Two years ago, if you said the name Dan Guerrero anywhere near Westwood, the reaction, more often than not, may have been presented with a scornful look. The response itself would not have been none too kind, either. Recently, that sentiment has changed as success has found its way back to the Athletic Department.
Guerrero was hired to run the Athletic Department at UCLA in April 2002. Under his guidance, the Bruins have won 23 National Championships, the most of any school during his time in charge (just over 10 ½ years). He has overseen the renovation of several UCLA facilities, which include Easton Softball Stadium, Spieker Aquatic Center and world famous, Pauley Pavilion.
With all these improvements at a university that has the most NCAA Championships in the Nation (110), why would Guerrero have to worry about his job status?
In summation, he was not getting the revenue or the support for basketball and football, the aptly named “revenue sports”. The two biggest draws for UCLA had become stale, unimpressive and it all came down on Guerrero.
In his time here, he has had to fire two football coaches that he hired himself. Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel, who are undoubtedly great guys, drove the once mighty UCLA Football team straight into obscurity and it could not have happened at a worse time. While UCLA was down all those years, crosstown rival, USC, was not just up on the Bruins, they were the toast of college football, winning two national championships during the Dorrell/Neuheisel years. One was later vacated, hehehe.
Things had gotten a bit out of hand with the basketball program as well. Former coach, Ben Howland, who went 233-107 at his time in Westwood while also going to three straight Final Fours from the 2005-06 to 2007-08 seasons, had lost control of this once prestigious spot. Failing to continue success, sour relations with players and a vivid Sports Illustrated expose ultimately lead to his firing by Guerrero after another first round NCAA basketball tournament exit.
The two biggest sports at UCLA were being spotlighted by their inefficient leadership, from the coaches, all the way up to Guerrero.
The latest blunder that fell upon Guerrero was the unpopular hire of an unproven coach that was not Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan or Rick Pitino. No, it was Steve Alford out of New Mexico. To make things worse, his history at the University of Iowa did not please the Bruin faithful either.
Still, Guerrero hung in there and made choices that are seemingly going in the right direction.
Last spring, UCLA won their first College World Series and their first baseball championship under John Savage. Other colleges came knocking to see if they could lure away Savage, specifically, USC. Guerrero handled it, as the kids say, “like a boss”. A pay raise and an extension through 2025 kept Savage in Blue and Gold.
In January of this year, Women’s Soccer lost their head coach to US Soccer. Needing to fill the position, UCLA hired UCF coach Amanda Cromwell to take over the Women’s soccer team. Last Sunday, they won their first championship ever with Cromwell capturing the title in her first season in leadership. For UCLA under Guerrero, that was Championship #110.
Two weeks ago, UCLA wrapped up their regular season with a throttling of USC, 35-14. They retained head coach Jim Mora after Washington came calling and gave him an extension. With that, Mora was able to keep line coach Adrian Klemm (who USC was trying to hire) and snagged Trojan hero, Kennedy Polamalu, to be the new running backs coach. There was a guarantee to start the groundwork on a football facility. Oh yeah, to top it off, UCLA got commitments from two 4-star recruits this week adding to the total of six 4-stars for next season.
Moving to basketball, aside from the unpopular hire of Alford, he started the season 8-0, which was the first time a first-year UCLA basketball had done that. They are currently 8-1 with a heartbreak loss at Missouri, but that pain was eased when 4-star power forward, Jonah Bolden, committed to the Bruins basketball team a few days later. This was the fourth commitment Alford got as 5-star Kevon Looney and centers Gyorgy Goloman and Thomas Welsh have given their pledge to be Bruins.
The complaints from Bruin fans have subsided due to these positive steps into the future. Guerrero has messed up in the past, which has stuck with UCLA fans, but these current events cannot be ignored. The #BruinRevolution, the moniker for UCLA Football, can indeed be a call for all Bruin sports. Things are happening now that is setting up success for the not-too-distant future and that cannot be denied. Football fans feel good. Basketball fans are coming around and the recent success with Baseball and Women’s Soccer is bringing in more attention to an Athletic Department that seemed inept at times.
Maybe Guerrero knew what he was doing all along. Maybe not, but at least he is trying to right the ship. Let us see how he gets it done.
Topics: UCLA Bruins