A look at the state of UCLA's two revenue sports shows clear failure in the two most visible sports on the part of the athletic department and its leader, Dan Guerrero. A look through the list of UCLA national titles, especially on the men's side, exposes the worst decade the university has had in more than 60 years, which happens to coincide with the decade of the athletic department under its current leadership. Now, we have embarrassment on the financial side of things too.
UCLA is located in the second biggest media market in the country. It has an enrollment of more than 40,000. It has a history of unparalleled success in athletics, both in revenue sports and non-revenue sports. It has a long list of not just sporting legends, but American legends that it counts as alumni. In short, it has every single thing a school could possibly want to sport a strong athletic department and have a deep donor base for that athletic department.
Somehow, UCLA isn't excelling in cultivating donors to its athletic scholarship programs though, but to say that it is not excelling is exceedingly kind. They are awful. Dead last in the Pac-12 awful, according to Washington St.
The school with every natural and historical advantage possible is the one in last place. They are 2,294 donors below the Pac-12 median and 2,381 donors below the conference average. The conference leaders, Oregon, have more than two times as many scholarship donors as UCLA does and Stanford has also more than doubled up on UCLA.
So how exactly does a school like UCLA finish last in the Pac-12 in annual athletic scholarship donors? Let's run down the list of possibilities:
- They are not in a big enough market - UCLA is in the biggest market in the Pac-12 and Los Angeles has a population of 3,792,621. Comparatively, Washington St. is in Pullman, Washington, which has a population of metro population of 29,799 and this is without getting into LA's metro population of 15,250,000.
- UCLA doesn't have enough number of alumni to compete - UCLA's enrollment of 40,675 is more than 30,000 less than Pac-12 leader Arizona St.! It is also the third-biggest in the conference and almost double that of conference donor leader Oregon.
- Public schools cannot compete with private schools - Nine of the 11 other schools are public universities and six of the top seven in the Pac-12 in annual donors are public universities. This includes Oregon, who leads with almost 9,000 donors.
- It's too difficult to excel in the UC system - The UC system has its problems and the funding cuts and tuition hikes have caused some to redirect their donations to academics, not athletics. Wait, isn't Cal also a UC school? And they check in with 8,600 annual donors, which is almost double the number UCLA has?
- The Pauley Pavilion renovation has redirected scholarship donations to Pauley donations - Whenever you undergo a $136 million project, no matter how poor it is, it takes some major donations to get it done so some scholarship donors have become Pauley donors. It's similar to the way that Washington and Cal's scholarship donors numbers have dwindled while they undergo a $250 million renovation of Husky Stadium and a $321 million renovation of Memorial Stadium. Not that the two schools rank third and fifth respectively in annual donors or anything.
How exactly does a school like UCLA finish dead last in the Pac-12 in annual scholarship donors then? Donors could be pulling their donations and sending their money elsewhere in protest of the athletic department's deplorable leadership. It is also possible that almuni failed to connect with the athletic programs that represent the university because of a failure on the part of the athletic department to make athletics a part of their UCLA experience when they were students and the continued losing of the most visible programs did nothing to help that. Finally, that losing could have made it so the school's athletic programs are not in the minds of, or are depressing, both alumni and non-alumni who could potentially be donors. Worst of all, it could be all three.
The common theme in all these possibilities is that they are a direct reflection of the athletic department. The school has every advantage working in their favor. They have the alumni base, the market, the history of athletic excellence and any number of icons to draw upon. There are no outside forces keeping the Bruins down. It is all on the inside. To botch the situation and drive people away takes extraordinary work on the part of the athletic department.
UCLA's failures in this attracting donors cannot be blamed on anyone except themselves. There is nowhere else to look except for the athletic department. To be more specific, the blame is on the man leading the athletic department, Dan Guerrero, who can now pair financial failure with sporting failure on his resume.