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A Time for Action?

After a decidedly spineless and clueless performance in Seattle, we've been treated to a delightful performance by the Bruin coaching staff.  They kicked it off by playing the blame game, evidence of a potential implosion.  Then, more troubling signs of ineptitude, as the excuses kept growing, and the nation began to take notice of the problems in Westwood.

Now, some fans have decided it's time for a change, and are determined to go all out to get there.  And I can certainly understand the sentiment.  The woeful performance of our coaching staff against Washington, and their continuing antics with the media this week, have been almost unbelievable.  It almost seems as if KD and company have morphed into some kind of Bizarro, and are trying to show us how not to run a football team.

"It be da players' fault."  Translated from bizarro language, that means:  "It was the coaches' fault"

Of course, I?m not ready to write this season off.  I still believe that the Bruins can meet our minimum expectation of 9 wins and a win against Southern Cal.

But the passion of these Bruin fans, who want nothing more than better days for UCLA football, raises a good question.  How can individual fans make a difference?  How can one overcome what Bruin Blue has so eloquently called ?low expectations and overly sanguine fans? or what I?ve dubbed the Donahue Syndrome?

In many ways, it?s the classic collective action problem.  But, times have changed.  And it?s no longer true that fans are completely at the mercy of university administrators, AD officials, big money donors and influential alumni.  Of course, if you happened to be, or know, any of the aforementioned folks, that, candidly, is the best place to start.  But, there are other options.

Before I go on, I think it?s important to know some of the obstacles:

  • The almighty dollar.  To some degree, the university is most concerned about the balance sheet.  And, so long as the big money donors keep contributing, and seats at the Rose Bowl stay filled, it is going to be difficult to get noticed.
  • The media.  As we saw during the dark Lavin years, the traditional media is often all too willing to give voice to outrageous claims by coaches who attempt to use sympathy to keep their jobs.
  • The natural predisposition of athletic departments.  Even the most successful programs have truly (and not in Lavinesque terms) unreasonable fans.  As a result, athletic departments have a remarkable ability to tune out a significant amount of fan dissatisfaction by attributing it to the ?unhinged fringe.?
  • The fans themselves.  Either because of compliancy, apathy, low expectations, misinterpreted loyalty, or some combination thereof, fans can sometimes be their own worst enemy.  And embattled coaches typically excel at exploiting fissures within the fan base.
Can these obstacles (and others I neglect to mention) be overcome?  Of course.  How?

I think Nestor hit the nail on the head when he mentioned an organic grassroots campaign.  I'm certainly no expert on this kind of thing, and invite your suggestions, but it is being increasingly demonstrated how these things can be effective.  Some of the ideas I?ve seen floated around are good ones.  Among other things, you can:

  • Work in concert.  Given the realities of big time college athletics, you need to work with others to have the maximum impact.   Cancelling your yearly donation or season tickets may not do much, but cancelling them with many others in a choreographed way just might.
  • Get the message out.  Let people know what's going on.  Spread the word any way you can, on the Internet, with posters, or flyers.   Write letters to the Times, comment on Dohn's blog, whatever.  The more information that is out there, the better.
  • Take it to the streets.  Go ahead with the t-shirt idea.  Start wearing them on campus and to games.   Or paint your message on banners, or, better yet, your chest.  And don't forget the send us pictures, or post them yourself on BN, along with a personal message about what inspired you to take that simple action.
  • Share your passion.  Come on Bruins Nation, and share with us your stories on why you became a Bruin, are passionate about UCLA sports, and then why you are fed up with Bruin football.
  • Contact the Morgan Center.  A well organized email, letter, telephone and/or petition campaign (again, think concert of action) can up the pressure.  Let them know that 7-8 wins and an occassional lower tier bowl game aren't enough. Keep it calm and fact based (and by no means personal).  Remember, well supported, coherent arguments breed credibility.
  • Use emerging technologies.  Start a campaign on Facebook.  Use Myspace.  Comment on blogs like Bruin Nation.  Do whatever you can to get more like minded people involved.  Personally, I think the Facebook idea has the potential to huge.   It's never been easier to organize groups of people, and take near instant action.
  • Prepare for the long road.  One letter writing campaign isn't going to do it.  Any effective effort is going to take great thought, persistence and resolve.
At this point, I?d like to take Dan Guerrero at his word, and hope he is sincere when he says that UCLA demands excellence.  In my view, DG has earned some time to make things right, through his inspired hires of Howland and Savage.

And, like I said, I don?t think we?ve reached the point that all this is necessary.  And I?m going to try to keep my head up, and focus on Stanford and rest of this season.  But, if things don?t turn around like we all hope, you have some things to think about.  And I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts about what we could do, if that time comes, and we ultimately need to take collective action.

Whatever might happen, and I'm hoping for the best, one thing we should all do anyways is to keep the conversation going, and to keep staying passionate about UCLA football.  And one of the best ways to do that is to keep coming to Bruins Nation and offer your takes on the program based on factual underpinnings, without being personal against Dorrell and other members of the staff.  Let's keep this community growing.  If we keep voicing our thoughts, and we stick to the facts, amazing things can happen.