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Eye on Casey Wasserman: a Potential Game Changer for Floundering UCLA Athletics

Thoughts on Casey Wasserman, the Bruin alum who has emerged as “a national force in business, civic affairs and politics.” He is a potential game changer for the floundering UCLA athletics program. The question is why that hasn't happened yet.

Casey Wasserman [UCLA, Poli. Sci. '96]
Casey Wasserman [UCLA, Poli. Sci. '96]
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

How do donors like Casey Wasserman feel all about all of this? What goes through the mind of someone like Wasserman when we see a clown like Dan Guerrero (and his boss Gene Block) repeatedly turn UCLA into a national joke? This is something we have wondered out loud few times during last few days when we poured over the mind boggling public details on Steve Alford's obscene K.

The topic is somewhat timely as the New York Times ran a glowing profile on Bruin alum Casey Wasserman, who has now emerged as a "force in business, civic affairs and politics" both at the state and national level:

Mr. Wasserman, 39, is chief executive of the Wasserman Media Group, a sports-focused management and marketing firm. Founded 11 years ago, this $150 million business is now one of the largest sports agencies in the world, negotiating lucrative television and endorsement deals and handling naming rights for billion-dollar complexes, including MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Nike, Pepsi and Microsoft are corporate clients, and individual clients include Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts.

Astoundingly, Wasserman Media represented the No. 1 overall draft pick last year in five professional sports: men's and women's basketball, baseball, soccer and football. "There's a sense of permanence about Casey," said Adam Silver, the incoming commissioner of the N.B.A. "You know you are going to be dealing with him for a very long time."

Mr. Wasserman has also become a big deal behind the scenes in his hometown. That new $116 million medical building at the University of California, Los Angeles? He had it built, with his foundation providing significant financing. A $300 million movie museum will soon rise on Wilshire Boulevard, a partnership of the Oscars organization and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he serves on the board. The alliance was his idea. [...]

As for political influence, well, put it this way: Hillary Rodham Clinton likely did not have a two-hour breakfast with Mr. Wasserman a few weeks ago just to shoot the breeze. Mr. Wasserman is a trustee of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. He is also a significant Democratic donor and fund-raiser.

Read rest of the profile here, which mentions Casey graduating from UCLA in 1996 with a degree in political science (North Campus's answer to all the nobel laureates from the south) and that he "works from an office near U.C.L.A." What the profile left out is the deep connection Wasserman reportedly has had with UCLA athletics in recent years. Let us fill you in by giving you a refresher through posts blogged over here in recent years:

The datapoints above show that Wasserman is potentially one of those figures who could have the same influence on UCLA Athletics in the mold of Phil Knight in Oregon. But the questions to ponder is whether he actually has that influences or whether he cares at all or whether he has been sidelines due to the sheer stupidity and ineptitude of the UCLA administrations. Consider the following factors:

It is clear that Wasserman is a man of vast influence in the sports world, with deep financial resources, and yet when it comes to his own alma mater, which we know he loves (evidence in his generous giving for the medical building mentioned in the NYT piece and his investment (both financial and emotional) in our athletic program). Then, why does he accept mediocrity at Morgan Center?

When you compare how Wasserman Media is run (cutting edge, out in front, new media savvy) to how Morgan Center runs (calling an email a "blog", always late on social media, a distinctly early 2000s feel to their internet approach), as an alum, how can he sit back and watch the school he loves flounder and become a national joke in the big time world of college athletics?

Going back to the NYT profile this part of the story stood out of to me. It was about how much Wasserman likes being in control:

HE sounded mildly agitated but not defensive - similar to his demeanor later that day on the jet when he started losing at rummy. (Playing on an iPad against his public relations adviser, Melissa Zukerman, Mr. Wasserman eventually won.) Asked to point out one of his own flaws, Mr. Wasserman made a where-would-you-like-me-to-start face and pointed to the turbulence. To get over a fear of flying, he once took 60 hours of pilot training. But he said his "control issues" sometimes still get the best of him during choppy air, when the pilot and Mother Nature are in command, and he is not.

I think we can say that if UCLA had any kind of leadership with forward thinking vision and imagination, Wasserman could play a game changing role in Bruin athletics. He has been successful in everything he has done.

So all of this begs the final question(s): is Wasserman not more involved with UCLA athletics because he (a) doesn't want to be more involved for some reason, or (b) has been purposefully shut out by someone at UCLA (Chianti, Block, etc.)? If it's the former, why the hell has Morgan Center and Block not leveraged such a powerful alum in the sports world for UCLA's advantage? If it's the latter, why the heck would you shut out someone who clearly can improve and enhance the UCLA brand with his industry knowledge, marketing ability?