Where is Dan Guerrero?
U.C.L.A. has been under an unfair and misguided attack from a large portion of the media. CNN got it started when it asked why a University under financial constraints would burden taxpayers by giving a free ride to the son of a half billionaire. The overt premise of that question was that a struggling U.C.L.A. was recklessly giving money to a rich student, thereby depriving any number of poor struggling non-famous students. Other media outlets, both traditional and new, jumped on the story, no doubt swayed by CNN's weighty reputation in the media world without questioning the validity of the story.
Three days later and the story is not losing much steam. The coverage is all over the internet. My local sports talk radio program in Denver was discussing it today. An snarky alternative media site is running the headline "P. Diddy's Son Gets $54,000 Football Scholarship from the ‘Fuck You, Poor People' Foundation". Awesome. I graduated from the University of Fuck You, Poor People. Granted, that's an extreme, but other sites are suggesting the same thing, only in more pleasant terms.
Where is Dan Guerrero?
Patroclus wrote a brilliant post earlier today breaking down the whole story, debunking the errors inherent in the original premise of the CNN piece, and pointing out the hypocrisy of CNN's example in the first place. A few insightful reporters here and here have figured out this story is nonsense, too, but they are in the minority (in multiple ways). Bruins Nation was pushing back on this topic from day one. Still, without a dominating voice to put this issue to rest, the story has continued to have legs.
But P should never have had to write his post. The Morgan Center had all the answers to correct the flawed reasons behind the story and avoid the subsequent damage to U.C.L.A.'s reputation and image, but only managed to issue a quiet statement from some unknown staffer. Granted, all the information was there in the statement for anyone willing to read, but once a brush fire starts a fire extinguisher won't put it out. The University needed a major response to stop this story cold.
So where is Dan Guerrero?
Why hasn't the Athletic Director appeared on ESPN, or CNN, or some high profile platform to set the record straight? Has Dan spoken to the LA Times or Sports Illustrated? Has Dan appeared on any Los Angeles news station to address the issue? Why didn't Dan kill this story in its tracks 3 days ago? Has Dan Guerrero uttered a single word to defend his University and one of its incoming student-athletes?
Well, today, yes, sort of.
Apparently Dan is in San Diego. And when a reporter asked him about the issue, he finally had something to say
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, in San Diego for Pac-12 summer meetings, had a bit of a chuckle at the whole situation and says this is not the first time someone of similar financial means has come to Westwood to play for the Bruins.
"It was very unexpected," Guerrero said. "Believe me he's not the first individual whose father has made a lot of money over the course of a couple of years that has received a scholarship, across the board in all sports. Why it was raised now is very surprising to me. Once again, these are merit-based scholarships and have nothing to do with one's financial ability and they'll continue to be that way in the future."
Gee, thanks for that bit of leadership, Dan. I'm sure that response is really going to grab everyone's attention. While we all know the mistaken uproar over this is laughable, it's a bit too late to just try to laugh it off. That pathetic afterthought of an answer appeared this evening in an article titled "UCLA AD Guerrero sees no issues with Combs' scholarship". Too little, too late, Dan.
What U.C.L.A. needs right now, Dan, is an article titled "UCLA AD Clarifies Issue on Combs' Scholarship". Or "UCLA AD Explains Why Media Has Misinterpreted Combs' Scholarship". Or even better "UCLA AD Sets Record Straight and Media Owes UCLA and Combs an Apology".
What you needed to do, Dan, was to step up when this article first came out and explain the process by which U.C.L.A. awards athletic scholarships. Explain how they are funded through the athletic department budget. Make everyone realize how they have no effect on minority admissions or financial aid to students in need or taxes paid by the citizens of California.
I was taught once to think of the media like a bunch of hungry dogs. If you don't feed them yourself, they are going to get in your trash, and then you'll have a real mess. U.C.L.A. has never been real savvy when dealing with the media, but Dan's failure to control this event and address the innuendo from CNN's story and redirect the conversation into a positive for U.C.L.A. has allowed a world of attention-grabbing media outlets to fan the flames. Three days have gone by and the story continues to spread. U.C.L.A., the school of Jackie Robinson, Ralph Bunche, Arthur Ashe, and John Wooden is is being portrayed as careless, insensitive, irresponsible, elitist. And none of this have happened if we had an Athletic Director with an ounce of leadership.
It was Dan Guerrero's responsibility to respond to this article and its misconceptions, and to spare our University from an unfair and inaccurate smear job by the lazy media. Dan blew it, and U.C.L.A.'s reputation as an outstanding diverse accessible public university, along with the image of a 17 year old football player and student, are the ones paying the price.