#SFatPauley - On Courage and Conviction

Bumped. Brilliant post. - BN Eds.

First, I have to apologize for the length of this post. I've been reading about the Morgan Center student-seating fiasco for days now, alternately getting irate and depressed. I have relished reading the wise and passionate words of many here, and cannot articulate these thoughts as well. So, this tome is a "core dump," of sorts, having come from many days of reading and reacting, internally, until it finally boiled over. I hope this is OK.

I want to talk about two "C" words--courage and conviction. One can have strong conviction, but lack the courage to stand on that conviction. One can have courage, but have flimsy convictions. It is a rare and principled person who has both unshakable, virtuous convictions and steadfast courage.

Coach Wooden had both, in spades. Fortunate to have parents who molded his impressionable young mind with all the right values, for all the right reasons, Coach grew into an adult who wavered nary a step off his virtuous and principled path.

Examples of this great man's courageous and principled stands abound. I will cite just a few.

(1) In the late 1940s, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics had been holding a Men's Basketball Championship since 1937, a tournament founded by no less than one James Naismith. In 1947, Coach Wooden's Indiana State team was invited to participate in the tournament. He refused, because at the time, the tournament was not open to black athletes. The fact that the ISU team WAS open to blacks was, of course, no coincidence. Young Coach knew right from wrong, even as a youngster, going against older established coaches and administrators.

In 1948, primarily due to the public pressure laid on them by Coach Wooden in the previous year, the association opened their doors, sort of, to black student-athletes. Again, Coach's team was invited. Again, he refused. Upon talking to his team and players' parents, he agreed to participate, bringing the first African-American student-athlete (Clarence Walker) to play at the national tournament.

Unfortunately, the relaxation in rules hadn't percolated down to the masses. Coach thus witnessed, first-hand, the reluctant "integration" of the times--separate hotels, separate bathrooms, separate restaurants.

Can you imagine the courage it took to take such stands? The guts to pit one's principled youth against entrenched, bigoted status quo? For most mortals, including me, such bravery would be a lifetime's worth. For Coach Wooden, it was just a start.

(2) On a stormy, winter evening in 1948, Coach was awaiting word from officials of the University of Minnesota, who he thought wanted to hire him as head basketball coach. Both Coach and his wife, Nell, preferred to stay in the Midwest. But, the call from Minnesota didn't come. Thinking that Minnesota had lost interest, Coach accepted a three-year contract offer that did come in, from UCLA, his second choice.  

But, Minnesota had not lost interest, at all. Rather, the person charged with proffering his University's offer was held up in a snow storm. Hard to imagine, I know, but back then, there were no cell phones and few phone booths. When Minnesota, his preferred job, finally got hold of him, Coach Wooden reluctantly turned them down. Why? Because he had given his word to UCLA.

A small thing to most people, but to Coach, his word meant everything. Probably, no one would have blamed him had he reneged on UCLA and taken the Minnesota gig. Bad-luck snowstorm, staying close to home, and so on. But, no, Coach wouldn't have it any other way. He had given his word. It was clear. Pure courage.

(3) When compared to the salaries and bonuses of many of his famous peers, Coach Wooden was grossly underpaid. When considering the success his teams enjoyed, his salary was less than a pittance. His salary should have been the highest of all. Why wasn't it? Was it because Coach had a crappy agent? Was it because Coach had no agent at all, and he got fleeced by UCLA?

Nope, it was Coach, himself, who determined how much was too much. His reasons? From the get-go, Coach saw himself as a teacher. He thought that it would not be right for his salary to be bigger than that of other teachers. So, teachers' salaries weren't his baseline, but rather his CEILING. He would not accept a salary greater than that of the highest-paid teacher at UCLA.

Can you imagine such a scenario today? Can you imagine the head coach of a prominent program, let alone a historically famous one, voluntarily limiting his compensation? In this day, when many measure their worth against the earnings of others, I can't.

But, Coach didn't measure his worth against that of others. Not only did he not need to be among the highest paid coaches, he didn't WANT to be. And, why? Because it would have been against his principles. That is courage.

(4) Pauley Pavilion was being built in the early 1960s, to be ready for the 1965-1966 season. Having come off the first of two NCAA Championships, Coach was an influential "designer" in Pauley. He COULD have exerted his influence for personal gain, so as to create as large an advantage for his team as possible. He could have emphasized basketball over other concerns of the University.

Did he? Nope. Instead, he strongly preferred a design that would allow the gymnastics teams and volleyball teams to practice and play, as well. But, wouldn't that mean large empty spaces behind baskets? Wouldn't that lessen the home-court advantage? Yep. But, to Coach, UCLA was about ALL students. He wanted to provide, not only for other athletic teams, but also for the students, so they could watch these other sports in a nice place, too.

(5) Final example. A certain UCLA junior, Bill Walton, showed up for the first practice of his second varsity season (as a junior). An All-American, fresh off a National Championship, THAT Bill Walton. Trouble is, Walton was in violation of one of Coach's team rules--neat hair and no beard.

Full of confidence and Grateful Dead rebelliousness, and having just won a NC, Walton was sure he could prevail over the old man. "It's my right," he insisted.

"Do you feel strongly about that, Bill?"

"Yes, I do."

"That's good, Bill," Coach said. "I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them. I really do. We're going to miss you, Bill."

You get that? An All-American, the best player in the land, and Coach was ready to dismiss him, for principle. Name me another coach who would have done the same thing.

Why am I intoning on about having strong convictions and the courage to stand up for them? Because I don't see even a shred of the same coming from the Morgan Center. What? Put students together, filling up an entire sideline? Or, all around the court? Not financially viable.

Who are we building the new Pauley for, Morgan Center? By your actions, and insultingly by your deceitful words and carefully calculated "surveys," it most certainly is not for the students. But, shouldn't it be? Shouldn't the almighty donors have to get in line, behind students, to visit this University arena? Shouldn't your mission be to do everything in your power to enrich the student experience? Shouldn't you be concerned about breeding lifelong Bruins, and not coincidentally, tomorrow's donors? Isn't that why UCLA exists, for the students? One would think. Coach would have thought so.

The contrast is incredibly stark. Here, one of the most principled men in modern history helps bring all kinds of positive recognition to UCLA. And, here, the current administration hides behind "not financially viable" and shafts the students with a shrug.

We all deserve better, students, faculty, alumni, fans. It would seem that you, Morgan Center, lack both courage and convictions. Yes, it would take courage to stand up for lesser-paying students over generous donors. Sure, it would. It is very easy, and very acceptable, these days to say "we can't afford it." It takes real guts to stand up for principle, especially when principle lies with the little guy. It takes large cojones to stand for what's right against the winds of accepted reality.  

It takes real courage that you, to date, have not shown. Please find it. 

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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