Dear Mr. Guerrero,
We, the undersigned, are writing to you as a group of devoted Bruin fans.
The people on this list consist of alumni, boosters, donors, and fans, all brought together in an unprecedented way because we share one common opinion.
We would first like to let you know we understand the pressures and challenges you face in running the UCLA athletic department. We recognize the accomplishments of making UCLA’s athletic department fiscally successful, renovating Pauley Pavilion and building the football and basketball facilities, especially in the state school environment of California and the economic climate of the last several years.
We believe that UCLA is in our hearts and that being a Bruin means so much to you, as it does to all of us.
Like you, being a Bruin has been such an important aspect of our lives. Many of us grew up Bruin fans, and come from families with many generations of Bruins.
So much of our lives are remembered and associated with UCLA, and for the undersigned, the UCLA basketball program. For 60 years it’s been one of the most unique and special sports teams in the world. The beauty, excellence and dignity of Bruin basketball has been a thread throughout our lives, something we could always rely on.
However, we can’t do that anymore.
Everyone who signs this petition assuredly agrees that the state of UCLA basketball is in a crisis. For many of us who have been Bruin fans for decades, it is a recognition that this crisis is in many ways unprecedented for the program. Many of us lived through the Walt Hazzard and Larry Farmer years, and we remember those well as an extended period of time in the 1980’s where on-court success and relevancy seemed lost. Until recently, that period of time could have been referred to as the “low-point” in the basketball program’s post-John Wooden history, and yet compared to that era, this current time with Steve Alford feels different. Yes, there are similarities in terms of wins and losses, but the program doesn’t have that same glow and spirit to it. Even under Steve Lavin, it was still UCLA basketball and crowds at Pauley Pavilion did not plummet like we have seen since Steve Alford took over. Even when Ben Howland’s program was on the decline, his players could be counted on to always play with great effort, and he loved and respected UCLA basketball.
We could spout stats to you, cite statistics showing Pauley Pavilion setting historical records for lowest annual average attendance, but you know all that. What we can offer you is the prevailing perspective of the majority of the UCLA basketball fan community, articulated in a way that only Bruin fans who have a deep and heartfelt connection to the program can understand and feel.
You have stated that no one understands expectations at UCLA like you do, and our hope is that you will similarly uniquely understand the anguish that UCLA fans are experiencing as our beloved program has been decaying before our eyes. While, of course, there are some with unreasonable expectations of where the program should be, we believe the vast majority of UCLA fans have a clear understanding that the days of John Wooden are over and we all simply want a competitive program that we can all be proud of. That is one of the main reasons the undersigned felt that approaching you in this manner, with this voice, was necessary – to help make clear that we are not demanding national championships and undefeated seasons every year, and to make clear that most UCLA fans have, over the course of several years, arrived at a balanced and fair assessment of UCLA basketball.
In unprecedented numbers this is our collective opinion:
- The teams Alford has put on the court in his three years have been talented, but they play with very little effort, and thus the variation and inconsistency in results (e.g., beating Kentucky, losing to Washington State). One of the great indicators for sustained and consistent success among the most successful college coaches has been an ability to motivate their teams to give maximum effort. It shows respect to the coach, the fans and, for UCLA, the Four Letters on the uniform. Yet until these last three years, we haven’t seen this lack of effort from a UCLA program under a specific coach (including Steve Lavin) in our lifetimes. As fans our obligation is to support the team, regardless of wins and losses and ups and downs. But the one obligation of the team in return is to play hard. Alford’s teams have broken that pact with UCLA fans, which we believe is a driving factor in the attendance decline and the UCLA fan community’s inability to embrace Steve Alford.
- The lack of good, sound basketball. UCLA, for the most part of 60 years, has embodied well-taught, fundamentally-sound basketball. The basketball that is being played by Alford’s program does not come close to this ideal. It’s embarrassing to listen on a nationally televised game when TV commentators, who perpetually soft-pedal their criticism, blatantly call out the fundamentals of a Steve Alford-coached UCLA team. Charles Barkley, as a commentator for the recent NBA Dunk Contest, said “I only watch good [college] teams, that’s why I don’t watch UCLA.” The fact that this has even a slight chance of being said about UCLA basketball cuts at the core of everything we hold dear about the ideals of UCLA basketball and the legacy that John Wooden built. We believe that in addition to Steve Alford’s inability to motivate his players to consistently play hard, he has failed to instill sound fundamentals into his players, the combination of which has led to what has now essentially become a .500 basketball program and why there is so little hope among the undersigned for significant improvement in the future no matter how much talent is eventually recruited into the program.
- Even if you feel it’s not true, you have to be aware that the perception among UCLA fans is that Alford is using UCLA basketball as a platform and showcase for his son, Bryce, at the expense of the team, the program, the fans, and the legacy of UCLA basketball. This isn’t something a few crazy fringe fans believe, but the overwhelming majority of rational, fair-minded UCLA fans who have watched the team consistently since Steve and Bryce Alford arrived. It’s important for you to know what this perception is, and that UCLA fans believe their beloved UCLA program has been hijacked to a degree by a coach who has put his family interest ahead of those of the UCLA program, and just how anathema that is to the undersigned who cherish the program as something greater than a mere basketball team. If you talk candidly with UCLA fans, they’ll cite this favoritism as one of the biggest reason they’ve abandoned the program, that it violates standards and ideals they need to support a program and coach.
There are more issues, but we won’t laundry list all of them.
This all has made us collectively feel that what we’re watching isn’t UCLA basketball. The product on the court is surreal, bringing about a foreign, strange feeling, literally like the UCLA basketball program has been stolen from us.
This is an amazing turn of events, something we could never envision in our lifetime. UCLA basketball was sacred and it’s now being denigrated in a way we thought we’d never live to see.
It’s heartbreaking for us.
Just so you know, it’s changed the state of the UCLA basketball fan in a way we’ve never witnessed. It used to be that UCLA basketball fans, regardless of the wins and losses in any given year, still cared about UCLA basketball. The record-low attendance obviously reflects this, but beyond the empty seats at Pauley Pavilion, interest in UCLA basketball among even the formerly most-ardent UCLA fans is at an all-time low. For the first time ever, UCLA basketball fans are sitting out their UCLA basketball fandom, with so many expressing that they no longer plan their social schedules around UCLA basketball games, that they no longer even bother to watch games on TV, and that they simply cannot bring themselves to follow the program again until Steve Alford is no longer the head coach and the program and its integrity can begin the process of being rebuilt. Certainly the last few poor years under Howland contributed, but these three deeply disappointing and disorienting years under Alford has made it too overwhelming for fans to continue to endure. It is simply too painful to watch. We’ve lost UCLA basketball and don’t see the light of it coming back soon.
Many of us are older fans, and we feel there is an increasingly less likelihood of seeing another successful era of UCLA basketball in our lifetimes. And again, it’s not just about success on the court and wins and losses; it’s about restoring the integrity of UCLA basketball, so its players have reverence for the Four Letters and firing out with maximum effort every time they take the court in respect of John Wooden. It’s about restoring the basic dignity of UCLA basketball so we’re no longer a punch line for TV commentators. It’s about restoring the bond between the UCLA basketball program and the UCLA basketball program fan-base.
Many people on this list will not attend another UCLA basketball game until Steve Alford is dismissed. Many of people on this list will not donate another dollar to the athletic department until Steve Alford is dismissed. Obviously the fan turnout at Pauley Pavilion is reflective of this opinion. And while we understand that the football program’s recent success has driven many donor dollars to the Wooden Fund, we are sure you understand that there is an enormous amount of potential donor dollars that could be tapped if the basketball program is liberated.
We assume that you believe firing Alford after three seasons is harsh. In your time at UCLA, you’ve never done that before. There are enough of us who agreed with you when you gave Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel probably one additional year before you dismissed them. But the Alford situation is different. If you wait one more year, after the several bad Howland years and Alford’s three seasons, we’re afraid you might permanently damage UCLA basketball to the point it won’t easily bounce back. As we detailed earlier, this period of UCLA basketball harkens back to the 1980’s as a sustained low-point of UCLA basketball, but with the unique crisis of UCLA basketball losing its identity, legacy and fan-base in ways that differentiate it as perhaps the single greatest crisis period of UCLA basketball since its inception.
The Pauley Pavilion re-model and construction of the basketball practice facility will both resonate as lasting contributions to the basketball program and UCLA as whole, for decades. But the reality is, when it comes to your legacy as UCLA’s athletic director, those accomplishments could ultimately be overshadowed by how you handle the Alford situation. The undersigned believe you have one last thing to do to ensure your legacy at UCLA, and that’s restore UCLA basketball to its rightful place as one of the most respected and honorable college basketball programs in the country. Taking action at the end of this season rather than waiting one more year could be what it would take for the UCLA fan community to forgive the unsuccessful hiring of Alford, since you swiftly took the action necessary to correct it. Send a decisive message to the UCLA community that you’re willing to do what it takes to get this done. We want so much to support you; give us the final reason to do it.
As a gesture of our sincere desire to send our message to the athletic department in a constructive manner as partners, we opted not to start an offensive website, or storm the Morgan Center with protests. We chose to voice our opinion to you this civil way, so you’d appreciate that we are not the lunatic fringe, but the deeply frustrated core of reasonable UCLA basketball fans. We hope it inspires you to provide us the courtesy of your attention and motivates you to take action.
With sincere respect and regards,
The UCLA Basketball Fan Community
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