I hope Dan Guerrero had a nice weekend. I hear he got to spend some time in Houston, where the Men's Basketball Championship was being played. No, U.C.L.A. wasn't in it, but he took the time to make the trip anyway. He probably got to rub elbows with some of his favorite bigwigs from the NCAA. Hopefully enjoyed some of the fantastic restaurants there. Undoubtedly, he watched some top college basketball programs. I'm sure it was a great time. I lived in Houston for 4 years and it's a nice place, with great food, great people, and great fun. I met my wife in Houston. If it weren't for humidity and fire ants, they'd really have something there.
Unfortunately, while Dan was gone, his house back home in Westwood continued to burn to the ground. Our lovely and talented women's basketball coach moved out, and took her entire staff with her. And spring football started, but the fans are understandably afraid to be optimistic. And the students and alums are furious at the reseating plans at the new Pauley.
And this was all just in the last week.
I do not enjoy being critical. All I want is for U.C.L.A. to be successful in the way Coach would have had it. Like the women's basketball team this year. Or the baseball team last year. But the opposite is happening far too often, and, unlike some, we at Bruins Nation are not going to stick our head in the sand and refuse to face the truth. We are going to call out those people who are letting down the Bruin family, and are compromising the legacy of the Four Letters
Just a few months ago, I told TE193 I'd destroy his 1,000 reasons for wanting Guerrero fired, but now it looks like he was just way ahead of the curve. There is no question. Dan Guerrero is letting us down.
I had high hopes when Guerrero arrived in Westwood in 2002. The Morgan Center had settled into a culture of mediocrity under the tenure of AD Pete Dalis, and I was hopeful the new blood would breathe life into a stagnating athletic department. While most of our non-revenue sports maintained their traditional high level of success, the major sports of basketball and football were struggling to retain national relevance.
The recent debacle with student seating in Pauley is just the latest in a long list of missteps taken by Guerrero and the Morgan Center, which has led to the further weakening of our major sports, a blemish on the face of one of the proudest athletic traditions in the country, and a loss of faith and support from the alumni and fan base. An occasional hiccup in a college athletic program is understandable, and probably unavoidable. No one hits a home run every time. But the breadth and severity of the flames leaping from Morgan Center during Guerrero's reign are alarming.
Some of Dan Guerrero's lowlights, and sadly, there are a lot, after the jump:
Pauley Renovation. Overall, this is the most glaring failure. While coaching hires by nature have a deal of subjectivity, the opportunity to design and build a state of the art facility for our school should be much less so. However, instead of committing to the best solution for the University and building a new facility that maximizes both fan experience and revenue opportunities, the administration settled for an only slightly cheaper option that fails to correct many existing problems. A substandard facility will hurt recruiting and subsequent performance, which will further undermine support from the fan base in terms of attendance and donations. Communication about the project has been awful. Oh, and there's that little issue of where they are going to put the students.
Football's decade of misery. Since U.C.L.A. last won the Pac-10 in 1998, Stanford, UW, Oregon, OSU, WSU, Cal, ASU, and *$c have won or shared the conference title. Only UofA has a longer drought than the Bruins. During Guerrero's tenure, our football team is 57-55, including 3-4 in a handful of minor bowls. The winning percentage in Guerrero's 9 years is 51%. To find a 9 year span that bad, you have to go back nearly 70 years to 1936-1944 (42%). While we have given Guerrero a pass on the hire of the unqualified Karl Dorrell, the favorite of then Chancellor Carnesale, Guerrero nevertheless failed to stand up for what was rightfully his hire. When the Dorrell era came to its predictable end, we then took the cheap but sellable choice of Rick Neuheisel. Most of us bought in at the start, and 4 years later we are still waiting for that payoff. If it does not come this year, we will need a new football coach. Does anyone trust Guerrero with this?
Losing Coach Nikki Caldwell. While finding and hiring an unproven Nikki Caldwell is certainly to Guerrero's credit, losing a very well proven Caldwell is devastating. Caldwell turned a struggling women's basketball program to national prominence and appeared poised for greater things. While it's doubtful U.C.L.A. could have matched the reported $700K contract LSU offered, until we learn what Guerrero offered Coach Caldwell to stay, we are left only with the brutal truth that U.C.L.A. wasn't enough for her. This should be a very sobering thought. Now, the future of our women's program is a question mark again, especially since Nikki's entire staff is leaving Westwood, too. Seems staying with the Bruins wasn't a viable option for any of them, either. Good luck, ladies, and sincere thanks for your time here.
Women's basketball 2011 seeding. U.C.L.A. was 28-5 this season, with 3 of those losses to #2 Stanford. Somehow this only got the Bruins a #3 seed. Far worse was their location in a bracket with a deliberately underseeded #11 Gonzaga, who nevertheless got to play the first two rounds on home floors. Coach Caldwell took the high road, calling the placement "interesting". My word for it was BS. Guerrero's word for it was...well, we're still waiting. I doubt that respected women's powers like Stanford or UConn or Notre Dame or Tennessee would have sat idly by while their teams were scarificed to the NCAA's quest for the dollar. We can only guess how Guerrero's shameful lack of support for Coach Caldwell played into her decision to leave Westwood 2 weeks later.
Jackie Robinson Stadium. Our baseball stadium has the greatest name and the worst facilities for any major college program in the country. Check out the photo. My Pony League field had more seats. As a baseball guy, you'd expect Guerrero to make improving the facility a priority. Not so. An inadequate press box, too few bathrooms and concession stands, paltry seating, and inadequate facilities for the players are just some of the problems. The failure of Guerrero to address this, the very sport he played during his U.C.L.A. days, shows his absolute lack of commitment to the program and ineffectiveness as the athletic director. Compare our aged and obsolete facility to Oregon's brand new one. How's this photo? Any coincidence that Oregon, which hasn't been nationally relevant for about 50 years, and which has been a club team the last 30, just had the #3 recruiting class in the country? See? if you build it, they really will come. Sadly, Morgan hasn't. How do you suppose Manager John Savage feels about that kind of support? Reread the two paragraphs on Coach Caldwell above...
Poor fundraising. As silvelakebruin pointed out, U.C.L.A. ranks 9th in the Pac 10 in fundraising, finishing just ahead of that finanical juggernaut WSU. How's that Campaign of Champions going? Financial stability is the key to any successful enterprise, from the corner lemonade stand to "securing" recruits in the SEC. And while Guerrero should be applauded for keeping the athletic departments in the black during difficult economic times, it has come at the cost of minimal reinvestment in our programs. More importantly, the poor financial backing reflects many problems: failure to inspire donors, failure to reach potential new donors, failure to fill up venues, failure to appropriately market your products, failure to maximize the quality of your products. The lack of income is reflected in poor facilities (see Pauley and JRS above) and the inability to recruit and maintain the best coaching staff (see Caldwell and football above). These shortcomings make U.C.L.A. less attractive to recruits, and talent suffers and programs decline. This makes donors uninspired, fans don't fill up venues... See the pattern here? A gorgeous campus only goes so far. It's more than balancing the books. Guerrero must be a more effective recruiter of financial support to improve the health of the entire athletic department.
Rocky Seto and the DC Search. While Rick Neuheisel made the tough but necessary choice of releasing his defensive coordinator this off-season, the meandering journey to replace him made our football program look like a bunch of buffoons. Our notoriously cheap proceedings likely cost us any shot at Neuheisel's top choices of Vic Fangio (Stanford) and Rocky Long (SDSU). But the disgruntlement of Bruin fans reached riot proportions when Seto tweeted that he was getting the job. Luckilly, this information seeped out and Bruin fans got wind of it before a contract was signed. Only the collective protests of Bruins fans, including many at Bruins Nation, in a well coordinated effort vetoed the hire. How Seto was ever considered a reasonable candidate is almost too painful to imagine, as only the total misunderstanding of the U.C.L.A. fan base could have permitted this. This fiasco cost many of us what little faith we maintained in our football leadership.
I could go on. The failure to secure a venue for our basketball team to play in 2011-12.
The poorly conceived and managed student ticketing policies.
The failure to recover Pauley's center court.
The disappearance of the BenBall Warrior and decline of the basketball program.
The disaster that is the marketing of U.C.L.A. Athletics.
Discounted and ineffective assistant coaches in football and basketball.
The archaic and feeble attempts by Morgan to reach and engage the fan base.
And the most recent and offensive and disrespectful of all, the travesty of the student seating plan in the new Pauley.
For every positive accomplishment, there are double the negatives. Obviously, the blame for each of these issues cannot be placed on Guerrero alone. He has had help from the coaches, players, administration, marketing, and the even the fans. But Dan Guerrero is the one constant among all of these problems. He is the Athletic Director at U.C.L.A., and every issue in every program is his responsibility. And while he does ads for UPS, our programs are burning. The fact that there are so many different fires burning in so many different places forces us to question his ability to maintain the highest standards and performance within our athletic department.
U.C.L.A. fans want and expect and deserve excellence. And excellence does not mean championships in every sport. It means clean programs that compete hard. Student-athletes who do themselves and the school proud. Programs that are managed in a way that contribute to the overall good of the department. Performances that inspire the fans and create memories for the students and alumni that last them through the rest of their lives. It means doing things in the way that Coach would approve of.
Dan tells us he gets it.
I'm sure he does get it. We all get it.
What we need is someone who will do it. Is Dan Guerrero that person? Because I smell smoke...you guys should keep stoking the fire.