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The Weight Of Our (Collective) Words

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There were two outstanding posts last week on BN providing some key suggestions for Dan Guerrero and his staff at Morgan Center. First, ryebreadaz penned a letter to DG appealing for a sense of urgency with regards to the renovation of Jackie Robinson stadium. Over the weekend Class of 66 followed up rye’s efforts with a powerful post on what UCLA needs to do to hold on to Coach Howland.

Now how much influence do these posts have in the discussion concerning UCLA athletics?

From gbruin’s comment in response to 66’s post re. keeping Howland:

As an alum and a fan, I figure that I carry no real weight in the athletic dept. I donate what I can to the school, but It’s the big-time athletic donors, corporate sponsorships, TV contracts, marketing, lines on recruits (within the rules, $c!!!) and many other aspects that drive the workings in the Morgan Center.

Well we have received some information that might shed some light on whether or not arguments presented by passionate alums and fans such as Class of 66, gbruin, ryebreadaz and others who are fully engaged online can have an impact on the UCLA brass.

Recently the folks at an organization called the Sports Media Challenge conducted a survey concerning the impact of  Fan-Generated Media (blogs, fan forums, online social networks, etc, hereinafter "FGM") on college athletic departments.  In May of 2008 SMC did a survey in conjunction with the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) to determine the use and understanding of FGM by college and university athletic departments. The results were interesting. This is from the executive summary the folks at SMC emailed to us (emphasis added):

Several questions were asked with regards to the significance of FGM to the everyday activities of athletic departments.  Responses indicate that schools with larger student bodies have a greater FGM presence; therefore FGM plays a larger and more formal role in their athletic departments. When asked "Has FGM ever influenced the decision making process of their athletic departments," participants affirmed the idea that schools with more students and a large alumni base are more affected by FGM than schools with fewer students. Professionals from larger schools were more likely to be influenced by FGM. 42% of professionals who deny having FGM influence their any decision they made came from schools with less than 5,000 students.  

In other words school like UCLA with large student body, massive number of alumni dispersed around the country, and high profile athletic programs are very likely paying attention to the thoughts 66 and rye are putting up on BN. More from that survey indicating whether athletic donors at a school like UCLA are paying attention to the discussion on FGM:

Division I professionals believe much more than other Divisions that their athletic donors view FGM. Over 66% of participants that believe it is "very likely" that their donors view FGM came from Division I programs and 21% came from Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools. The largest percentage of professionals that believe it’s "not at all likely" that their donors view FGM came from Division III schools.

The survey also found that 77.9 % of the college athletics media professionals are viewing the content on coming up via FGM "multiple times per week," and that they "also believe their athletic department donors are more likely to view FGM and in turn allow this media type to influence their decisions more readily than smaller institutions would."  Again note SMC worked with CoSIDA to survey 324 college athletic professionals ranging in professional title from sports information directors to head coaches. So they put together a pretty decent sample size to work with.

In case of UCLA, I think it is pretty clear that the officials at Morgan Center are paying close attention what we – UCLA alums, students, fans - are discussing here on BN and other online communities listed on our blogroll. I am sure we can come up with numerous examples on how we had built our case for a new direction for our football program. However, the example that stands out to me is how the firestorm on BN and other UCLA communities in response to an ill advised Dorrell comment to Kurt Streeter forced him to back down. I am only pointing out that specific story as an example of how the arguments, emotions, and viewpoints UCLA alums/students expressed through online venues such as BN had a direct impact on our athletic department where Karl Dorrell had to issue a clarification.

Also, another individual who recognized the influence the voices of fans is Stewart Mandel, the college football columnist for Stewart last year published a book entitled, "Bowls, Polls & Tattered Souls." (Pretty good book. Our SBN colleague blogging for the Huskers at Corn Nation  did a review which you can check out by going here). Stewart discussed the influence of college fans (specifically using BruinsNation in few of his examples) in the 4th chapter entitled, "". From that chapter (page 91):

[T]he voice of the fan has never been more influential in the firing and hiring of coaches than it is in the twenty-first century – and for that, the embattled subjects can thank Al Gore.

Stewart of course is referring to the internet (and no need to engage in a flame war in the comment section here about whether or not Gore made that infamous remark … you can use the Google to get the real story and discuss it an appropriate forum if you wish). Anyway, Stewart (who eventually came around to our viewpoint on Dorrell) snarked up the chapter arguing how unreasonable and delusional college football fans put a lot of pressure on their respective athletic departments. However, despite Stewart’s cynicism he did label the trend as a positive change (page 109):

Without question, however, the positive change to emerge from this trend has been the newfound weight of the voice of the people. In a sport where the fans often find themselves ignored, if not patronized, by the powers-that-be – they’ve only been asking for a playoff for the past twenty years no, and they sure do appreciate being bumped out of their 40-yard-line seats to make way for more luxury boxes – there’s no denying their increased influence in many school’s coaching decisions.

So that takes me back to the very comment from gbruin I highlighted above. Now to gbruin’s credit even though he started with saying that his voice "carry no real weight" he recognized the power of our collective words in these following passages:

[W]e all saw what DD and BN and others were able to do when a coaching change was needed. [...]

I don’t know what’s in CBH’s head or heart, whether it’s the NBA, another school, a bigger paycheck, or if it is leading UCLA Basketball for the next 20+ years. Of course, I hope it is the latter. And so far, everything he has said and done since coming to Westwood appears to support the latter, as well.

So I will be sure, by whatever means I can, that CBH knows that this Bruin is very proud of what the program has accomplished, both on the floor and off.

So gbruin and others, you get the picture. All of our words here on BN together when expressed as one community do matter. And I am confident in the coming years we will use our energy not to just drive towards a positive change, but also use it maintain everything that is special wrt to UCLA.

So … keep it going. Keep the posts coming. The Morgan Center may not be engaging directly here on BN (and frankly they don’t need to and we could care less about that access), but is clear they are listening to our thoughts and arguments on issues related to best interest of UCLA athletics.