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UCLA Rules Have Changed Since Morgan

April 11, 2002|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Winning Solves All Problems"

Gold-lettered sign

on the desk of J.D. Morgan

*

J.D. Morgan was athletic director during UCLA's spectacular ascent in basketball and assorted smaller sports in the 1960s and '70s, a bottom-line numbers cruncher with an accounting background who forbade black ink to turn red.

Morgan, however, knew that the nickname "J.D. Midas" referred more to his golden touch with win-loss records than with dollar signs.

Pauley Pavilion opened two years after he took the post in 1963, providing Bruin basketball with a permanent home after years of playing at the on-campus men's gym, the Sports Arena and several other Los Angeles venues. But without 10 national championships in 12 years, few would have cared.

Drake Stadium and Spaulding Field also were built early in Morgan's tenure, but it was the Bruins' first Rose Bowl victory, in 1966, that had Westwood buzzing.

He quickly wiped out a six-figure deficit, doubled the athletics budget, quadrupled radio-TV income and cut student fees. Yet UCLA's 30 national titles during his 17-year tenure became his legacy, the standard against which other Bruin athletic directors are measured.

So who's next?

A replacement for current Athletic Director Pete Dalis--whose retirement is effective in June--will come from a group of finalists comprised of his top assistant, Betsy Stephenson, and athletic directors Gary Walters of Princeton, Gene Bleymaier of Boise State and Dan Guerrero of UC Irvine.

Rick Purdy, UCLA associate athletic director for fund-raising, and Gary Cunningham, athletic director at UC Santa Barbara and a former Bruin basketball coach, were candidates until this week.

Chancellor Albert Carnesale is conducting final interviews with the four finalists, who were chosen by a six-person search committee headed by Vice Chancellor Pete Blackman. The job is expected to be filled before May 1.

Much of Morgan's success was a product of the era. Building facilities was far less expensive, women's sports received scant attention and the Bruin basketball dynasty was primarily the work of legendary Coach John Wooden, who was beginning his 16th season when Morgan took the reins.

But the charismatic athletic director, whose deep, resonant voice projected unquestioned authority, also took firm control, relieving Wooden of budgetary and scheduling duties. Upon his hiring, Morgan wrote in a memo, "We are going with the same head coaches. I have faith and confidence that the staff will do an outstanding job. If there has been a weakness, it has been in the tools with which they've had to work. My job will be to develop those tools, whether they be buildings, equipment, funds or programs, to assist these top coaches in doing a great job."

Morgan retired 1980 because of failing health and after a national search was succeeded by his assistant, Robert Fischer. Three years later Fischer resigned and Chancellor Charles Young went the expeditious route, appointing Dalis, a little-known director of cultural and recreational affairs.

Despite the inherent constraints, Dalis held the job two years longer than Morgan and continued UCLA's overall success, winning 39 national titles in 14 sports. Only one national title came in basketball, however, and football is still seeking its first championship since 1954.

Perhaps Dalis' greatest accomplishment was launching a program that endows more than half of UCLA's athletic grants-in-aid. The principal has grown to $20 million and interest is used to pay for scholarships.

Dalis also supervised the construction of the $13-million Morgan Center, which opened in 2000 and houses athletics offices and the UCLA Hall of Fame. A $14-million renovation of the Acosta Center is underway, expanding weight training and sports medicine facilities, providing meeting rooms and additional space for lockers.

But the same factors that dampened the interest of high-profile candidates upon Morgan's retirement apply now. The pay is lower than at most comparable universities--Dalis makes $230,000 after getting a $70,000 raise in response to the contract given new California Athletic Director Steve Gladstone--and the opportunity to make a lasting imprint by developing new facilities is almost nonexistent.

The expensive Westwood and Bel-Air neighborhoods surrounding the campus will not allow the construction of an on-campus football stadium, leaving UCLA little choice but to continue playing home games at the aging Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Facilities director Rich Mylin does a good job keeping Pauley Pavilion from falling into disrepair, and serious renovation of the 37-year old arena is in only the discussion stages.

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