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Tale of two t-shirts

The Daily Bruin today has a great article on the turnaround experienced by the UCLA basketball program. And the story captures what has transpired with the UCLA basketball program by telling the story of two shirts. The first one was started by couple of UCLA students back in 2002 when Steve Lavin was putting the finishing touches on his total destruction of the UCLA basketball program:

From afar, they are merely a couple of T-shirts. The powder blue with the gold trim, worn by UCLA students who ache for the nostalgic basketball history they weren't even alive to experience.

On closer inspection, one of the T-shirts symbolizes the darkest days of the UCLA men's basketball program. The other one seems to carry all the unabashed optimism that has returned to the program in three short years.

In the spring of 2002, Mehran Ebadolahi was a first-year political science student who had an idea. Ebadolahi, who graduated fall quarter 2005, was a lifelong Bruins fan who grew up in Irvine, and his high standards for the UCLA basketball team were not being met.

Along with five of his friends, Ebadolahi created the "Lose Lavin" T-shirt. The shirt was a walking advertisement for the Web site, where people could gripe about why they were upset with Lavin's coaching.

"The shirt was made to give Bruin fans from all eras a chance to say, 'Hey, this is our program too, and we have expectations,'" Ebadolahi said.

By the fall of 2002, the shirts became more and more popular. Upward of 2,000 had been sold. While Lavin was stumbling through his last season in Westwood, Ebadolahi was receiving e-mails from alumni swearing they wouldn't donate to the program until Lavin was ousted. Ebadolahi even claims that basketball players on that year's team would congratulate him on making the shirts.

I remember those t-shirts quiet well.

And I also remember how hostile some so-called UCLA fans were to those kids when they were coming onto Bruin message boards to publicize their campaign around those t-shirts. Well, they were more than vindicated, and these days they are getting swept up in the rejuvenation of the basketball program by gobbling up these.

Unfortunately for the kids who started the Moute Kicks Boute t-shirt campaign, they were told to stop distribution of those t-shirts by university administrators who are not too keen on having the students swept up by school spirit on campus. Anyways, that is for another post.

Meanwhile, congrats to Mehran Ebadolahi and his friends on their graduation at UCLA and congrats to them for finally experiencing the real taste of basketball tradition of Westwood. As alums we have to feel proud of these kids for standing up and making their voices heard loud and clear. They understood what UCLA basketball meant to us - the alums, students, season ticket holders, and they got the message out in their creative way around the campus and around the country. Despite attempts to shut them down both by the administration and Lavin cronies, they did not back down. Good for them. Now perhaps before they leave the Westwood area they can tell a current student to get started with t-shirts in case the below average coach fails to beat SC and win 9 games this upcoming season.