OT-Why is UCLA so Bad?

Submitted by Ziff72 on December 12th, 2011 at 10:34 AM

I was reading Doc Saturdays write up on their new coach.  In the write up he explains how exceedingly mediocre they have been.   I grew up rooting for them after the UM/OSU game when they would then go to the UCLA/USC game.  I always considered the UCLA program as at the bottom end of college football royalty, but after being shown their production over the last 20 years they don't live up to that thought. 

Any MGO people in California or that have more intimate knowlege of the program understand why they are not successful?  It seems like a program that would be a sleeping giant, but yet no one seemed to want the job.   Tradition, recruiting base, weather.   They seem to have it all.  I just don't get it.





December 12th, 2011 at 10:40 AM ^

The obvious explanatations seem to be that they've hired a couple of atrocious coaches (I know Neuheisel is a name but every team he's ever coached has gotten worse during his tenure), and the fact that USC has been completely dominating southern California recruiting.  

Also, when I opened this thread I assumed it was going to be about the basketball team.  It cannot be fun to be a UCLA fan right now...


December 12th, 2011 at 10:47 AM ^

college sports and hates idea of spending money on sports and facilites, espcially given the tough budget conditions.  Actually, I wish more schools were thinking the same way.  Also, consider where the campus is, right in the middle of the most expensive area of LA. There is very little college atmosphere.


December 12th, 2011 at 10:53 AM ^

Oregon state is in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Their facilities are not the best. They had some good years with Ochoa cinco, Steven Jackson, etc. but generally they have a good dline and the rest of the team is poor
<br>Oregon suffers from the same general stuff, though Eugene is much larger than Corvallis. But Uofo is Nike funded so their facilities are top. Itch and that kick started the program.


December 12th, 2011 at 10:46 AM ^

... but I recall reading somewhere that UCLA's President/Board keep the pursestrings very, very tight on any facilities upgrades in the athletic dept and especially so for football.  As a result, they simply don't have the kind of facilities to compete in recruiting, and if you can't compete in recruiting, you can't compete, period. 


December 12th, 2011 at 10:49 AM ^

They share a city with USC. Although, now that I think about it, two historical powerhouses can share the same geographic area and win year in and year out. Just take the instance of Michigan and Little Br..... ohh... wait...


December 12th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

With the lack of investment in facilities and a higher academic standard, UCLA is at a distinct disadvange against some other schools, like USC. 

Illinois is another school that seems like it should be able to be successful in football but has struggled.


December 12th, 2011 at 11:16 AM ^

In addition to the facilities, I hear that they are really cheap in hiring coaching staff. They ask coordinators and position coaches to work for less than market rate for big conference schools. Factor in the higher cost of living around that area, and it isn't an attractive spot for elite coaches.


December 12th, 2011 at 11:23 AM ^

Many good reasons have been listed, but hiring a good coach has been the main issue.  Back when they had Pepper Rodgers, Dick Vermeil and then Terry Donahue as head coach, they won a lot of games.


December 12th, 2011 at 11:28 AM ^

1. UCLA recruiting the last two years has really sucked 2010 (No. 56) and 2012 (No. 41ish).

2. Injuries - there's not a team aside from maybe Purdue that has had more misfortune in injuries. Also attrition has been an issue.

Regarding item 1, UCLA is talented. They had the No. 8 ranked class in 2010, the No. 5 ranked class in 2009 and No. 10 ranked class in 2008.

USC remains the dominant team on the recruiting side in southern California.



Eye of the Tiger

December 12th, 2011 at 11:31 AM ^

1. The name.  Sure there was a time when UCLA attracted recruits like Troy Aikman, but USC has always been the region's brand name.  It's like Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, or Michigan and Sparty: sure, Little Brother can be good at times, but Big Brother's always going to have that cachet.  It's relatively harder for UCLA to attract national attention and recruits than USC.

2. The facilities.  They are not good.  Across town, USC's are fantastic.  Oregon's are fantastic. Arizona and Arizona State's are better.  

3. A very average approach to hiring (average) coaches.  Both Toledo (10-2 in 1997 and 1998) and Dorrell (10-2 in 2005) had some good seasons, but had a lot of 7-6, 6-6 seasons as well.  That makes them pretty average for the Pac-10, same as Oregon State, Arizona State or Arizona over that period.  Neuheisel was just bad. 

Is Jim Mora going to be Pete Carroll or Bill Callahan?  I'm guessing the latter, based on history.  



December 12th, 2011 at 11:58 AM ^

He originally went to Oklahoma. Switzer went to a pro-style offense for Aikman, but when Aikman broke his leg against Miami (YTM), Switzer had to go back to the wishbone. Oklahoma won the rest of its games and a national title with a young Jamelle Holieway at QB, Aikman saw the writing on the wall and transferred to UCLA.


December 12th, 2011 at 1:15 PM ^

The Sports Arena made Crisler Arena look like the Staples Center and Heritage Hall is nowhere near as nice as most big programs have.  But the school just built a fantastic basketball arena and is currently building a $70MM athletic complex that will be in addition to the existing facilities:


They also just installed a new scoreboard at the Coliseum and are in the process of taking over control of the building from the Coliseum Commission (a quasi-government entity that had run the stadium as a historical landmark and made it nearly impossible to get necessary upgrades/improvements in years past).  The physical improvements on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood just in the last five years are also pretty remarkable as well.

This at a time when UCLA is going over budget and way behind schedule on the Pauley Pavillion renovations. 


December 12th, 2011 at 11:33 AM ^

Everything negative that's been said about UCLA should also apply to Cal, yet Cal has been much better over the past 10 to 15 years than UCLA.  In fact, I would think UCLA has easier admissions and more tradition.

The difference has to be in the coaches they've hired.


December 12th, 2011 at 12:08 PM ^

Cal's situation is very different.  Cal is located a good 400 miles north of USC, so they don't share a recruiting territory.  Also, Cal has its own stadium.  UCLA doesn't, which is a significant problem.  But anyway, Cal has historically been terrible.  Only in the past decade have they been competitive.


December 12th, 2011 at 2:14 PM ^

my point is that they have a lot of the same administration and similar resource issues.  The recruiting footprint is also similar, despite the SoCal/NoCal distance.

I do agree on the stadium, but UCLA still has more of a history and easier admissions, which should help recruiting more than the stadium hurts (and I would think playing in the Rose Bowl would be an advantage over a half empty Memorial Stadium).


December 12th, 2011 at 11:50 AM ^

Having gone to both schools (and being born and raised in LA), I have always said that the biggest issue with UCLA is the fact that their stadium is 20 miles away from campus. This has a profound ripple effect in that it takes loads of effort for students to get to games and greatly diminishes the gameday experience compared to a school like UM. The result is an apathetic fan base and virtually zero buzz about the program among the students or otherwise. I have often wondered about recruits visiting and going to campus and then sitting in traffic for an hour plus just to see the stadium--that can't help to lure elite talent. On top of everything else, most of their games are on local Fox Sports channels, usually not even broadcast in HD. Football simply isn't a priority, and it should be. They missed their opportunity to strike while USC should have been down, but they let USC dominate, even with one hand tied behind their back. Very sad.


December 12th, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

I think that's it exactly.  Imagine having to drive to Detroit to watch Michigan play a home game.  That would be awful.  And the Rose Bowl, while a nice venue overall, is just too big for their fanbase.  When you draw 50,000 fans in a 90,000-seat stadium, it looks really bad. 


December 12th, 2011 at 12:56 PM ^

They did take advantage when USC was down in the 90's.  Majorly down.  I remember the Trojans were so bad, they were often referred to as SC Community College by the media.  UCLA beat them 8 straight years in the 90's and they had a decent decade with a couple Rose Bowl trips.  Then when Cade McNoun graduated after the 98 season, everything went to hell.  Within a few years, Pete Carroll came to USC with the best players money could buy and the rest was history. 

UCLA was also decent during the 80's.  They played us in 89 and watching the game on tape, I was surprised when Keith Jackson mentioned how many games Terry Donahue had won.  His teams also went 8-4-1 in bowl games. 

But I think you nailed it.  If the students didn't have to go on a road trip just to get to their own stadium, maybe things might be a little different. 


December 12th, 2011 at 1:40 PM ^

They beat us in the 1983 game. Steve Smith separated a shoulder and little-used backup Dave Hall played in the second half. He threw two touchdown passes and a pick six. The score was 10-0 before Smith was hurt, so I'm not sure we would have won if he'd played the whole game.

They also slaughtered Illinois (45-9 in the 1984 game) and Iowa (45-29 in the 1986 game).


December 12th, 2011 at 12:08 PM ^

I live in LA so I am little familiar with the territory. There are many reasons why Div I athletes should flock to its campus: (a) you have beautiful weather almost the entire year; (b) UCLA has a beautiful campus nestled in one of the nicest parts of LA (it actually has a college town feel); (c) academically it is one of the best schools in California and the entire country (Berkeley and Stanford are ranked slightly higher, and I am not counting Cal Tech because I am pretty sure that they do not have varsity football/basketball, etc.); (d) lots of beautiful ladies for the guys; (e) California is one of the big high school football states (along with Florida, Texas, Ohio) that produces a ton of D-I talent. What kid wouldn't want to play there? I am guessing that main reason is that UCLA does not have much of a tradition when it comes to football and is not known as a NFL factory. UCLA sort of lives in the shadow of USC when it comes to football, at least. The only reason why, imo, is USC's history but, other than that, imo UCLA is much more attractive for the reasons listed above. USC is in one of the worst neighborhoods in LA and I the campus itself is nowhere as nice as UCLA's.


December 12th, 2011 at 1:01 PM ^

USC's dominace has definitely hurt, but UCLA has also failed to bring in the guys who don't go to SC.  I can think of a number of high profile kids out of southern California who passed on the Trojans, but none of them became Bruins.  Vontaze Burfict went to ASU, Desean Jackson went to Cal, Donovon Warren went to Michigan, DeAnthony Thomas went to Oregon, Darrell Scott went to Colorado.

They also haven't added any high profile players I can think of from outside of the area, at a time when Oregon is bringing in guys like LeMichael James from Texas, Stanford has recruited well nationally, and USC has added a ton of out of state talent (Mike Williams was from FL, Jarrett and Cushing were from NJ, McKnight was from LA, LenDale White was from CO, Fred Davis was from OH, Nick Perry and RoJo from MI, etc.).  This wasn't always the case when guys like Freddie Mitchell (FL), Cade McNown (OR), and Skip Hicks (TX) were leading UCLA to ten win seasons.

I don't think the stadium distance really factors into the ability to land recruits (the issue has always existed but UCLA didn't have the same problem in the past).  But poor facilities and poor coaching hires (Karl Dorrell?) at a time when schools like Oregon, Cal, and Stanford have had some of their most successful teams ever and USC has dominated on the field while going through significant upgrades off the field (actually higher than UCLA in USNEWS rankings now, continue to develop the area surrounding the campus and push back the more unsavory adjoining neighborhoods etc.) have doomed them to also ran status the last decade or so.


December 12th, 2011 at 1:32 PM ^

Along with what everyone said about the administration, they have really become just a basketball school. 

They also just hired Jim L. Mora Jr. who has flamed at every place he has been in the nfl.  With basically no college coaching experience who knows if he can actually recruit.  Maybe hiring a coach who did poorly in the NFL is a great plan it kind of worked out for USC. 

LA fans are obnoxious bandwagoners and fair weather fans.  There is nothing more that I want to see than UCLA beat USC, but it seems like that might not happen anytime soon. 


December 12th, 2011 at 1:40 PM ^

The coaching is one issue, but they also don't enjoy a monopoly on the LA scene (or at least a shared one with USC) that they probably had 10-15 years ago.  Yes, national programs like UM, OSU, Texas, ND, and MSU always recruited there to various degrees, but now you have kids going to Utah, Boise St., etc. that used to stick closer to home.  So that has to be part of it. 

But honestly, not every big-name school is going to be good at every sport, and UCLA was always viewed as a basketball school to me, and I'm guessing that is a sentiment shared by others.  And yes, I know that the UCLA president doesn't like to spend on facilities, support big-time sports, etc. - that's probably true at more schools than you think, yet at least some of them probably field better teams than UCLA does.


December 12th, 2011 at 2:13 PM ^

Most Academics hate college sports.  The problem is there's a difference between the ones that acknowledge reality and pay proper attention to Athletics knowing the potential payoffs and the ones who decide to be actively hostile and treat them as a necessary evil and as an unnecessary expense.  Block at UCLA is in the latter group and he was the same way at Virginia.

Darth Wolverine

December 12th, 2011 at 2:09 PM ^

If this hasn't been said already (I don't have time to read through all the replies), two reasons why are first and foremost, they are competing against USC in recruiting and second, they don't even have a stadium on campus, as they play in the Rose Bowl.


December 12th, 2011 at 6:00 PM ^

It basically comes down to money and effort.

My wife works at UCLA and I was there for many years as a grad student and later faculty (I'm now at USC so I also have some contrast). 

First of all, the entire UC system is a mess right now with the California state budget in crisis and they have been bleeding quality faculty and staff at every level, as people find other places to work instead of taking huge pay cuts or furloughs.   I can't imagine that they are going to have an easy time coming up with the increased salaries necessary for top level coaches and assistants in the current budgetary climate. 

Second, the culture at UCLA is pretty weak when it comes to football.  Coming from UM I was just totally disappointed at going to football games when I arrived at UCLA... you have to drive an hour plus to get to Pasadena crumbling Rose Bowl with empty seats.  The student body did not seem to care very much about the team... basketball was much more important to them. 

Most of the top schools have new state-of-the-art facilities.  UCLA has nothing to offer in that regard, nor are they any plans for it.    USC is putting a whole new building up right down the street from me for football, and the whole culture here is completely obsessed with it and devoted to it.   

UCLA is just not making football a priority.  


December 12th, 2011 at 7:16 PM ^

I think battling USC in recruiting is way overblown. There are a ton of talent in Southern California (not to mention even more that would like to go there) and USC can only take 25 or so a year. Of the top 30 players in CA (all blue chips, 13 are committed to non-USC schools, 11 are uncommitted, and only one is committed to UCLA. So it's not that UCLA can't compete with USC for recruits, it's that UCLA can't compete with any of the teams recruiting CA. Cal, ND, and Oregon are all out-recruiting UCLA in California, and other schools like Michigan, Oklahoma and others are doing just as well.

In addition to all that, it's what others have said: No $$$ support for facilities or coaches and a stadium that's an hour drive away from campus are all things keeping UCLA from being good.