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Is UCLA An Elite Program Anymore?

 

Boom, coming right at you with the title there. After firing Ben Howland after his 10th season in Westwood, and after getting “No” from both Shaka Smart and Brad Stephens, UCLA settled on New Mexico head coach Steve Alford to right the Bruin ship (a mere 10 days after Alford signed a 10-year contract extension with NMU, I might ass, I mean add). There’s no doubt that Alford is a good coach, he’s led New Mexico to a few noteworthy seasons in his time after leaving Iowa to head west, but he has never made a big splash in the NCAA Tournament and lacks the “Wow” factor you might expect from someone being named coach of the school with the most all-time national championships. The question still remains; Is UCLA an ELITE program in college basketball anymore? I say no, and since you asked so kindly I’ll tell you why.

 

What makes an elite program, first off? First and foremost, winning does, that’s the easy one. A history of success, passionate fan base, you get the picture. In this day and age however, I have a hard time placing UCLA among the Kentucky’s, the Duke’s, the North Carolina’s, and the Kansas’ of the world. There’s no need to begin preaching of the Wooden days, everyone understands the greatness that occurred at UCLA in the 60’s and 70’s and that is what established UCLA as one of the “blue blood” programs in college basketball. However, since Wooden left Westwood with 10 national titles, the Bruins have managed only 1 (1995) in the near 40 years since. When the Bruins hired Ben Howland away from Pittsburgh in 2003, a return to elite status seemed imminent, and Howland made good on those feelings when he took UCLA to 3 consecutive Final Fours from 2006-2008, although a buzz saw of 2 years worth of Florida and a semifinal loss to John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers prevented the Bruins from cutting down any nets. The backbones of those clubs have all gone on to become All-Stars in the pros, like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and Jrue Holiday. But now, 5 years later, after a brutal SI article on the state of the UCLA program last season, Reeves Nelson’s multitude of neck tats, and Josh Smith managing to eat his way out of town, Howland is gone, and the program will have to stand by as Shabazz, Kyle Anderson, and Tony Parker more then likely find homes elsewhere.

 

 

UCLA was already the shakiest of the ELITE programs, who as of right now I consider to be Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas, with teams like Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville, Ohio State, and Florida right on the cusp at the moment. Bottom line is, it doesn’t seem as if UCLA cares very much. What most separates UCLA from the elite group is fan support, how many times have you turned on a nationally-televised UCLA game only to find the newly-renovated Pauley Pavilion nearly half empty? UCLA played Texas in a neutral-site game earlier this season that couldn’t have been in front of more than 1,500 fans, and that’s in a season that saw the Bruins in-and-out of the Top 25, not exactly a tank of a season.

 

It remains to be seen how Alford will do in Los Angeles, but I doubt the name alone will cause too drastic a jump in ticket sales. UCLA is on a slippery slope, sure they’ll always have the memory of those glorious days of 10 titles in 12 seasons, but it seems the game has caught up to them, and then passed them on by. You could say an entire generation of people have grown up without physically seeing the elite UCLA teams our parents would talk about and since Wooden’s retirement in 1975, 8 teams have won more titles then the Bruins including all of the “elite” teams I mentioned earlier along with Florida, Louisville, Indiana, and Connecticut.

 

What do you think? Are the Bruins still an elite program in college basketball, or just an elite name?

 

–@WillTottenKSR

 

 

Article written by Will Totten

Born in Indiana and raised in Louisville, I am the unlikeliest UK fan.

50 Comments for Is UCLA An Elite Program Anymore?



  1. wildcat
    4:39 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    no they are not elite no more



  2. Poppschmidty
    4:41 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    It’s like saying the Dallas Cowboys are still a dynasty. No they are not elite anymore, and they have almost no fan support. They should be legendary and always be in the hunt for something, it just seems right.



  3. Just Saying
    4:47 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Asked and answered – read the headline…Alford is the best they could get…Oh My



  4. Gary
    4:49 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Since UCLA leads in National Championships they will remain a Name for a top program. But, it difficult to consider them elite. You could have made the same argument if Kentucky had continued on their path the latter part of the Tubby and then G. years. Alford is a name with some decent connections and a good coach. It is difficult to imagine that he can recruit like Cal, but he still is likely a step up. His first couple years are going to set the tone.



  5. jumpman78
    4:54 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Bazz is gone, but Anderson has already said he is coming back.



  6. Steve Fitts
    5:03 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    For a 10 year period–from 1965 to 1975–UCLA was without any question THE dominant program in college basketball. But after Wooden retired in ’75, UCLA did not remain a dominant program. Moreover, they don’t have the large, passionate fan base that UK has. Their gym seats half as many as Rupp, and the don’t even consistently sell it out. LA is a pro sports town–the Lakers dwarf the Bruins in fan interest and loyalty. No, they are not an elite program anymore.



  7. Jeff
    5:04 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Look foward to the BBN having to play UCLA,, best i remember Alford as a college player cheated us out of win years ago. Back at him cant wait.



  8. GrammarPolice
    5:05 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Someone at KSR needs to get these new writers an editor. That was brutal.



  9. Rashid
    5:07 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    When elite program get beat in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris, their fans pretend it didn’t happen



  10. UCLA who?
    5:14 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Still can’t believe UCLA didn’t make a break the bank run at Few from the Zags. Seems like he was the most logical choice. I do think UCLA os getting to much hate over firing Howland he just wasn’t getting the job done anymore. If UK would have had the stones to make a change with Tubby a couple of years earlier things might have worked out better.



  11. HackRichards
    5:17 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    They have been going downhill every since stuffing that Overnight Tape Package with $1000.00 putting Chris Mill’s name on it. What Pays around Goes Around.



  12. HackRichards
    5:19 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    #9 is an azzwhole



  13. Whhhhattt
    5:23 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Elite programs don’t go to the nit the year after winning a national title



  14. cousin it
    5:24 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Then-Than…learn the difference if you are gonna be a writer.



  15. soggyUKgrad
    5:24 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    #2…Using the fan support argument to say that the Cowboys aren’t a dynasty just prows that you are a moron. Cowboys fans invade every stadium that they play in.



  16. Austin
    5:27 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Indiana and Louisville deserve to be mentioned as Elite programs. As does Ohio State. Here is how I would rank current jobs. (MY criteria are places you have the best chance to succeed at a high level, and get paid big money)

    BLUE CHIP:
    1) Kentucky
    2) North Carolina
    3) Kansas
    4) Duke

    Tier Two
    5) Michigan State
    6) Ohio State
    7) Indiana
    8) Louisville (They have risen to the top of the Big East, but don’t see it in the ACC as long as Coach K and Roy are around. Pitino is great though, should be interesting)
    9) Syracuse
    10) Florida

    Tier Three
    11) Arizona
    12) Texas
    13) UCLA
    14) UCONN
    15) Illinois (If you could lock down Chicago, this would be a marquee job)
    16) Marquette
    17) GTOWN

    Tier four (Could win big here if the stars align)
    18) Cincinnati
    19) OK State
    20) Oregon
    21) Arkansas
    22) Michigan
    23) NC State (Not while Coach K and Roy are around, but maybe someday)
    24) Purdue
    25) Wisconsin

    Tier Five (Mid Majors that are not really Mid Majors anymore, and these guys won’t take a job unless it makes a LOT of Sense… They are better jobs because they face less competition in the regular season..)
    26) Butler
    27) Gonzaga
    28) VCU
    29) UNLV
    30) Memphis
    31) New Mexico
    32) Xavier
    33) Temple
    34) San Diego State

    Programs that could get it going, but seem to have a low ceiling.
    35) LSU
    36) West Virginia
    37) Tennessee
    38) St. Johns
    39) Utah
    40) Colorado
    40) Notre Dame
    41) Missouri
    42) Villanova
    43) Kansas State
    44) Pitt (Going to ACC, I don’t see it being that great of a job.)

    Lesser Mid Majors that are great stepping stone programs
    45) Creighton
    46) Wichita State
    47) BYU
    48) Western Kentucky
    49) Murray State
    50) Saint Louis



  17. jpo
    5:29 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    14. Why not? one just did



  18. Jeff
    5:29 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    I love Big Blue. I have watched games for thirty years but I remember when we had been told no by a couple of coaches and settled for Billy “Clyde” before Coach Cal restored the program. I believe UCLA jumped at the prettiest “yes” even if she wasn’t the prettiest girl at the dance.



  19. jpo
    5:32 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    17. pretty good list except you GOTTA drop IU down a few pegs. Have not been relevant in SO many years and this is their best team in a quarter century and could only make it to the sweet 16. I would drop them below UL and Syracuse at least.



  20. Ralph
    5:46 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    No they are not.



  21. Austin
    5:50 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    20. I know they haven’t been as good of late, but I think they have a better chance at breaking through and getting into that top tier. They have a great recruiting base, and a passionate fan base. I don’t know if Crean is the right guy there just yet, but it is still a great job. They are capable of dominating the Big Ten if they get things right, although Crean may or may not be that guy.

    19… I agree. Had Cal not come, we would not be on top of that list. We were close to losing our spot at the top of the mountain.

    One thing I will say, is that no job in college basketball can go on autopilot. North Carolina sucked in between Dean Smith and Roy Williams. Kansas got the right guy after Roy left and didn’t take a step back. You need the right coach that fits your program. Those top four programs have the best fits right now. Syracuse, Michigan State, and Louisville have great fits right as well, although they are a step behind just because they don’t have the same level of program. Crean hasn’t proven he is that guy at IU yet, but he seems to be headed in the right direction.



  22. terrible
    5:53 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    hai guise! Let’s be huge dickheads and rank programs by whether or not they are BLUUUUEBLOODED!! I mean, we’re all fat pieces of shit that never played basketball! Of course what we have to say is important! YAAYY!



  23. ricky bobby
    5:53 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Thought for sure they would go after the FGCU coach b/c his wife is hotter than Kiffen’s



  24. Han
    5:56 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Elite program historically, but like Indiana, not relevant right now. Indiana has to put together another good season, especially if they lose Zeller. If they fall back into irrelevance again, they’ll be looking for another coach.



  25. Cats in the NBA
    5:57 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    23.) Your comment sucks. Try again.



  26. jpo
    5:58 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    22. yeah very good points and well thought out comments. You pretty much nailed it.



  27. Zamphir
    5:59 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    NIT 2 out last 5 years (40% if I remember my Algebra 3)

    That must be a new standard of elitism



  28. NL
    6:02 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    No. And honestly I don’t think any PAC 10-12, or whatever they are, school is an elite job



  29. duke Sucks
    6:03 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    I HATE Duke but il give them them their Kudos they are in the top 4 like 17 said, and it kills me to admitt it. That said it will be interesting to see what happens to that program when Rat face retires. I can’t help but think they might just have a great coach more then being a great PROGRAM. I guess we will just have to see when he’s gone, but again they are in the top 4 untill his days are over at Duke.



  30. Austin
    6:07 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    23 and 28. Come on. IT is pointless to argue whether Kentucky is elite. Just stop.

    Try watching a game where the announcers don’t mention Kentucky. Go ahead. We almost always come up when you watch a game. We are the standard in College basketball. If it makes you feel better to get shots in this year, knock yourself out.



  31. duke Sucks
    6:08 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    29) Don’t sleep on UCLA being a top job. There is ALOT of talent on the west coast and if the right man was in place at UCLA you would have to think he would get his pick. That’s what scared me when Pitino flirted with that job before he decided on UL. I think if he had chose UCLA he very well could have already won a couple by now. He Definatly would have won at least 1 if he had the talent Howland had in his FF run.



  32. Austin
    6:08 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    32. I agree. Pitino at UCLA would be scary.



  33. Han
    6:13 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Zamphir) An elite 8, 2 final fours, a national title. How many has your team won?

    And let’s have this conversation again next year.

    32) If they’re lucky, they just hired their BCG or Doherty. Tubby had the title in his first year with some championship caliber players, but could never get back to the Final Four. When he finally bailed for less stressful pastures, we hire BCG and regret it. Then we get our real home run, just like UNC got theirs.

    Sure, maybe Alford can do well there, but Howland was their really good but not good enough coach. Their next coach will be a big name.



  34. Austin
    6:19 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    The only thing is, it is tough these days to put together a dynasty since kids don’t stay around. You have to recruit lesser players if you want to have talented upperclassmen, but then you have to wait while they get seasoning. Finding great athletes that don’t quite have the ideal size or skill sets to get an early look from the NBA seem to be the way to put together an experienced team.

    Cal has recruited guys that we thought would be around a few years, but they had the elite size and athleticism NBA guys drool over. Also, we have had a few guys leave early to go on and become late first and second round picks. Bledsoe, Orton, Teague, Liggins, and Lamb all left early without assurances of being a high pick, and before guys from a lot of other top programs would have gone. Stacey Poole also transferred after one semester.

    Cal hasn’t really had time to set the foundation here. The only year he had a solid foundation from the prior year, he won it.

    Cal says he doesn’t sell the NBA in recruiting, but it is obvious that is what the guys he recruits are thinking about.

    The best thing that could happen for us is the NBA going to a two and done rule. I think Cal will eventually find a balance between the top talent and guys that are really good and want to be here three or four years that will keep us from having down years, but I can live with the down years as long as you can see something better on the horizon.



  35. Duke Sucks
    6:35 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    I like Cal’s stance better then anyone’s. He recruits the best of the best, if 1 year is all they stay then so be it. It caught us this year but it will pay off next year. I’ll take that over Tubby’s style of taking second tier players who will stay and be good but never great.
    Sure you may have a down year Cals way but you also get a great team too. Tubby’s way you are always going to lose to the team that puts it together for that year. This is UK we have wins to spare. I would just as soon be in the NIT if we aren’t in the running for the title.
    20 win seasons that you know are going to end in the round of 32 don’t excite me. I don’t know if Cal will win the title or not next year but I KNOW we have as good a chance as anyone and that is all you can ask out of your coach!



  36. Austin
    6:45 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    36. I agree. I think we can all agree it would be nice to get some guys that fit Cal’s system that are 3 or 4 year players to go along with the elite talent he is bringing in. I am not mad he hasn’t, to quote Eric Bledsoe, gotten shit right. He really hasn’t had time yet. He has been on his heels trying to replace the mass exodus after each year. It is all good because we got #8 last year. I think to be a threat every year, we need to find some more guys like Darius Miller. If we can find more guys like that that will be happy here for four years, we can avoid the down years. I don’t think we will have another year like this, but even if we did, it is all good if we keep hanging banners.

    Watching Doug Gottlieb. He just brings up Kentucky last year saying Syracuse COULD have beaten Kentucky. WTF? Trolling Kentucky is only way to get attention for some of these talking heads.



  37. Duke Sucks
    6:54 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    I heard Gottilieb too. What the hell was that! He sounds like he has a problem with UK hope he can get that worked out before next year!
    How much would have Poole helped out this year if he hadn’t got bad advice. Really think Cal thought Lamb would comeback too.



  38. Austin
    6:57 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    Teague and Lamb both could have come back. Both would have made money had they returned, and we would have been a lot better. Maybe Nerlens never gets hurt if he had a backcourt that could not turn it over like that. Archie, Harrow and Alex could have played the role they were ready for. Would have been a totally different team.

    Gottlieb trolls Kentucky. Always does it. Seth Davis does it too. Can’t stand either one of them.



  39. Bigbluenationbigredmachine
    7:04 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    What an idiot, SorryCuse’s team can’t touch our 2012 team.



  40. Austin
    7:08 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    There was a reason they got beat early on.



  41. brain
    7:54 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    UCLA had 12 great years that ended almost 40 years ago. They are not and have not been elite except for those years.



  42. mashburnfan1
    8:45 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    I hate making fun of other programs right now when we just lost to RMU and were in NIT like 5 years ago as well. Elite programs are there year after year, is it Kansas that has 24 straight NCAA appearances. Basketball is very bad right now and we were in NIT, losing at that to freakin RMU. Elite programs don’t do that so right now I don’t consider UK elite.



  43. Bigbluenationbigredmachine
    8:48 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    43 because we didn’t just go to the elite eight, final four, then win a championship? You sound a Louisville fan…



  44. Austin
    8:52 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    43. Agree to Disagree. It took Teague and Lamb going pro, as well as Noel’s injury for us to go to the NIT this year. It still shouldn’t have happened, but it isn’t a trend. I will take the upside over consistently being a sweet sixteen type team. Your ability to win championships are what make you elite, and you do that with talent.



  45. mashburnfan1
    9:17 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    45} I kind of agree with you but we have more NIT losses in last 5 years than we do titles. Now if in the next 5 to 7 years we can win a couple of titles and be in Sweet 16 or higher other years I say yes we are elite. Next years class is very exciting so hope that is the start of a great run, but if we have 9 draft picks then where are we the following year? Elite has to have some consistency to it coming with titles.



  46. no
    9:30 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    They aren’t an elite team because LA is an actual city with actual things to do other than college basketball



  47. Austin
    10:08 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    46. Like I said, agree to disagree.

    I don’t think all 9 will go pro, but who knows.



  48. David
    10:48 pm March 30, 2013 Permalink

    38, Gottlieb hates UK big time. Don’t ever forget it.



  49. KD
    3:02 pm March 31, 2013 Permalink

    Yes, other things, like sit in traffic jams and chase down plastic fantastic “stars” in pursuit of totally meaningless photographs & soundbites. At least Ky fans fawn over people with actual talent, albeit 19 year olds in baggy shorts. …if it’s debatable whether UK is elite after an elite eight, a final four and taking their 8th nat’l championship, how can Indiana even be mentioned. They have been less relevant than UCLA in every possible measure for more than two decades. Their stock does seem to be improving however. UCLA is no longer elite and I am not convinced that firing Ben Howland is a step in the right direction. we shall see. The fact that Shaka Smart and Brad Stephens would not consider the job says it all.