In case you didn’t know, UCLA football’s recruiting class had been dealt a temporary blow when Eddie Vanderdoes and Nico Falah committed to USC on Wednesday.
@LevOnUSC Eddie Vanderdoes commits to USC; SacBee quick read ..http://blogs.sacbee.com/preps/archives/2012/07/placer-football.html
— Joe Davidson (@sb_joedavidson) July 12, 2012
St. John Bosco offensive lineman Nico Falah has announced he has committed to USC.
— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) July 12, 2012
Of course, we know UCLA already has a top-25 recruiting class, so it isn’t as if these temporary losses have put us in total hell. Both were considering UCLA before today and both took the path towards solid football and shoddy characters.
But that’s the nature of the beast. 17-year old kids don’t care a ton that UCLA’s academics are far more impressive and important — I dare any Trogans to say otherwise so I can eviscerate them — nor do they care that UCLA is in a better neighborhood than South Cal. They don’t care that UCLA produces game-changers and that South Cal graduates are more likely to get involved in legal battles at some point.
They care that South Cal wins games and UCLA, recently, has not.
Because being the first team in college football history to go 6-8 isn’t a compliment. Getting into the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl after getting permission to do so, and then losing that bowl game handily is embarrassing. Having a coach — in Rick Neuheisel — whose game was all talk and no … well, game … is damning. Producing no NFL draftees in 2012 is disheartening. Not having an eight-win season in six years is crushing. Being nationally irrelevant since 1998 — the last time that UCLA was in a Rose Bowl — is beyond disappointing.
And losing to South Cal ten times out of the past 11 — no, we’re not counting the vacated wins since, y’know, they’re vacated — is the end of the world.
The 50/50 kids — those deciding between the two elite Los Angeles schools — will essentially hear two pitches: Either the potential of one school’s football future, or the tradition of another. UCLA is the former, and South Cal is obviously the latter.
South Cal wins football games. UCLA does not. And, because these kids likely eat, breathe, and sleep football, they’ll take the winner over playing time any of the seven days of the week.
They don’t care if Lane Kiffin is an asshole, or if South Cal’s tradition is as shoddy as they come. The fan-base for South Cal is active, as you’d expect from a winning program.
UCLA isn’t dead in the water, though. No, not by a long-shot.
Because if this team can turn the corner — here, in the Jim Mora Era, and as soon as possible — and do what they’re supposed to do in 2012? If this squad can win nine games, beat South Cal — or make this shit incredibly close, at the very least — and win a bowl game? The tides turn, arrogance/confidence of South Cal fans be damned, and UCLA has a shot at becoming a powerhouse in the recruiting aspect once more, and then everything else falls into place.
Waiting another year means allowing South Cal to dominate for another year and allows them to establish predominance over Los Angeles football. Letting eight to nine wins slip out of our hands this season — and letting South Cal get a big head with an easy win over us — will be disastrous.
UCLA fans are sick of South Cal using their only form of leverage over us — which happens to be the thing that matters most to recruits — to annoy, troll or embarrass us.
We know Jim Mora is a shoddy hire, and we know all the positive-direction-y stuff is all talk until the season gets underway.
But all we can do is hope, and we pray to God, to our beloved university itself, that Mora can become the legend UCLA has been waiting for since Terry Donahue left.
UCLA needs to win, and win yesterday.