LEE: Always nice to Beach slap the Bruins
Athletic contests between UCLA, Long Beach State a David vs. Goliath affair
Published: Monday, September 21, 2009
Updated: Monday, September 21, 2009 23:09
It irks me just a little to walk around campus and see a UCLA sweatshirt or book bag.
I cannot figure out why a significant amount of Beach students, for whatever reason, prefer to flaunt that familiar four-letter acronym rather than the colors of the school giving them their degrees.
UCLA is the 800-pound gorilla looming heavily over the Southern California college sports landscape. This is why an LBSU win over the Bruins in any sport is worthy of top billing on a Daily 49er sports page.
That was the case Saturday evening at Titan Gym when the 49er women's volleyball team thoroughly dismantled the then-No. 7 Bruins in three sets.
Although just a regular season volleyball match in September, the win means so much more considering the current state of NCAA athletics, where the haves continue to pull far ahead of the have-nots in financial resources. A 49er victory over the Bruins symbolizes a triumph for the little guys, or as many derisively call them, the "mid-majors."
As a member of the Big West Conference, Long Beach State athletics is considered exactly that. The Beach is among an underclass of roughly 280 NCAA Division I schools not affiliated with a "big six" conference — ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 10, SEC — whose entire athletic programs are well-compensated for thanks to big-money BCS football programs.
UCLA athletics can best be likened to the New York Yankees. A media darling loved by some, hated by others, but respected by all.
There's a distinct mystique about the Westwood campus, and Bruin coaches can attract almost any recruit to come play there by simply name-dropping UCLA. Take a look at UCLA's rosters from various sports and it would be difficult to find an athlete who wasn't an All-American or Olympian at one time or another.
The athletic Web site proudly displays a sidebar graphic listing the 104 NCAA championships the Bruins have won in various sports: men's volleyball (19), men's basketball (11), softball (10), men's track and field (8), men's water polo (8), women's water polo (7), women's track and field (5) and women's volleyball (3), among others.
On the other hand, 49er athletics is the NCAA's Minnesota Twins: A penny-pinching athletic program operating far away from the spotlight of Sunset Blvd. that gets the most out of a little in order to hang with the heavyweights of college sports.
While UCLA is in the process of re-modeling famed Pauley Pavilion, it is safe to assume the Walter Pyramid will not be seeing any major facelifts in the near future. Not when taking into account, the current economic woes plaguing higher education in California.
Sifting through athletic budget data collected by the Department of Education is also a telling sign of the disparity between the two programs. UCLA's athletic program operates at about $66 million annually. LBSU gets by with a little more than $12 million.
Going back to Saturday night, imagine being one of those 49er women's volleyball players who's probably heard a lot about how stacked UCLA's team is. Being told that you're playing for a once-dominant program that is falling behind the likes of Penn State, Texas, Nebraska, etc.
Just having detractors suggest you're not good enough to play for one of these BCS-conference powerhouses must've made pulling that upset all the more satisfying.
From Utah and Boise State's BCS-busting football teams, to George Mason's unexpected march to the Final Four in men's basketball, watching Cinderella lodge that glass slipper between Goliath's eyes is part of the charm of college athletics.