THE STATE OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL IN SOCAL, 2017-18

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Current Laker Lonzo Ball as a UCLA Bruin being guarded by USC’s De’Anthony Melton during a Crosstown Rivalry game last season. Photo courtesy of Pac-12.com

 

A LOOK AT THE HOOPS SQUADS AT UCLA, USC, AND SELECTED OTHER COLLEGES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FOR THIS SEASON AS CONFERENCE PLAY IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER

 

UCLA BRUINS BASKETBALL BY THE NUMBERS (MEN’S & WOMEN’S TEAMS)

UCLA BRUINS (Men):

Current Record: 7-2

Coach: Steve Alford, 5th season

Key Players:

Aaron Holiday, G: 12.7 ppg, 5.7 apg

Thomas Welch, C: 13.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg

Kris Wilkes, G: 12.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg

Last Game: Lost to Michigan on December 9th, 78-69

Next Game: vs Cincinnati at Pauley Pavilion, December 16th

Thoughts:

These Bruins seem to be hanging in there since LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were caught shoplifting from luxury stores in China.

And I’m sure they and the rest of Bruin Nation are feeling at least a bit relieved over the fact that with LiAngelo leaving school and signing with a Lithuanian pro team along with his brother LaMelo, UCLA won’t be seeing them and (especially) their father Lavar around campus or in Westwood anymore.

As for how I see Alford’s team doing for the rest of this month and in conference play when that starts right before New Year’s…

Riley and Hill provided a depth that with them indefinitely suspended, I think that lack of depth could well hurt the Bruins going forward; signs of such have appeared already.

They’ll undoubtedly lose to 8th ranked Kentucky when they play them on December 23rd, and their upcoming contest with Cincinnati on the 16th will be a challenge.

Outside of that, I see them finishing anywhere from first to sixth in the Pac-12.

W-L Prediction Going Into Pac-12 Play: 9-3

 

UCLA BRUINS (Women):

Current Record: 7-2

Rank: #11 in AP Poll, #12 in Coaches Poll

Coach: Cori Close, 7th season

Key Players:

Monique Billings, F: 15.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Jordin Canada, G: 14.4 ppg, 6.1 apg

Kennedy Burke, G: 12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg

Last Game: Lost to Oklahoma State on December 8th, 87-72

Next Game: at Seton Hall on December 17th

Thoughts:

The only reason why these Bruin women aren’t in the top ten right now is due to a HORRIBLY PATHETIC first quarter against Oklahoma State, where they were outscored 20-6 on the way to losing in Stillwater.

Outside of that, Cori Close’s team has been very impressive.

I know this because I personally saw them take down then-3rd ranked Baylor on November 18th, going on to give powerful, Supergirl-like, forever a champion Connecticut a game a few days later.

They were rightfully picked to win the Pac-12 Conference, but you know what?

They way those Lady Bruins are set up, I think they’re a Final Four contender right now – provided that things go right and they have no more bad performances like at Oklahoma State.

And I also think they’re the best college basketball team in all of SoCal, men or women.

I’ll elaborate more on that on this blog soon.

W-L Prediction Going Into Pac-12 Play: 9-2

 

 

 

USC TROJANS BASKETBALL BY THE NUMBERS (MEN’S & WOMEN’S TEAMS)

USC TROJANS (Men):

Current Record: 4-3

Coach: Andy Enfield, 5th season

Key Players:

Chimezie Metu, F: 15.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg

Bennie Boatwright, F: 14.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg

Jordan McLaughlin, G: 14.4 ppg, 6.3 apg

Last Game: Lost to Oklahoma on December 8th, 85-83

Next Game: vs Santa Clara at Galen Center on December 14th

Thoughts:

When it was announced that all of the players who set the record for most wins by a Trojan basketball team last season would return, (seemingly) everyone crowned them Pac-12 champions and Final Four contenders before practice started in October.

Even Tony Bland, their assistant coach, being arrested in a FBI probe over giving and lending money to players and recruits hadn’t changed sentiments over a USC team that’s expected to be the best in their history.

So what were those Trojans doing losing their last three games?

When I looked at their schedule, I saw that the wins in their first four contests were over teams that they were expected to beat.

In other words, those wins were of the “Big Wow!” kind.

I’m not going to call Enfield’s team a fraud just yet, because ‘SC does have much veteran talent and are definitely contenders for the conference title.

But they’re going to have to prove it to me – that’s all I’m saying.

W-L Prediction Going Into Pac-12 Play: 8-3

 

USC TROJANS (Women):

Current Record: 8-0

Coach: Mark Trakh, 1st season (currently, was the USC Women of Troy coach from 2005-2009)

Key Players:

Kristen Simon, F: 18.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg

Minyon Moore, G: 15.6 ppg, 5.5 apg

Aliyah Mazyek, G: 14.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg

Last Game: Beat Loyola Marymount, 80-70, on December 1st

Next Game: vs Texas A&M at Galen Center on December 15th

Thoughts:

I reckon that the Trojan Family is crowing over their Women of Troy’s undefeated record to start the season after Cynthia Cooper-Dyke resigned as their coach following last season.

But my prevailing thoughts upon looking at their non-conference schedule are…

“They haven’t played anybody!”

“Have the guts to play UConn (which UCLA has done TWICE this calendar year)! Play Baylor! Play South Carolina! Play Notre Dame like your football brothers do!”

Sorry USC, but beating up on teams like UC Riverside, Long Beach State, Hawaii and Marist does NOT impress me.

At all.

Until they beat someone of note, that’s how I will feel about that 8-0 mark.

As such, since two of their remaining three non-conference games are against virtual Little Sisters of the Poor – they’ll face 16th ranked Texas A&M as well – they’ll be sporting an impressive record when Pac-12 play begins.

But it won’t be impressive to me.

PUT IT LIKE THIS: There’s a reason why those Trojans are not ranked despite being undefeated.

W-L Prediction Going Into Pac-12 Play: 10-1

 

 

Among the SoCal teams playing in the Big West and West Coast Conference, only two of them – one in each gender – are doing well in their non-conference slate and are worth mentioning here.

They’ll be called…

THE BEST OF THE REST

UC SANTA BARBARA GAUCHOS (Men):

Current Record: 8-2

Coach: Joe Pasternack, 1st season

Key Players:

Max Heidegger, G: 23.4 ppg

Leland King II, F: 19.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg

Jalen Canty, F: 11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg

Last Game: Beat Montana State, 91-69, on December 9th

Next Game: at USC on December 17th

 

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT LIONS (Women):

Current Record: 7-2

Coach: Charity Elliott, 6th season (husband Chris Elliott is an assistant coach)

Key Players:

Cheyanne Wallace, G: 17.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg

Gabby Green, G: 16.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.4 apg

Bree Alford, F: 8.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg

Last Game: Lost to Cal State Northridge, 75-68, on December 9th

Next Game: at SMU on December 20th

 

Some action from the women’s basketball version of the Crosstown Rivalry from last season…

 

 

 

 

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I WAS WRONG! Thoughts Regarding Shohei Ohtani Choosing The Angels

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Baseball player Shohei Ohtani, of Japan, poses for photos after a news conference at Angel Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. The Japanese star is bringing his arm and bat to the Los Angeles Angels, pairing him with two-time MVP Mike Trout. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Photo courtesy of japantimes.co.jp                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

I freely, and am not one bit ashamed, to say that I was wrong as far as which team I saw Shohei Ohtani going to begin his career in Major League Baseball.

I was also a little surprised, as I thought Ohtani would fit in better with the Seattle Mariners because it would be easier for the Japanese phenom to be an outfielder or a designated hitter while not pitching due to the Mariners’ needs.

In my view, it would be more difficult for Ohtani on the Angels because while they desperately need his talents as a starting pitcher,

The positions where he played for the Nippon Ham Fighters while not hurling 100 mile an hour fastballs are set for the Halos as Justin Upton, Kole Calhoun, and (baseball’s best player) Mike Trout are set to be one of the best outfields in MLB this coming season,

While a future first ballot Hall of Famer, Albert Pujols, a guy who although his days of hitting well over .300 are long gone can still drive in runs – he drove in 101 runs last year and 119 runs the year before – is pretty much etched in stone as the DH.

The only option I see Ohtani doing while not on the mound is platooning with C.J. Cron at first base, as being a left-handed hitter he can play against righties while Cron can play when the Angels are facing left handers.

As such…

I’m glad that this 23-year-old from northern Japan has chosen a SoCal team to begin his odyssey in American baseball.

With all the injuries and lack of depth that they’ve suffered the past few years, that Angel starting rotation can sure use him.

If Ohtani can get anywhere from 15-20 wins this coming spring and summer, that would be huge for the Angels’ Wild Card chances as despite that MASH unit of a pitching staff and no dependable closer, they were the last team eliminated from playoff contention.

 

 

The press conference given at Angel Stadium on December 9th that officially introduced Shohei Ohtani as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

Before the Angels’ fans get too excited and start making plans for a World Series victory parade leading from downtown Anaheim to Angel Stadium, however…

The one thing that Angel Nation needs to remember is this:

As of the moment Ohtani was introduced at the press conference, everything he did in Nippon Professional Baseball means absolutely nothing.

In other words, he needs to prove himself at the highest level of baseball, complete with larger ballparks and a 162 game schedule as opposed to a 146 game schedule and Mondays off in Japan.

He needs to show that he can get hitters like Aaron Judge and his new Yankee teammate (who I so wanted to be a Dodger as he’s from L.A.) Giancarlo Stanton, as well as Jose Altuve and his friends on the world champion/division rival Houston Astros out on a regular basis.

As well as be able to hit against guys like Justin Verlander and his new blue-clad SoCal rival Clayton Kershaw.

Hideo Nomo proved himself when he joined the Dodgers in the 1990s.

So did Hideki Matsui when he came over from the Yomiuri Giants to the New York Yankees in 2003.

And especially Ichiro Suzuki when he blasted onto the MLB scene with the Mariners in 2001 and managed to break records and get 3,000 hits in America, ensuring his first ballot Hall of Fame status.

Now it’s Ohtani’s turn.

I’m confident he’ll turn out well for the Angels as if he performs anything like he did in Japan, at this time in 2018 he’ll be the American League’s Rookie of the Year.

And because he chose to play in Orange County, those Halos’ playoff chances got that much better.

But remember Angel fans, he’ll have his struggles as he adjusts to the grind of “The Show”, so you’ll need to be patient.

And please, for me…

Do something about those uniforms, especially those ugly red jerseys and caps!

And bring back the unis from the 1980s and early 90s!

 

Japanese fans show their support as Shohei Ohtani is introduced by the Angels during a press conference at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG) Photo courtesy of ocregister.com

 

THE STATE OF PRO BASKETBALL IN SOCAL

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A Clipper trying to guard the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson during a preseason game this past October. Photo courtesy of dutertenewsportal.com

 

WHERE THE LAKERS AND THE CLIPPERS STAND A QUARTER INTO THE NBA SEASON

 

SoCal’s NBA Teams By The Numbers…

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Record: 8-15, tied for 10th place in the Western Conference

Coach: Luke Walton, 2nd Season

Last Game: Lost to the Houston Rockets on December 3rd at Staples Center, 118-95

Next Game: Thursday, December 7th at the Philadelphia 76ers

Key Players:

Kyle Kuzma, F – 16.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG

Brandon Ingram, F – 16.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Jordan Clarkson, G – 14.8 PPG

Lonzo Ball, PG – 8.7 PPG, 7.0 APG

Larry Nance, F – 9.4 PPG, 7.2 APG

 

 

Highlights from Opening Night for both the Lakers and the Clippers, the Clippers winning 108-92 on October 19th. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Record: 8-15, tied for 10th in the Western Conference

Coach: Doc Rivers, 5th Season

Last Game: Lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 6th at Staples center, 113-107

Next Game: Saturday, December 9th vs the Washington Wizards at Staples Center

Key Players:

Blake Griffin F (injured) – 23.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.1 APG

DeAndre Jordan, C – 10.7 PPG, 14.2 RPG

Lou Williams, G – 19.0 PPG. 4.6 APG

Austin Rivers, G – 14.7 PPG

Note: PPG = points per game, RPG = rebounds per game, APG = assists per game

 

Next Lakers – Clippers Game: Friday, December 29th at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

 

SoCal pro basketball’s two biggest names (along with the Sparks’ Candace Parker): the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Laker rookie Lonzo Ball. Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com

 

Comments:

I won’t say that the two National Basketball Association teams that play their home games in the same arena in downtown Los Angeles both stink – at least not at this time.

But I will say that the Lakers and the Clippers – who share the exact same record as I write this – are not very good.

For the Lakers, it’s the same thing that they have been going through for the past several years…

They are essentially a college team learning how to compete and win at the pro level as with the exception of enter Brook Lopez – who’s hasn’t contributed much – all of the Lakers’ starters are 25 years old or younger.

Which includes Lonzo Ball, who though he’s had a few triple-doubles has shown that playing his sophomore year at UCLA may have benefited him.

Then again, I’m sure with the recent events concerning his brother LiAngelo, Bruin Nation is glad that he and (especially!) his father are gone and won’t be seen around Westwood any more.

I’ve said this for a few years now, but these Lakers are still a couple of years, or a big name free agent,  away from being relevant.

The talent, though young and raw, is there, and if someone like LeBron James (dream on, I know) and perhaps another strong veteran chooses to wear the purple and gold next year, they could be contenders sooner than later.

Until then, however, Laker fans – who I admire for fervently sticking with their team through these dark days, which is in its fifth season – will have to endure some more bad times.

 

 

Highlights from the most recent Cross-The-Hall rivalry game between the Lakers and the Clippers, a 120-115 win by the Clippers on November 27th. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

As For The Clippers…

Although he will eventually return, for all intents and purposes their season ended when Blake Griffin went down with an injury against the Lakers.

Again.

Which only added to the many other injuries they suffered this year.

I saw those Clippers having a tough time to begin with, what with their back court, a back court that was a BIG reason why they had their best seasons ever these past few years, playing in different places, Chris Paul being a Houston Rocket and J.J. Redick being a Philadelphia 76er.

They haven’t won since, and it looks like by the time Griffin returns after the new year their record will be so far out of playoff contention,

That it wouldn’t be a bad idea if they went ahead and looked into trading DeAndre Jordan and even Griffin for first round draft picks, start over and build from scratch.

It wouldn’t lead back to the pathetic days of the 1990s and before, when Sports Illustrated named the Clippers “The Worst Franchise in Professional Sports”, because for one, Donald Sterling won’t be there.

There was no plan for winning or even success under that former owner as he didn’t care, unlike now; owner Steve Ballmer wants to see his Clippers succeed, and in my opinion he could best do that by building from the ground up, a “short-term pain for long-term gain” thing..

Just like his Laker rivals down the hall at Staples are trying to do.

BOTTOM LINE: Right now – and for the past two or three years – the best basketball at Staples Center is being played by women, the WNBA’s Sparks.

And it’s going to stay that way for a while.

 

The Clippers’ Lou Williams going for a lay-up, with the Lakers’ Julius Randle trying to prevent such. Photo courtesy of youtube.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREDICTIONS: Where I See Shohei Ohtani Playing Baseball In 2018

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The young man from Oshu, Japan who’s projected to be Major League Baseball’s next superstar. Photo courtesy of chron.com

 

He’s 6’4″, just under 190 pounds, and turned a mere 23 years old last July.

It’s said that he has an arm like Nolan Ryan’s and a bat like Josh Gibson’s, hitting as much as 102 miles an hour on the mound while crushing home runs on a regular basis.

During his five years with Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters, he sported a 2.52 ERA as a starting pitcher while hitting as many as 22 home runs in 104 games in 2016.

Speaking of 2016, this young man has a ridiculous season, delivering a minuscule 1.86 ERA on a 10-4 record, striking out 174 batter in 140 innings.

All while batting .322 with those 22 homers as he played the outfield on the days he didn’t pitch.

The last player who was so successful in both aspects of baseball was a guy who folks may be familiar with – a fellow named Babe Ruth, who was one of the top left-handed pitchers in the American League for the Boston Red Sox before he went to the New York Yankees in 1920 and became such a mythical legend with the bat.

And as of a few days ago, Shohei Ohtani – a player who more or less everyone is projecting to be baseball’s next superstar – is available to this country’s thirty major league clubs.

Actually, only seven teams are still being considered as Ohtani turned down the Yankees and the New York Mets among others.

SoCal’s two baseball clubs, Orange County’s Angels and the defending National League champion Dodgers are among the seven teams that Ohtani is still interested in playing for; he’s scheduled to meet with officials of both teams this week.

This is a guy who’s considered so special, he could turn whoever gets him into an instant World Series contender (or the overwhelming favorite to win it in the Dodgers’ case).

 

Because of a guy named Albert Pujols already entrenched as the Angels’ DH, I don’t expect Ohtani to be playing here at Angel Stadium next season. Photo courtesy of yesterdaysgame.net

 

So which team do I see Ohtani going to?

First of all, it needs to be kept in mind that Ohtani has made it crystal clear that he intends to be a pitcher and a position player in “The Show”, rather than play once every five days as a starter.

Which is why while I would be happily surprised if he does so, I don’t expect him to be wearing a Dodger uniform when Spring Training opens in mid-February – or any National League team for that matter.

I predict that Ohtani will be in the American League, for one simple reason: the Designated Hitter.

Being a DH will allow him to hit while not on the mound, and allow whichever team gets him to not worry about Ohtani overusing or injuring his arm while making throws from the outfield.

If he were to join a National League team, in my view it would be too complicated and difficult to get Ohtani at-bats when not pitching as assuming he’s a starter, he’d be either resting his arm, or doing bullpen work between his starts.

As for which team I see Ohtani on,

I’m sorry to disappoint you, Angel fans, but I don’t think he’ll be in Anaheim for (again) one reason:

Even though they can certainly use his pitching services as that staff has been a disaster due to it being a MASH unit with so many injuries, your Angels already have a designated hitter, a future Hall-of-Famer named Albert Pujols.

The team that I see Shohei Ohtani playing for (drum roll, please)…

The Seattle Mariners

He would fit in perfectly at Safeco Field, what with the Mariners not doing so well in recent seasons.

He could easily be the regular DH as they don’t really have one the way the Angels do with Pujols.

He would be a perfect complement to “King Felix”, ace Felix Hernandez.

And it is not like the Mariners don’t have experience with players coming over from Japan and becoming stars, as back in 2001 a guy named Ichiro Suzuki joined the Mariners from the Orix Blue Wave and over the next twelve years proceeded to become – along with Ken Griffey, Jr. – the best player in the history of that franchise.

Indeed, with his 4,358 hits in Japan and in MLB combined – more than anyone who has ever played the game, including Pete Rose – which includes having over 3,000 hits in the majors alone, Ichiro is an etched-in-stone lock for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Plus there’s a very strong Japanese and Asian community in Seattle to boot.

Which is why I see the Mariners as the best fit for him.

The question now is, will my prediction come true?

Or will Ohtani join another team like the Dodgers, the Angels (despite having Pujols as the DH), or another team like the Chicago Cubs, the San Diego Padres or the San Francisco Giants – a club playing in a city with, like Seattle, a very strong Japanese and Asian community.

We’ll see in a little over two weeks, as he needs to make a decision by December 22nd.

 

Though it would be great if he did, I don’t ultimately expect Ohtani to be playing at Dodger Stadium (shown here) next spring. Photo courtesy of dodgersation.com

 

 

CHIP KELLY, THE NEW UCLA FOOTBALL COACH: What He Should Do First

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The 17th head football coach in the history of UCLA. Photo courtesy of registerguard.com

 

A NEW ERA DAWNS IN WESTWOOD

Unless you’ve been under a rock on Mars the past few days, you’ve undoubtedly heard of UCLA making perhaps the biggest hire in their history when Chip Kelly, the man responsible for the domination of the Oregon Ducks on west coast college football earlier this decade, especially on offense,

Agreed to become the new coach of UCLA Bruin Football this past weekend.

The formal announcement, introduction, and press conference is scheduled for this afternoon at Pauley Pavilion on the Westwood campus.

The deal that Kelly signing – five years, $23.3 million – is pretty significant as that’s the largest contract that UCLA Athletics has given any football coach.

Which to me indicates that while I still don’t think that the school has gone all-in to the commitment of the Bruins becoming an elite, championship-level football program,

They have come a lot closer to doing so.

The thing that has prevented me from stating that UCLA has gone all-in is the fact that while with Kelly’s high-octane, quick-paced, quick-strike offense that averages eighty plays and fifty points a game, many more four and five-star running backs and wide receivers in SoCal high schools will be interested in joining Bruin Nation,

It’s the stringent academic and admissions standards – the same issue that has prevented many high-end players from coming to Westwood, that may still be a bit of a hindrance.

In other words, when it comes to getting recruits admitted into school, Kelly will quickly find out that UCLA is NOT Oregon.

Which I will blame chancellor Gene Block and his administration friends at Murphy Hall if such ends up being the case.

In short, by hiring Kelly, athletic director Dan Guerrero has shown that he wants to go all-in.

Now Block needs to do the same.

Not that I want 2.5, low-SAT score guys admitted at the expense of others, but if a player’s grades and test scores are good enough to make him eligible for the University of California system – good enough for him to get accepted to places like UC Irvine and UC Riverside – then he needs to be welcomed to UCLA.

 

Kelly while the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Photo courtesy of BruinsNation.com

 

Having said that…

Here are some things that Kelly needs to do right off the bat as the new Bruin coach:

1. Fire defensive coordinator Tom Bradley.

Which considering that he was in charge of the nation’s worst run defense should go without saying.

2. Until I saw on social media that many members of Bruin Nation do NOT want to see former UCLA standout linebacker Ken Norton Jr., who has just been fired as the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, being asked to come home because he not only joined Pete Carroll’s staff at USC, he bad mouthed UCLA as well, that was the guy I wanted.

Now I will be happy to have anyone who will immediately change the philosophy and culture of that defense, make them more aggressive as opposed to the read and react, bend-but-don’t-break approach that the Bruins have had for far too long.

Whoever the new DC is, he needs to be a no-nonsense, don’t-take-no-mess guy, someone who will remind me of Buddy Ryan and his shut-down, lights out “46” defense that he ran during the Chicago Bears’ glory days of the 1980s.

Mike Singletary, a key member of that defense who coached the San Francisco 49ers for a time, may be a good fit.

BOTTOM LINE: A great defensive coordinator is a top priority because Kelly’s defenses at Oregon were merely adequate at best; those Ducks winning by outscoring people.

3. I agree with those in Bruin Nation who want Angus McClure retained, as he’s the longest tenured member of the coaching staff.

I honestly don’t think he’ll remain the defensive line coach as I’m sure that Kelly will want to start fresh with his own people, but he should remain as recruiting coordinator, working with Kelly to get the four and five-star guys that are sorely needed as it’s been a while since he’s done any recruiting.

Running backs coach and former Bruin star DeShaun Foster should stay as well; progress was made at that position as Bolu Olorunfumni, Soso Jamabo, and the rest of those guys have improved from last season.

Plus he’s a UCLA alum, which gives him much cred.

4. All those high school players who decommitted from UCLA these past few weeks, including five within a seven-day period?

Three words: Get. Them. Back.

Especially the offensive linemen, as if you don’t have a good o-line (or a defensive line for that matter), you don’t have a good team.

Like the rest of Bruin Nation, I’m excited over a marquee coach like Chip Kelly being given the keys to the Bruin Football Kingdom.

I’ll be even more excited when I see the results, as in:

* Seasons with more than ten wins,

* Pac-12 Championships and January 1st Rose Bowl appearances (and wins), and…

* Berths in the College Football Playoff.

For now, let me join the rest of the UCLA community in welcoming Chip Kelly to Westwood.

May his presence ignite the glory days that UCLA desperately wants.

 

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel exchanging pleasantries with Chip Kelly after a game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR. Photo courtesy of statesmanjournal.com

 

 

 

My Thoughts Regarding The Firing of UCLA Football Coach Jim Mora

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UCLA Bruins head coach Jim Mora after the USC Trojans scores during the first half of an NCAA college football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

 

FINAL RECORD OF UCLA FOOTBALL COACH JIM MORA:

46 wins – 30 losses

Two ten-win seasons in 2013 and 2014

Four bowl games, with wins in the 2013 Sun Bowl and the 2015 Alamo Bowl

 

When I got the news on this site’s Twitter page that my alma mater’s football coach had been told that his services were no longer needed the morning after losing to USC for the third straight time,

I’ll be honest – quite a few thoughts swirled in my head.

Three of those thoughts were prevailing:

1. Thought I wasn’t surprised that Mora was let go, considering not only the lack of success his Bruins were having on the field the past couple of years, but also the dwindling attendance at the Rose Bowl and the numerous high school commits de-committing from UCLA, I was surprised at the timing of his dismissal.

The Bruins have an upcoming game against California this Friday night that in my view is MORE important than this year’s Crosstown Rivalry, because with both teams having five wins, bowl eligibility is at stake, and I thought that athletic director Dan Guerrero would at least let Mora coach that night, holding off on deciding his fate until after he faced the Golden Bears.

And speaking of Guerrero, that brings me to prevailing thought number…

2. As I stated in my recent article on this site, ““Why Has UCLA Football Been So Mediocre For So Long?” (Here’s the link to that piece): http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com/2017/10/19/why-has-ucla-football-been-so-mediocre-for-so-long/

The problems that the Bruins have had on the gridiron goes deeper than Mora or even Guerrero, the root being UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and the other administration suits at Murphy Hall not being “All In” on football success as in national championships like the folks at USC, Alabama, Ohio State, and other powerhouses are.

In other words, Guerrero firing Mora – who is the third football coach he has relieved of his duties (four if you count Bob Toledo in 2002) – is akin to a cancer tumor being removed but cancer cells remaining, which would produce another tumor.

To truly remove that cancer, the UCLA administration must change their hearts regarding their desire of the Bruins being an elite championship program on the gridiron.

Or get a new chancellor and administration that is more willing to go all in.

 

 

Jim Mora and his Bruins observing a moment of silence for fallen UCLA player Nick Pasquale in 2013. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com

 

 

3. I won’t go into details as to speculations of who UCLA’s next coach may be, besides reports that former Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s agent – a Bruin alum – is meeting with Guerrero and his search committee, which includes wealthy alum Casey Wasserman and Bruin quarterback great and NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.

But I will say this:

This will be the fourth football coach that Guerrero has hired to take the reins in Westwood.

Whoever is given the keys to the Bruin kingdom, Block and his friends at Murphy Hall need to tell Guerrero that this is his last chance to get it right.

That whoever is on the sidelines at UCLA’s first game of 2018 with Cincinnati at the Rose Bowl on September 2nd needs to have an immediate impact and be an overwhelming success.

Otherwise Guerrero’s time as the chief executive of UCLA Athletics will be over.

After four shots at hiring a football coach, I think that would be a fair thing for him to hear.

In the meantime, like the loyal decades long member of Bruin Nation that I am, I’m planning on going to the Bruins’ last game vs their older brothers from Berkeley the night after Thanksgiving.

With bowl eligibility at stake, this is too important a battle.

And I’m looking forward to seeing how those 85 young men wearing true blue with those four letters in script on the sides of those gold helmets react and perform in light of their coach – a coach they loved and played their hearts out for – being gone and not hugging and shaking the hands of the seniors who will be playing at the Rose Bowl for the last time this Friday night.

One More Thought:

Despite things ultimately not working out, I will miss Mora.

He did much to influence the upgrading of the Bruins’ facilities, namely the opening of the state of the art Wasserman Center on campus, and he did so much good in molding his players to be successful people off the field as well as on.

The many posts on Twitter showing love to the man from the guys who played for him, past and present, are the evidence.

And I certainly thank him for that.

 

Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

 

 

 

 

CROSSTOWN RIVALRY 2017: Analysis of the 87th Meeting of the UCLA Bruins & the USC Trojans

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USC Trojans running back Ronald Jones II #25 looks up after scoring a TD in the 4th quarter. USC defeated UCLA 28-23 in a cross town rivalry football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. CA 11/17/2017 (Photo by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG) Photo courtesy of dailynews.com

 

MY THOUGHTS OF THE GAME THAT ULTIMATELY COST JIM MORA HIS JOB AS UCLA’s FOOTBALL COACH

 

To be honest, my feelings concerning the 87th meeting of UCLA’s Bruins and USC’s Trojans are mixed.

On the one hand:

Those Bruins exceeded my expectations, not only avoiding getting blown out by a Trojan team that I’m sure would gash their pathetic run defense for well over 300 yards,

Not only staying with those Men of Troy and making it a battle to the end,

But having a chance to pull off the upset!

I was hoping UCLA would give ‘SC a game, and they did, Josh Rosen having an outstanding night with his 421 yards and three touchdown passes, all of them to Jordan Lasley, who for the second straight game was the man with his ten catches and 104 yards.

It was obvious to Bruin Nation that their team was playing their absolute guts out and fighting like rabid dogs.

Which is all I, in particular, wanted to see.

On the other hand:

The one reason why the Victory Bell is not painted blue and sitting in the Morgan Center,

The one reason why Jim Mora was relieved of his duties as UCLA’s football coach the next morning…

MISTAKES!!

 

UCLA Bruins wide receiver Jordan Lasley (2) catches a pass for a first down over USC Trojans cornerback Jack Jones (25) during the first half of an NCAA college football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG) Photo courtesy of dailynews.com

 

I emphasized in the preview to this Crosstown Rivalry clash that the Bruins needed to play an absolutely perfect game to beat ‘SC.

To say that they did not would be a PRONOUNCED understatement…

* TWELVE penalties for a total of 100 yards, including one – an illegal block by left guard Najee Toran – that wiped out a 21-yard rushing touchdown by Bolu Olorunfunmi in the second quarter that was ultimately the difference in the game,

And a 53-yard pass from Rosen to Lasley that was likewise negated by right tackle Andre James for being an ineligible receiver downfield,

* The fact that Rosen was sacked four times, one of them resulting in a fumble, cements the Bruin offensive line as being the goats (and not the Greatest Of All Time, either) of the game, as they failed to pick up the Trojan blitzes and made foul-ups that were a big factor in losing the game.

* Dropped passes by Austin Roberts, Theo Howard, and Giovanni Gentosi in the first half certainly didn’t help.

* As was Rosen being intercepted in the end zone during a very promising drive.

* And we can’t forget the punting team being completely duped by Ajene Harris and Michael Pittman, Jr., who completely fooled the Bruins in the first quarter, Harris pretending to catch a punt and Pittman not only catching that punt, but going 72 yards for USC’s first touchdown.

It was those mistakes that kept the Victory Bell cardinal for another year and sealed Mora’s fate.

 

 

Full highlights of USC’s third straight win – and 49th overall – over UCLA in football. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

As for those Trojans,

My player of the game (besides Rosen) goes to Ronald Jones II with his 126 yards on 28 carries and two scores, the second one with 4:08 remaining in the fourth quarter making sure that the USC band would be playing “Conquest”.

Though kudos goes to UCLA’s run defense for holding Jones and the rest of the Trojan running backs to just 157 yards – well below its nation-worst 302 yards per game – and to Rosen for winning the quarterback battle with SC’s Sam Darnold,

Rosen might have won his battle with Darnold, and the Bruins may have fought extremely hard,

But at the end of the day, USC won the war.

Since that’s the case, while the Trojans can finally take a bye week and get ready to play either Stanford or Washington State at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the Pac-12 championship and a New Year’s Six bowl on December 1st,

UCLA is faced with two roads going into a game with California on Friday night that in my view is more important than their game with the Trojans, because with both the Bruins and Golden Bears having five wins, bowl eligibility is at stake in that post-Thanksgiving contest.

They can either…

1. Be devastated at the firing of coach Mora, a man who they loved and never stopped playing their hearts out for despite the struggles and sub-par results of the past two years, leading them to playing listlessly against the Bears in the sense of giving up, losing to them and ending their season on a bitter note.

OR,

2. Get extremely motivated to beat Cal in a “Let’s do it for Coach Mora!” fashion, playing as hard as – no, harder than – they played against ‘SC, ending the regular season by going undefeated at home, and accepting the bowl bid that would surely come afterwards.

It’s completely up to those 85 players wearing that script “UCLA” on those gold helmets regarding how they respond to losing Mora and how want things to end.

Which is why I will be quite interested in what unfolds this Friday night.

 

THAT’S THAT – MY CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE FOR 2017!

UNTIL NEXT YEAR…

 

Josh Rosen (#3) slinging the ball for some of the 421 yards that he threw against the Trojans on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of latimes.com.

CROSSTOWN RIVALRY 2017: Official Predictions of the 87th Meeting Between UCLA and USC

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WP Admin

Photo courtesy of the sportsfanjournal.com

 

#11 USC TROJANS (9-2) vs UCLA BRUINS (5-5)

DAY & DATE: Saturday, November 18, 2017

PLACE: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

TIME: 5:00 p.m.

TV: ABC Channel 7

AT STAKE BESIDES BRAGGING RIGHTS AND THE VICTORY BELL: Bowl eligibility for UCLA as the Bruins are one win short

ALL-TIME SERIES: Trojans lead 48-31-7 (Minus two wins due to NCAA sanctions, so it’s really 46-31-7)

FIRST GAME: 1929 – Trojans won 76-0

MOST RECENT GAME: 2016 – Trojans won 36-14

LAST UCLA WIN: 2014 – Bruins won 38-20

LONGEST WIN STREAKS: UCLA won eight straight from 1991-1998, USC won seven straight from 1999-2005

LINE: Trojans favored by 16

 

A trailer for the documentary “A City Divided”, about the history of the Crosstown Rivalry. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

OK STUDENTS, ALUMNI AND FANS OF UCLA AND USC, HERE IT IS – THIS IS HOW I SEE SATURDAY’S CROSSTOWN RIVALRY CLASH GOING DOWN:

First off…

Any member of the Trojan Family having visions of a 50-0 massacre like in 2011 needs to leave them at the Tommy Trojan statue on their campus right now.

That will definitely not happen, simply because Josh Rosen is too talented a quarterback, the Bruin offense is more talented than in 2011 – or even last year – and Rosen in particular will be looking to avenge his sub-par performance at the Coliseum two years ago, the only other time he faced USC.

In fact, I see UCLA coming out hard, or like I read in a comment from a Trojan fan on Facebook, “…with guns blazing”.

In other words, the Bruins will bring it at the onset, showing ‘SC that they’re not intimidated by them or scared of them or their atmosphere; their Traveler horse mascot, their band, their band’s drum major stabbing the middle of the Coliseum turf, or anything else.

Because Rosen is the QB that he is, and the way UCLA’s offense has improved, the Bruins will score some points.

And I see Jedd Fisch, the Bruins’ offensive coordinator, pulling off a few trick plays to try to catch the Trojan defense off guard.

 

PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 22: Members of the UCLA Bruins celebrate in the stands after the game against the USC Trojans at the Rose Bowl on November 22, 2014 in Pasadena, California. UCLA on 38-20. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) These Bruins hope they will be able to repeat this scene on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Pac-12.com

 

 

However (here comes the unfortunate bad news for Bruin Nation)…

None of that will result in a Bruin upset.

There are two reasons that stand out in my view:

  1. The depth that USC has as they have suffered as many injuries as UCLA this season, and yet they stand at 9-2 with the Pac-12 South clinched because their back-ups have stepped up big time.
  2. The fact that UCLA’s football team is the home of the nation’s worst run defense, giving up an average of 301 yards per game and ranking, out of the 130 teams that play in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, 130th – combined with Trojan running back Ronald Jones II rushing for over 1,000 yards for the second straight year, and currently on a hot streak, taking over with two rushing touchdowns to beat Arizona in particular in USC’s last home game.

‘SC coach Clay Helton, much like what he did in the second half of the 2015 game, will take advantage of the Bruins’ extreme weakness in stopping the run and pound the ball, counting on Jones to put up some big numbers.

Which considering that UCLA has been terrible against the run all season, Jones probably will.

Look for Trojan QB Sam Darnold to likewise have a good day, as he will be using his legs to take advantage of the Bruin ineptness against the run as well as his arm.

 

 

KABC Channel 7’s report on the tailgaters at the UCLA-USC game on the ‘SC campus in 2015. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

In Other Words…

I see this year’s clash between Los Angeles’ two biggest institutions of higher learning unfolding like the previous two clashes.

The Bruins will be fired up and give USC a battle at the onset, but the Trojans’ overall depth and extreme advantage in their rushing attack vs UCLA’s defense against the run will ultimately be the deciding factor.

Which is why I believe the final score will be:

USC TROJANS – 42

UCLA BRUINS – 24

This score, of course, is coming from someone who’s impartial, objective, and realistic in covering one of the country’s most prolific and historical rivalries.

As someone who’s a UCLA alum and has been a member of Bruin Nation for the vast majority of his life, however, I certainly hope I am wrong.

Which is why I’m unfolding this special eight-clap for my alma mater’s football team once again:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, U…C…L…A…U! C! L! A! PROVE ME WRONG!!

And like in 2015 and 2016, if those Bruins do indeed prove these predictions as incorrect, I will be quite happy to have been proven wrong.

But Jim Mora and his blue and gold-clad team will have to do exactly that.

 

LIKE IN THE PREVIOUS TWO YEARS, THIS CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE IS NOT DONE AS I WILL HAVE A FULL ANALYSIS OF THE GAME ON THIS SITE ON MONDAY.

BE SURE TO CHECK IT OUT!

 

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen trying to avoid former USC defensive lineman Claude Pelon (#90) during the last Crosstown Rivalry game held in the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of abc7.com.

 

CROSSTOWN RIVALRY 2017: Our Official Preview of the UCLA Bruins vs the USC Trojans

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PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 19: Quarterback Mike Fafaul #12 of the UCLA Bruins scrambles out of the pocket as he is chased by defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu #96 of the USC Trojans during the first quarter at Rose Bowl on November 19, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Photo courtesy of losangeles.cbslocal.com

 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA) BRUINS vs

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC) TROJANS

** THE 87th MEETING **

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18th, 5:00 p.m.

LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM, LOS ANGELES, CA

TV: ABC Channel 7

ALL-TIME SERIES: USC leads 48-31-7 (minus two wins due to NCAA sanctions in 2004 & 2005, so it’s really 46-31-7)

LAST YEAR: USC won, 36-14, at the Rose Bowl

LINE: USC is favored by 16 points

 

*RECORDS*

UCLA: 5-5 overall, 3-4 and 4th place in the Pac-12 South

USC: 9-2 overall, 7-1 and 1st place in the Pac-12 South – will be in the Pac-12 Championship Game on December 2nd

 

*STATISTICS*

Scoring Average (per game): Both teams averaging 35 points/game

Defensive Scoring Average (per game): UCLA 39, USC 26

Yards Per Game: UCLA 462.5, USC 495.1

Defensive Yards Per Game: UCLA 499, USC 401.6

Rushing Defense Per Game: UCLA 301 (ranked 130th out of 130 – LAST in the nation!), USC 166.1

Interceptions: UCLA 6, USC 15

Sacks: UCLA 17, USC 36

 

 

Something to encourage Bruin Nation: Highlights of UCLA’s last win over USC, 38-20 at the Rose Bowl in 2014. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

*KEY PLAYERS*

UCLA:

Josh Rosen, QB – 3,094 yards passing, 62.2% completions, 21 TD, 9 INT

Bolu Olorunfumnmi, RB – 484 yards, 5.4 ypc, 5 TD

Soso Jamabo, RB – 4.8 ypc, 6 TD

Jordan Lasley, WR – 39 receptions, 705 yards, 4 TD

Theo Howard, WR – 33 receptions, 2 TD

Kenny Young, LB – 77 tackles, 5.0 TFL

Adarius Pickett, DB – 69 tackles, 3.0 TFL

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, DL – 39 tackles, 5.5 sacks

Darnay Holmes, DB – 32 tackles, 2 INT

USC:

Sam Darnold, QB – 3,198 yards passing, 63.4% completions, 24 TD, 11 INT

Ronald Jones II, RB – 1,224 yards, 6.7 ypc, 14 TD

Deontay Burnett, WR – 69 receptions, 911 yards, 9 TD

Tyler Vaughns, WR – 46 receptions, 627 yards, 4 TD

Cameron Smith, LB – 87 tackles, 8.0 TFL

Marvel Tell III, S – 70 tackles, 2 INT (1 pick-six)

Uchenna Nwosu, LB – 60 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks

Rasheem Green, DL – 10.5 TFL, 8 sacks

Christian Rector, LB – 11.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks

 

 

Bruin linebacker Kenny Young (#42) bringing down Trojan running back Aca’Cedric Ware (#28) during last season’s clash at the Rose Bowl. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

 

 

As a UCLA alum and a longtime member of Bruin Nation who is impartial, objective, realistic, and definitely not a “homer” as far as my assessments of not only the football team, but all the sports programs that wear blue and gold with the letters U, C, L, and A on the front,

As much as I would like to give the Bruins the best of chances at beating the Trojans on Saturday, I simply can’t as to say otherwise would compromise my integrity as an online sports writer.

Four factors stand out in this 87th clash:

1. USC’s defense has more than twice the number of sacks as UCLA

2. USC’s defense has more than twice the number of interceptions as UCLA

3. The fact that UCLA’s run defense ranks dead last in all of college football as it’s been an absolute sieve all season, giving running backs much material for their highlight reels.

4. Not only does USC’s running back, Ronald Jones II, have over 1,000 yards on the ground for the second straight season, his career totals have approached the company of such Trojan legends as Reggie Bush, Charles White, Marcus Allen, and O.J. Simpson, whose totals Jones figures to pass on Saturday.

Simply put, it just doesn’t add up for UCLA, especially the last in the country in run defense vs Ronald Jones factor.

If I were USC coach Clay Helton, my game plan on offense would be very simple:

Give Jones, or any other running back in cardinal and gold, the ball.

Darnold won’t have to throw the ball much at all if things go the way ‘SC expects.

On defense, look for the Trojans to have a likewise simple plan:

Blitz Rosen often. Give him no time to throw.

In other words, keep doing what they’ve been doing the past few weeks in their wins over Colorado and the Arizona schools.

 

 

Highlights of the last Crosstown Rivalry game – and the last one Josh Rosen played in – at the Coliseum, a 40-21 win for the Trojans. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

Having Said That…

Just like last season, the only chance that UCLA has in the Coliseum is to play a perfect game – on offense as well as defense.

Lasley, Howard, and every other wide receiver in a blue jersey must not drop one ball thrown at them.

No one wearing blue and gold must turn the ball over.

No one wearing a gold helmet with a script “UCLA” on the side must commit any penalties, particularly those that stop drives for them or extend drives for the Trojans.

For goodness sake, no Bruin defensive player must miss any tackles whatsoever.

And most importantly, everyone on Jim Mora’s team, from the coaches all the way down to the student assistants providing water, must come out hard and play, coach, and perform like they have nothing to lose.

Do those things, and the Bruins’ chances at an upset are decent.

Do them not, and the game will be over by the middle of the third quarter if not halftime.

With the Victory Bell remaining cardinal.

In fact, I have a new eight-clap for this football team of my alma mater’s for this Saturday:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, U…C…L…A…U! C! L! A! NO MISTAKES!!

 

FOR MY PREDICTIONS OF HOW THIS 87th MEETING BETWEEN THE BRUINS AND THE TROJANS WILL BE – INCLUDING MY PERSONAL TRADITION OF NAMING THE FINAL SCORE – CLICK ONTO THIS SITE TOMORROW!

 

 

To UCLA defenders trying to keep Juju Smith-Schuster (#9) – now a Pittsburgh Steeler – from scoring in last year’s UCLA-USC game. Photo courtesy of latimes.com

CROSSTOWN RIVALRY 2017: A House Divided Among Marching Band Lines

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UCLA Bruin Marching Band members Kevin King (left), his twin brother Steven (right), and their brother, USC Trojan Marching Band member Jeffrey (center). Photo courtesy of their mother, Julie Myers King.

 

A PORTRAIT OF A FAMILY WHO, THOUGH ITS CHILDREN ARE IN BOTH THE UCLA AND USC MARCHING BANDS THIS YEAR, ARE SHOWING THAT BLOOD IS THICKER THAN CROSSTOWN RIVALRY

 

A couple of years ago I met a lady, Julie Myers King, who was perhaps more entrenched in Bruin Nation than any other UCLA alum I have ever encountered.

After she was crowned Queen of the Tournament of Roses in 1988, she headed to Westwood, becoming a second generation Bruin as her father graduated UCLA in 1967.

Her life in Bruin Nation is Hall of Fame worthy, as she was in a sorority during her student years and after graduating with a degree in history in 1992 remains very involved in the UCLA community;

She is a Gold Shield Alum.

She’s on Parents Council.

She was named a “UCLA Alumni of the Day” during this past summer.

She is a member of the UCLA Alumni Band, which is where I met her.

And her twin sons, Steven and Kevin, are seniors in the award-winning UCLA Bruin Marching Band, the “Solid Gold Sound”.

So when I discovered that her younger son, Jeffrey, not only decided to matriculate at  longtime crosstown rival USC, but also join the UCLA band’s personal rivals, the USC Trojan Marching Band, also known as the “Spirit of Troy”,

 

 

The UCLA Band’s pregame show, which considering it’s from 2016 I’m sure Steven and Kevin King were in. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

I won’t lie; being a former member of the UCLA band and having had numerous nasty interactions with the ‘SC band during my time in Westwood and afterward, I was surprised, to say the least.

I knew that I absolutely had to talk to Julie and find out how someone whose whole family is all things Bruin would decide to go over to the “enemy”.

As far as Bruins are concerned, it was akin to a Montague becoming a Capulet, or a member of Dumbledore’s Army becoming a Death Eater.

Plus, with Jeffrey joining the Trojan band, his family, along with another family whose twin daughters are in both bands, became to the best of my knowledge the first families in the history of the Crosstown Rivalry with children in both the UCLA and USC bands at the same time.

There have been lots of cases of brothers on both football teams concurrently over the years, but not in both marching bands.

Which is why I met Julie at the Ackerman Student Union on the UCLA campus last week for a friendly chat with her about all of this.

As any Bruin could imagine, the first question I asked her with regards to Jeffrey becoming a Trojan and playing “Fight On” instead of “Bruin Warriors” (formerly known as “Sons of Westwood”) was three words…

“How and why?”

 

The “Spirit of Troy” doing its traditional pregame show at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of admissionblog.usc.edu

 

Julie told me that USC’s renowned Thornton School of Music, in the grand tradition of Don Vito Corleone and his son Michael, “…made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” giving him a partial scholarship.

Considering the high costs of USC, a private school, that scholarship is a very valuable thing to have and something to be proud of.

Which according to Jeffrey was a major factor in his decision to join the Trojan Family.

Though there was a bit of joking and teasing according to Julie, like any good mother she supported Jeffrey going to ‘SC and was thrilled for him to go.

The biggest impression that I got as Julie and I talked was that unlike in years and decades past, when the rivalry between the two bands was filled with much hostility, that nastiness has seemed to have largely dissipated.

I got the feeling that Julie’s kids have sort of brought the two bands together in a way. Jeffrey’s fellow alto saxophonists know that he comes from Bruin stock, but have given him very little teasing about it, and according to him regarding the Trojan band’s sentiments toward their Bruin counterparts,

“There isn’t any deep-seated animosity – they just happen to be “that other school across town”

 

 

Jeffrey King’s first on-field pregame performance in the Trojan Marching Band, on September 2, 2017. Courtesy of YouTube

 

As for Julie and her sons, it’s definitely a “Blood Is Thicker Than Rivalry” thing as Steven commented, “…when it comes down to it we’re all family, just rooting for different teams,” with Jeffrey concurring, “…family will always come first.”

In other words, Steven, Kevin and Jeffrey still get along, Julie telling me that the rivalry vibes won’t be felt until they watch the Bruins and Trojans play on TV.

But even then, it won’t be a Civil War-ish atmosphere as both Steven and Jeffrey emphasized that being in opposite bands will add a fun aspect to the family relationship.

Which to be honest, in addition to members of the two bands interacting in a friendlier, non-loathing way than in years past, like when both of SoCal’s football teams were in the Bay Area earlier this fall, USC facing Cal in Berkeley while UCLA was in Palo Alto playing Stanford, and the brothers and their respective friends hung out in San Francisco,

I am quite glad about.

There was one more inevitable question that I had to ask Julie as our evening wrapped up:

Which team will she be rooting for this Saturday?

Being a longtime member of Bruin Nation myself, I was happy at her response.

And I was pleased at Julie’s sons and their fellow members of the UCLA and USC bands getting along better than in years past.

Though either Steven and Kevin or Jeffrey will be ecstatic and celebrating at roughly 9:00 p.m. this Saturday night, it was clear to me that they and their mom have their priorities straight.

That blood is thicker than water and crosstown rivalry.

 

The “Solid Gold Sound” of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band takes the field. Photo courtesy of ocregister.com