Another in a series of messages to Gene Block as the time nears to end or renew Dan Guerrero's contract.
The voices of the past have gathered, the circle is unbroken, and the judgment seems unalterably clear. Part of what is best and most enduring at UCLA has been betrayed: the pride we take in our athletic department.
I believe you come closer every day to seeing the picture in part and not in whole, chancellor. Chart a new course or retain Dan Guerrero. But do not deceive yourself. The relevant facts are not the changes in college athletics today (as compared with the era of John Wooden); they are acceptance of mediocrity and a discounting of the interests of undergraduates. If you want evidence of how undergraduates are viewed by the UCLA athletic department, consider the original seating plan for the "remodeled" Pauley Pavilion. (And, of course, remodeled is in quotes for a reason.)
Already, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton have spoken out. Sooner or later — but inevitably at some point — other famous athletes will join them. When they do, an increasing number of UCLA's supporters will hear them. And among those supporters are many of the donors on whom UCLA depends.
This is no longer a decision you can avoid; instead it is a day of reckoning for the school we all love and for how you will be remembered in the line of chancellors who have guided this campus. I want to repeat what I have said before: This does not have to be a choice freighted with uncertainty. There are many experts who will be glad to advise you on promising, young athletic directors who want to take the reins at UCLA. Only one task falls to you: asking for advice.
It's a commonplace observation but nonetheless worth repeating: UCLA took infant steps before it walked among giants. From its founding in 1919 through the present, it has frequently been guided by leaders who made the right decision when they saw a fork in the road. Why do I say frequently? Because there's no doubt some wrong decisions were made, too. In terms of fallibility, UCLA is no different than any other large institution or university, for that matter.
UCLA Today said in a recent issue that you hosted a celebration in November of the 40th anniversary of the Franklin D. Murphy sculpture garden. Maybe that's worth dwelling on because when Chancellor Murphy arrived in 1960, he said in his inaugural address, according to the L.A. Times, that he would guide UCLA to "major scholarly distinction in worldwide terms." That quote comes from the Times' obituary, written in 1994. It goes on to say Murphy added that failing in that goal "would represent unimaginable lack of vision and inexcusable timidity."
There have been other visionary — and not-so-visionary — chancellors, of course. As I see it, you are at another crossroads. You can either recognize that UCLA 's pace-setting accomplishments in athletics are part of its greatness or you can ignore your responsibility to ensure that the athletic program is a model of fairness and efficiency.
The choice — and the record you leave behind — is up to you.