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UCLA and UNC seem to be whistling the same tune when it comes to football. While one school brings forth images of palm trees, California beaches and the whole West coast easy-going feel, the other school brings forth images of the Appalachian Mountains, Carolina beaches and Southern charm. They share many things in contrast, but unfortunately for the two of them they share something non-contrasting that they probably wish they didn't: a lack of real success in college football. Honestly though, I get the feeling that neither one of them cares all too much....
We have a great thread going on in our forum about the Rick Neuheisel firing ( http://fans25.com/discuss-thread.cfm?dt=4648 ), and it got me to thinking. I have been hard on him and his lack of success at UCLA over the last four years. But maybe it wasn't entirely all his fault. Maybe he wasn't getting the inside support he needed from the school. Maybe the same can be said for football coaches at UNC over the years.
I know a decent bit about UNC, but not much about UCLA. After reading this forum thread, I got to thinking about how UCLA and UNC reminded me of each other in that football just simply is not what these two institutions are overly worried about. If not for that mentality, all of the other ingredients are there for regular BCS trips.
Is one the East Coast match of the West Coast other? Here is what I see....
Basketball titles - Between the two, they own 22% of all of the basketball crowns. Ever. UCLA checks in with eleven, while the Tar Heels check in with five. 16 of the 72 titles they own. Not bad. But in recent history, the edge goes to UNC, who have four since 1982, while UCLA has just one (1995) since 1975...I could go on and on and on about what these teams have done on the court, but we already all know...
Learfield Sports Directors' Cup - Basketball isn't the only sport in which UCLA and UNC excel. The LSCD Trophy is given out annually to the school that ranks the best throughout a whole slate of sports. Here, both UNC and UCLA are consistently in the top ten. Both have sent teams to the College World Series finals recently in baseball, and both have been a force on the soccer field.
Academics - OK, I am not going to sit here and talk about how I know which are the best schools in America. I am not too much of an academic. But while neither UNC nor UCLA are Harvard or MIT, I do know they are damn fine schools. They put books before blocked-kicks. So therefore, when ultimate decisions are made, I tend to think that football is not as important as academics at either. Does that mean that because the academics are good the football cannot be? Heck no.
All-time bowl records and football history - Can any of you remember when either of these teams last won a big-time bowl game? I cannot...UCLA beat Texas A&M in the 1997 Cotton Bowl. They are 3-6 in bowls since that game. UNC has defeated Arkansas, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Auburn and Tennessee in bowls since 1998, but none of those came in earth-shaking huge games. As far as all-time bowl records go, UCLA is 15-13-1 and UNC is 13-15.
Conferences - The Pac-12 and the ACC are very similar in football. While the Pac-12 has a bit of an edge with USC's run during the early and mid 2000's, and Oregon and Stanford coming on strong in recent seasons, the ACC is not far behind. Florida State was the elite team up top for years, scoring two national crowns in the 90's, and VT has had glimpses of national title hopes here and there over the years. But after those top programs, both conferences feature a group of average teams, and a group of sorry teams. Every now and then, a random team will make a good run, but it usually fizzles out...The point trying to be made here is that both UCLA and UNC play in conferences - and divisions - that are quite winnable.
Well-known nationwide - Due to the basketball success, and the success overall in all of the sports in which these schools compete, they are very well-known nationwide. UCLA and UNC annually rank among the top teams in the country in merchandise sold. With this going for them, recruiting would be a breeze if either of these teams could reach the big-time in football.
Media love - With their big-time TV ratings for basketball (the other major sport), these two teams would be an easy draw for national TV games and features on the various college football programs. The media wants these teams to succeed because they sell. If they were ranked high, big audiences would watch their games.
Facilities - The players love the pimped-out locker rooms, the snazzy film rooms, the dorms with all of the creature comforts. So when it comes to these things, are these two teams doing well? From all I hear, UNC has among the best facilities in America when it comes to those things. I do not know what UCLA has, really...As for stadiums, UNC's Kenan Stadium is as picturesque as it gets, and it just got an end zone addition to get to 65,000 seats. But as nice as it is, I wouldn't say it is intimidating. Why? Becasue the fans do not show up in force and make a difference. That stadium is nice. But it is rarely full. UCLA plays in the Rose Bowl. But as historic and cool as that is, I do not see it as intimidating like many stadiums nationwide where the crowd is the difference at times.
Coaches salaries - Now we get to the important stuff: money. Are the two willing to pay? Butch Davis, UNC's last Head Coach, was initially paid an annual deal of $1.86 million. Rick Neuheisel was signed for a $1.25 million deal in 2007.. The top coaches today are making double that and then some. Urban Meyer just signed at Ohio State a package that will bring him over $4 million. Will UNC and UCLA step up? We will see. I know this: UNC's hoops coach, Roy Williams, and UCLA's hoops coach, Ben Howland, take home $2 million a year each - 9th and 10th best nationwide.
Major potential - There is absolutely, positively no reason that either of these teams couldn't win a national title in football. All of the name-power is there, the schedules are managable, the media would provide the love.
So what will happen now? - UCLA is without a coach. As far as I can figure out, so is UNC as Everett Withers is an interim. So they are both hunting a coach. In my opinion, they both need to go big-name and proven. Fans at these two schools will not be attracted to a coach who is not well-known. That has been proven at least at UNC. Many good coaches are out there and this is a huge hire for both teams.
As a long-time college sports fan, I see similarities between these two college football situations. I see both with all of the resources to explode and become top ten type teams in football. But as long as football stays an afterthought, don't expect to see either of them hoisting a crystal football anytime soon...
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