After a month of silence on Dan Guerrero's part (but not ours), our Athletic Director finally spoke yesterday.
This week, the Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC) decided to further explore the overall student body reaction to the seating adjustment by placing a question on the upcoming election ballot. ... If ultimately, a return to the previously established student section is the desire, then that is what we will do.
I believe this statement from Guerrero is his first public comment that sort of addresses the outrage over the change in student seating when Pauley reopens in 2012. Yet, even in Guerrero's statement yesterday, there are still contradictions with earlier statements out of Morgan Center.
While the revelation that Guerrero is even aware that some people are unhappy is a somewhat welcome surprise, and I do have a glimpse of hope that this grave error might still be corrected, I still have real difficulty believing that the Morgan Center will pull its head out of the sand and seriously address this critical mistake they have made.
Why should I believe them? Let's look at the Morgan Center's track record of dishonesty since this sordid affair began.
Lie #1: Morgan Center's deceitful bait and switch move. The Morgan Center began advertising The Campaign of Champions with a seating plan that included students along the south sidelines, facing the TV cameras, (the way Duke and Michigan State and other teams with an impressive home court environment do it), only to abruptly change the seating plan after having collected many millions in donations.
Lie #2: Morgan Center's deliberate misrepresentation of data to justify the move. Further academic dishonesty appeared when Morgan twisted a single unrelated survey question into the claim that the students wanted to move off the sidelines. From the initial press release on March 30:
Over 82 percent desired a seating area that gave them unity and the ability to help give our teams the home court advantage they deserve."
We have evaluated the specifics of that question in the survey here, and here, and it is not remotely reasonable to accept that this data meant the students wanted to move from the sidelines. Desire for unity does not equal desire for banishment. And placing your best fans at the end of the arena will not help your home court advantage.
More lies after the jump...Lie #3: Morgan Center's deliberate misrepresentation of student involvement. In the same press release on March 30, Mark Harlan would have had us believe the students were intimately involved in making this decision
We surveyed over 7,000 members of `The Den' regarding several subjects and they gave us some outstanding feedback on ways to enhance the student experience at our events," said Mark Harlan, UCLA Senior Associate Athletic Director - External Affairs
The Daily Bruin reported that about 10% of 7,800 members of Den ticket holders replied to the survey. That's 780 students, not the 7,000 that Harlan claims were surveyed. There are 38,157 graduate and undergraduate students at U.C.L.A., meaning that Harlan heard from 2% of students who could be affected by this. In the end, this new plan was discussed with only a few members of the Den, USAC, and the Spirit Squad. He'd better sit in on Pasych 42 for a bit to figure how to generate more meaningful data and better samples.
Lie #4: Disinformation propaganda coming from Morgan and its collaborators that there have been no complaints about of the move. Morgan Center denied any complaints on Facebook.. Then they hid comments complaining about the move. Then they banned Bruins who continued to complain about the move. Currently, they are simply ignoring repeated complaints. Those involved in making this wrongful decision refuse to see reality.
Den President Elan Bigknfe said he is shocked that a vote to gauge student response to the change in seating was proposed, because students have not spoken up about their disappointment.
For anyone willing to see the truth, any quick read of the Bruins Nation's Students First at Pauley campaign, or a visit to the UCLA Athletics Facebook page, or a trip into the Spring Football Game, or a look at Mexi's online petition, or hearing the voice of many of the students affected by this, or the fact that USAC has included an advisory vote on the subject on next week's ballot will tell you what reality looks like. It looks like people are overwhelmingly unhappy with the move.
Lie #5: Morgan Center's claim this is about, or not about, the money. The financial issues of why this happened have been discussed repeatedly. First, Harlan said it was about the money: (emphasis mine)
Mark Harlan, UCLA’s senior associate athletic director for external relations, said that extending the current sideline student section from floor to ceiling wasn’t a viable option financially, causing it to move behind the basket to incorporate all students.
Then other Morgan Center officials denied it was about the money. MexiBruin describes this personal encounter with one of them:
Ken Weiner, the Senior Associate Athletic Director, stopped one student and myself. ... He repeatedly reiterated the party line that the Student Body wanted this move, that USAC approved this move; but we weren’t going to have that.
And even Harlan is contradicting himself now (emphasis mine):
He said the decision to change the seating was made based on student input about their experience at sporting events, not at all for financial reasons.
Of course it's about the money. It's always about the money. But even though the Morgan folks can't keep their stories straight, Tasser demonstrated there was not a big diference in the money either way. If you're going to sell the soul of the student experience at basketball, at least do it for a hell of a lot more money than they are making with this. Or better yet., just don't do it at all.
Another quote from our Athletic Director yesterday:
I can guarantee without any reservation that we are all committed to creating the best possible memories and environment for today’s team members and their fellow students.
Forgive me, Mr Guerrero, Mr Harlan, and the rest of you at Morgan Center. I would sincerely love to believe what you say. I really really would. But I am having a very hard time believing anything that comes out of your mouths.
It's not too late to get this right. Put the students back on the south sideline.