clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UCLA: The Basketball School Among College Football Elites

Bruins v. Buckeyes, Jan 1, 1976 Rose Bowl (photo credit: <a href="" target="new">mcase (flickr)</a>)
Bruins v. Buckeyes, Jan 1, 1976 Rose Bowl (photo credit: mcase (flickr))

During the Dorrell years time after time outsiders (like Brian Dohn) would lecture us about UCLA will never have a good football program because in their words UCLA just didn't have the history or the environment of producing a top notch program. Of course all of that is total nonsense which doesn't compute with actual history of our football program.

We have noted time after time in to push back against the silly narrative of UCLA being just a "basketball school" with numbers like these, courtesy of ESPN's researchers who ranked UCLA as the 16th most "prestigious" program in the history of college football:

16. UCLA Bruins
Total points: 738
Positives: UCLA has been a top-20 program in the Prestige Rankings since the '50s, including being tied with Florida State for seventh place in the '80s. The Bruins won a national title in 1954. QB Gary Beban won the Heisman Trophy in 1967. Among Pac-10 schools, only USC gets credit for more conference titles than UCLA, which has 15. The Bruins also have never been on probation.
Negatives: UCLA has just one major bowl berth in the BCS era (since 1998) and hasn't won a major bowl game since the 1988 season (Cotton Bowl versus Arkansas). The Bruins also have suffered three losing seasons since 2003. The BCS era has been downright average for the Bruins, as they sit in 34th in that span. They haven't been lower than 20th in any other decade.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 18th | 1968: 17th | 1978: 16th | 1988: 13th | 1998: 13th
Did you know? The Bruins have four wins over top-ranked teams in the AP poll, which is more than programs like Michigan, Alabama and Nebraska can boast. Only six programs have enjoyed more.

Well the same guys came out with the total rankings this week, in which UCLA was right behind LSU, Georgia and Florida, and ahead of programs such as Auburn, Clemson, Arkansas, and Colorado that constantly gets hyped on CBS and ESPN (well lot of that has to do with SEC and Big-12 having better TV Ks than the incompetent Pac-10).

Note that such lofty recognition from national observers is nothing new.

Remember these all time rankings from AP, which ranks college football teams since the poll was first released on October 19, 1936. It further bolsters the point we have made all along on BN that UCLA has a history of being one of the better college football programs in the country.

We posted this back in 2006, backing up our pushback against the ridiculous notion that UCLA is not a football school:

School Times Ranked Times Ranked #1 Last Time Ranked #1
1 Michigan 729 34 January 3, 1998
2 Ohio State 703 73 January 4, 2003
3 Notre Dame 689 95 November 16, 1993
4 Oklahoma 628 95 December 1, 2003
5 U$C 623 81 December 5, 2005
5 Nebraska 623 70 October 23, 2000
7 Texas 607 42 January 5, 2006
8 Alabama 605 31 January 2, 1993
9 Tennessee 533 18 January 5, 1999
10 Penn State 532 21 October 13, 1997
11 UCLA 473 7 October 25, 1988
12 Florida 452 25 October 7, 2001


Again at number 11 in that list, UCLA was higher than powerhouses such as Miami, FSU, Georgia, Auburn, LSU etc. when it comes to being ranked by AP. Last time we were ranked no. in the AP poll was in October of 1988, before Aikman and Donahue choked away a home game against Rosenbach and Mike Price. UCLA was also ranked no. 1 in another poll that matters (these days). UCLA was the no. 1 team in the inaugural BCS poll in 1998, before we crashed and burned against Miami on December 5, 1998.

Also, don't forget the reporters at football crazy the Tuscaloosa News, two years ago did their own count down of Top 25 college football programs of all time (HT Roll Bama Roll). To no one's surprise (except for outsiders such as Brian Dohn) Bruins checked in at No. 19:

In the Tuscaloosa News' Best College Football Rankings, which will rate the Top 25 programs throughout the summer, UCLA scored points in six different categories but finished in the top 15 in only one: players in the National Football League.

Subsequently, it was also the lone category UCLA finished better than its rival, USC. The Bruins had 25 former players on NFL rosters at the start of last season compared to USC's 24 (The Trojans, however, had 11 players selected in this year's draft compared to UCLA's three.).

Although its legacy includes players like Troy Aikman, Kris Farris, Cade McNown, Jonathan Ogden, and walk-on quarterbacks Rick Neuheisel and John Barnes, UCLA is known for two individuals in particular.

Gary Beban won the Heisman Trophy in 1967, and, before he broke the color barrier in baseball, Jackie Robinson was a four-sport standout at UCLA (football, basketball, track and baseball). Robinson led the nation in punt returns in 1939 and 1940, and his 18.8-yard career average ranks fourth in NCAA history.

Here is the whole story. (reg. req'd).

So what are the points of aggregating all these data points at one pace. Again that all syncs up with the big picture CRN has been promorting since his arrival in Westwood. He knows about our history and unlike his predecessor he doesn't shy away from it or feels burdened by it. He has embraced it and has used it as one of his key selling points in holding together a top-10 class in his first January as a UCLA head football coach, and then subsequently closing with another kick ass class few months ago.

Right now we are still expected to go through growing pains because of the years of neglect and mismanagement by the previous two regimes. It is going to take time to come out of it like it took Howland to rebuild the basketball program. Still we have already seen signs of life on the recruiting trail and if this year if we can turn the recruiting momentum into a bowl season, UCLA will be on its way back in securiing its right ful place as a basketball school fitting comfortable in between college football elites.