Sports Illustrated published an article today on how UCLA basketball has lost its way as of late, titled “Not the UCLA Way.” Here’s my letter to the school’s chancellor:
I just read the much talked-about Sports Illustrated article about Ben Howland’s regime in the wake of his three Final Four appearances. As an alum, it is indeed an embarrassment to this university and to the legacy of John Wooden. As the title says, This is Not the UCLA Way. That much is obvious.
But, if after reading this article, you still believe that Dan Guerrero is qualified to not only hire yet another major sports coach in his tenure (this would be his fifth; replacing his own choices in two separate flagship sports!), but still head up what has become a national joke of an athletic department, then it’s obvious that you will never be convinced. You’re an “untouchable.” Truly a White Tower Intellectual — too above something so seemingly everyday, blue collar and mundane as intercollegiate sports. Your prized medical center, for all its warranted and great attributes, merits all of your attention. But as chancellor, you are in charge of all of UCLA, and should understand just how important sports are to alumni and this campus — and can be to continuing to lift the international profile of UCLA. Stanford and Duke are perfect examples of highly ranked academic campuses that also have top-ranked medical centers and just so happen to field top-flight athletic teams too. Why should UCLA be any different?
This SI article offers nothing truly new to those of us alumni who follow the basketball program closely. It just offered more colorful, controversial and tabloid detail. UCLA Basketball has truly lost its way. It lacks leadership, discipline, a purpose, and, most importantly, class and dignity. But so has the athletic department. I’m sickened by how UCLA acted before this article even was published — by hiring a crisis management consulting team. British Petroleum would be proud. There are other options to solve such fundamental athletic department problems rather than denying that they are happening. (What would John Wooden do?)
I’ll say it again. Dan Guerrero should be fired. And Ben Howland, regrettably, should probably be let go too at this point, but we all know that is dependent on his landing Shabazz Muhammad, the nation’s #1 recruit. But let’s be honest, after this article, would he really come here, let alone other recruits in classes beyond? To not fire Howland and Guerrero after so much systemic failure will only send the wrong message — that the administration is willing to let the basketball team and the athletic department continue to operate in a manner that is “not the UCLA way.”
UPDATE 5/2012: Well, UCLA pulled out the #1 2012 recruiting class in the nation according to ESPN. (#2 on Scout.com).
Maybe this’ll go a long way to returning the school to prominence. But Howland is really on the hot seat now. If he doesn’t win with what are two probable one-and-doners (like #2 national recruit Shabazz Muhammad, and Kyle Anderson), then I assume he’ll be shown the door (yeah, right, with Guerrero still as the AD). Bring on football and baskeball season!