It's the last Sunday before Christmas (next Sunday) and Hanukkah (this upcoming Tuesday), so if you're done shopping, congratulations. If not, well then, perhaps you should be instead of reading this. But in any event, for those of you enjoying the quiet, sunny (but cold, at least by our standards) California afternoon, there are a few interesting notes around UCLA to take note of.
Obviously, the big news is that our women's volleyball team grabbed NCAA championship #108 for UCLA last night, winning a tough fight against Illinois. It also highlighted something interesting: women's volleyball is a non-revenue sport, one that among the majority of American sports fans, traditionally garners very little interest. But, despite that, our in-game thread for last night's match against Illinois was rocking, getting way more commentary and generating a lot more excitement than the men's basketball program (which has just finished demolishing UC Davis). Sure, Ben Howland's Dumpster Fire crew was taking on a feckless 1-8 Aggies squad, while the ladies were playing for a national title, but this is UCLA folks. This is the school of John Wooden. And this is John Wooden's program: the standard for basketball excellence, the hoops program with more banners than any other, the program where only national titles are lifted to the rafters.
All-in-all, it tells me two things: (1) Ben Howland's program just does not generate any excitement like it used to, which I think is pretty evident, and is a pretty damning indictment against Howland and Chianti Dan's timid leadership; and (2) that UCLA fans are desperate for a winner. Seriously, look at how pumped people got for Rachael Kidder and Co. last night. Not to take anything away from the ladies (because they were awesome) but when it comes to college sports, football is king.
If there was anything that shows why Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor Rhea Turteltaub need to throw Chianti Dan out of Morgan Center (setting aside the increasing mountain of evidence that he is an incompetent, tone-deaf, self-centered bureaucrat without a clue), it's the passion that Bruins showed for the women's volleyball team last night. Could you imagine what it would be like if our football program could be a consistent winner? Can you imagine the crazy euphoria if the Bruins could find some gridiron glory in the Rose Bowl (instead of playing in the Rose Bowl)? It's fair to say that the legions of Bruin fans turning away because of Chianti Dan's mismanagement is costing the university untold millions of dollars. There's a vast army of Bruin fans who are just waiting, dying, hoping for a winner in True Blue and Gold. Those fans want to buy UCLA gear, buy tickets to UCLA football games, donate money to UCLA, but they're waiting to see if their university is going to commit to being a winner.
So, are you willing to commit to being a winner Gene? These Bruins want one desperately. And it would be so easy to make happen: fire Dan Guerrero, cut Bob Field out of the picture, sever Terry Donahue's input, and bring in a fresh face who is committed to turning UCLA into a winner on the football field.
So, with that, let's take a look at the bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse after the jump.
- Starting with football, the Orange County Register has a quick piece on our seniors, who will be suiting up for UCLA for the last time in San Francisco at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Brian Whitehead has a couple of quick quotes from Nelson Rosario, Nate Chandler, and the true offensive MVP and inspiration of this squad, Derrick Coleman. I, for one, will be very sad to no longer see big #33 rumbling down the field after this last game.
- Sticking with football, the L.A. Times profiled 2013 UCLA commit, defensive back/running back Dashon Hunt from Westlake Village. Hunt, a junior at Westlake High, has committed himself to UCLA and is the star of the Southern California team that laid waste to opponents on their way to the CIF Open Division championship game. Unfortunately for Dashon, Westlake had to take on the perennial strongman from the East Bay, the De La Salle Spartans, led by the top linebacker in the 2013 class, Michael Hutchings (who we probably won't get, but who Mora needs to make a serious run at). The Spartans had no problem systematically slaughtering Westlake, dropping them 35-0 to claim the state open division title.
- Finally on football, former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel had a couple of quick quotes on how the Coaches' Poll, which is one of the factors in the BCS formula, is kind of a joke, with coaches voting "without a clue." When it comes to the BCS, why is this not a surprise?
- Turning to women's basketball (which has not been having a very good week), UCLA commit Nirra Fields has been ruled eligible to play her senior season at Mater Dei. Great news for Nirra and we look forward to seeing her in blue-and-gold soon.
- Speaking of hoops, former UCLA guard (and former Indiana commit) Matt Carlino made his debut for the BYU Cougars against Baylor yesterday. Carlino, who didn't break into Ben Howland's rotation, rounds out the "Former UCLA All-Stars" (Carlino, Kendall Williams, Mike Moser, Chace Stanback, Drew Gordon) who have caught on somewhere else and playing well. Carlino debuted for the Cougars with 18 points off the bench, including shooting 4 for 8 from three-point land. Gee, wouldn't it be nice if UCLA had a shooter who could come off the bench? I suppose Ben is happy to let the Wears jack up terrible shots from just inside the arc instead.
Alright folks, that is your Bruin Bites round-up for the end of the week. Fire away with your thoughts, comments, additions, etc. in the thread.