As we have pointed out in numerous posts, UCLA has an outstanding history of football excellence, but since 1998, the program has fallen on hard times. The situation has become dire during the tenure of Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, George Dohrmann points out some of the same grim statistics we have cited elsewhere:
Neuheisel proclaimed when he arrived in 2008 that he would take Los Angeles back from USC. But the Bruins are 16--23 since then, and a program that was a Pac-10 power throughout the 1980s, has spiraled toward irrelevancy. UCLA has gone a school-record 65 weeks without appearing in the AP Top 25, failed to earn a conference title in 12 seasons and dropped 11 of 12 to the rival Trojans. Athletic director Dan Guerrero has raised the specter of yet another coaching change—the fourth in 16 seasons—if the Bruins don't land a bowl bid.
The fact that UCLA, a university synonymous with excellence and with an outstanding football history would allow its football team to languish in mediocrity for so long suggests that there are macro issues at play. UCLA Football needs to improve its facilities in order to reestablish UCLA as a top football program. Part of facilities investment is showing that the program and the administration is committed:
Why the struggles? First, consider the macro issues, including facilities that are arguably the worst in the Pac-12. Then there's the inconvenience of playing almost 30 miles from campus at the Rose Bowl: Last season the Bruins drew 60,376 fans per game but played to 66.3% of capacity, which ranked 89th in the country. Finally, there's ever-increasing apathy toward football. UCLA is often labeled a potential powerhouse because of the fertile Southern California recruiting ground, but the program has more in common with Indiana, Maryland and other schools where basketball is the priority. Look no further than the $135 million renovation under way at Pauley Pavilion and the absence of any plans to upgrade the football facilities.
Obviously, we don't agree with all of this analysis, but we do agree that the career bureaucrats need to make football a priority. The Acosta Center is a nice facility, but not on the level of some of the other facilities across the county in major BCS conferences, the Pac-12, and even non-BCS conferences.
While UCLA did renovate the Acosta Center, to include a 15,000 square foot weight room, 8,000 square feet for athletic training and rehabilitation, and the Bud Knapp Football Center, which includes the locker rooms, equipment room, and nine meeting rooms and a team meeting room, the facilities are not in the top of the conference or comparable programs. As we have demonstrated, financially, football is the most important sport for the financial health of an athletic department, and spending on football and reinvesting in the football program makes a lot of sense.
Nothing seems to symbolize the current state of UCLA football that Spaulding Field, with its crooked goalposts, and turf that can't even be used when there is a little bit of rain.
In this series, we will explore premier football facilities throughout the country, other facilities in the Pac-12, other BCS conferences, and non-BCS conferences, and make suggestions for improvements in UCLA facilities, particularly football facilities.