It's New Year's Eve. 2012 is coming to a rapid close and 2013 is just on the horizon. It's been an interesting year for UCLA, with Jim Mora reviving interest and excitement for the football program, only to fall flat at the end of the year, and with basketball reaching all-new lows (read: Cal Poly) under lame duck Ben Howland. But most importantly, 2012 comes to a close without UCLA winning a single national championship in any sport. While 2011 saw two women's teams pick up NCAA titles (golf and volleyball), 2012 was a trophy-less year for Chianti Dan's incompetent, clueless, tone deaf Morgan Center administration. Just let that simple fact set in. 2012: ZERO national championships in Westwood. Great job Chianti.
Turning to the week, talk about an interesting week in bizarro world. The UCLA football team, flying high with nine wins under their belt in the first year of the Jim Mora era, were expected to take it to the underachieving Baylor Bears and their porous defense in Thursday night's Holiday Bowl match-up. The UCLA men's basketball team, unable to put together any kind of consistency under lame duck Ben Howland in yet-another dumpster fire joyless basketball season in Westwood, was expected to get embarrassed on national television against high-flying #7-ranked Missouri, leading to (if the rumors were to be believed) Howland's ouster mid-season.
Instead, in a strange twist of fate, Mora's football team got absolutely devastated in San Diego, getting punked out on both sides of the ball by Baylor, leaving UCLA football fans with a bitter taste in their mouth following a season that met the minimum expectations of our new head coach, but was nevertheless a season of unfulfilled promise and potential. Keeping with the theme of bizarro weekend, Howland's basketball team came out on fire and played their best game of the season, dropping the Tigers at Pauley Pavilion, saving Howland's job at least through the end of the year.
Thus is the life of a UCLA fan: whenever you think things are going right, karma kicks you square in the balls. The much-maligned football team, following a season that brought hope back to Westwood, fell flat on their face in an embarrassing butt-kicking reminiscent of the Dorrell and Neuheisel eras. The storied basketball program, on its dying legs under a stubborn failed coach who should have been fired last season, went out and played at a "magical" level, leading the more astute fans to instantly realize that, yet again, the Bruins were on the Steve Lavin path to "success" which would ultimately lead to further denigration of Coach's once-proud program.
So, with all that said, let's turn to the various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse to start off our work week (and wrap up our failed 2012 calendar year with ZERO national titles for UCLA thanks to Chianti Dan's failed athletic department):
- Starting with football recruitment, in case you missed it, offensive tackle Christian Morris from Memphis, currently committed to UCLA, has openly approved of Tennessee's hiring of Butch Jones from Cincinnati. Rivals posted some comments from Morris (not behind paid subscription firewall at time of this writing), indicating that with Jones in charge in Knoxville, the big lineman is planning on taking additional official visits. As the Holiday Bowl showed us, you can never have too many quality talented offensive lineman, so the impetus will be on Mora and his staff to keep Morris, who claims to be 97% committed to Westwood, in the Blue and Gold fold.
- Likewise, for those of you who are ESPN Insiders, Dave Hooker at the WWL, has the same story on Morris available to you here.
- Turning to basketball, there has been a lot of angst about labeling Friday's overtime win over Missouri a "choke job" by the Tigers. Unfortunately, that's exactly what it was: the Tigers could have won but missed critical (and easy) points down the stretch. Yes, the Bruins played hard and these kids deserve kudos. But it's still a choke job by Missouri since they should have won in regulation. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline read: "Mizzou laments blowing 9-point lead at UCLA." Nice win for the kids, but as Missouri coach Frank Haith said: "We need to learn how to finish a game out in the last three minutes." If they did, Missouri goes back to fly-over country with a Bruin scalp in their back-pocket.
- Flipping over to the academic side of UCLA life, the ol' alma mater made Kiplinger's list of top-10 best value colleges, checking in at #6, just behind (in order from #1-ranked to #5-ranked) North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, William & Mary, and Maryland. Our UC brethren also earned high marks in the top-25, with Cal checking in at #8, UCSD at #10, UCSB at #14, UC Irvine at #16, and UC Davis at #23. So, in other words, your UCLA degree is a pretty good deal (despite all that crushing student loan debt) for the quality of education you received. And we beat Cal, so that's good.
Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites to start the work week with. Fire away with your thoughts, takes, and additions in the comments thread.