLA doesn't have a sugar Daddy like Uncle Nike, Bruins have made an effort to improve facilities, putting them ahead of number of Pac-12 programs.
However, the other issues related to promotion of our program aggressively at the state and national level remain. Of course, the coaching issues have been well documented and archived over last 6 years here on BN. Simply put this is a critical time for UCLA and perhaps the increased attention to our program (lot of which has been broadcast through this outlet in recent months) will create a further sense of urgency.
As for yours truly, I hope the Bruins pull out today. However, to get out of the "California blue" Bruins will need put on a performance that will at least lass the "eye test," and then repeat it through every game this season, putting together at least a winning record in the conference this year. Not much to ask for I think. Let's hope the Bruins get it done.