Let us say that UCLA is in a bit of an upswing right now. Go ahead, you CAN say it. And you have UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero to thank for that. Yes indeed, he is responsible for the hiring of successful coaches like Amanda Cromwell, John Savage, Steve Alford and Jim Mora that have made their respective teams contenders. He has also over seen the renovation of Pauley Pavilion, the current revitalization of Drake Stadium and got the ball rolling for new football and basketball practice facilities. You cannot deny this is progress. And if you do, why? The proof is there. Guerrero is a damn fine Athletic Director.
Guerrero was recently named the 2013-14 Under Armor Athletic Director of the Year, but even that could not quiet the grumblings in his own fan base. It is understandable to feel that way as a fan when you have the two revenue sports, football and basketball, head straight into an abyss… but that time has passed. Despite making improvements in the revenue sports, as well as the overall status of UCLA Athletics in the last few years, Guerrero is still a very much hated.
But should’t improvement be worth anything for judging a person and/or their performance? Sure, it does not equal championships, but leading your programs in the direction of those championships says a hell of a lot. At an institution like UCLA, hanging banners is the goal… which, by the way, UCLA did twice this season with Women’s Soccer and Women’s Tennis.
Guerrero was hired in April 2002 and in his time, UCLA has won 23 national championships. Would this elate any fan base? Of course, but not at UCLA. Guerrero still gets the heat from overly sensitive individuals that take to calling him names. These are not fifth graders, these are adults mind you. But why? He is a successful AD. There is no doubt that he made several mistakes, but he has improved on that in several areas. Let us take a look at a few:
Football – Hired and fired Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel in his tenure. Hiring a third football coach was not good for Guerrero’s status, but look at what the decision has done. The newest hire, Jim Mora, is preparing his team for one of the biggest seasons in recent memory, in only his third year in charge. And you know what, everyone loves him because he has improved everything from recruiting to development to the team’s overall attitude. I do not think any Bruin fan would trade Mora for any other coach. You have Guerrero to thank for that.
Basketball – The reception was the same (or worse, depending on who you ask) as another no-name coach was hired, this time to take over the legendary Bruin basketball program. Because Alford’s past and his contract left many fans scratching their heads, several called for Guerrero’s. But look what the new coach has done in his first year: 8-0 to start the year (only UCLA basketball coach to do that in his first year), won the Pac-12 Championship Tournament, returned the Bruins to the Sweet 16, landed the #3 recruiting class and had three players taken in the first round of the NBA Draft. Anywhere else, that would be seen as successful.
Women’s Soccer – Guerrero hired Amanda Cromwell out of the University of Central Florida just over 15 months ago. What did she do in her first season? Led the Bruins to their first National Championship in her first year as coach.
Baseball – Sure it took John Savage a few years to get the baseball program going, but since being hired in 2005, the Bruins have had several College World Series appearances, which was topped off with a dominant National Championship run in 2013.
We can go into every single sport at UCLA, but we do not need to. The point is that Guerrero has shifted things in the Athletic department for the better. Why many cannot see that unknown. The vitriol was understood a few years ago when both basketball and football were irrelevant, but that is no more. Sure, Guerrero might make mistakes in the future (he is human after all), but right now improvements have been made. Like it or not, Dan Guerrero is doing a bang up job at UCLA, the school that leads the NCAA in National Championships.