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UCLA fans want the front page, but team has to earn it

Chris Dufresne takes time out (he gets three per half) each Friday during college football season to answer questions. Topics include UCLA, SEC, Notre Dame.

November 17, 2012|Chris Dufresne
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Unbuckling the mailbag:

Question: If UCLA beats USC, will The Times let them be in the Sunday sports page headline?

Phillip Para

Answer: That's a tough call but we can probably make a one-time exception to get UCLA out on the cover, especially if the Bruins beat the Trojans, 50-0.

I'm constantly amused that some UCLA fans can't make the logical connection between program success and how that relates to newspaper coverage.

The reason USC has received more "attention" in the last decade might have to do with the Trojans' winning 12 of the last 13 games in the rivalry.

It's the same reason Napoleon got more coverage for winning battles and a presidential election gets more ink than a race for the Altoona City Council.

It could be noted that in basketball, UCLA's 11 NCAA titles have earned the Bruins disproportionate coverage over USC basketball.

Editorial policy in sports tends to be tied to winning, losing, newsworthiness, interest, readership and web hits.

In the 1990s, USC fans complained about our UCLA coverage when the Bruins were winning eight straight games in the rivalry.

Just look at the numbers: USC has been to seven BCS bowls since UCLA last appeared in the Rose Bowl.

UCLA can dictate more prominent coverage by getting better in football, which it appears to be doing.

The only cheerleading we do at company headquarters is over kickoff times, and I can tell you there were cartwheels performed after learning this year's UCLA-USC game was a noon start.

The worst move in the history of the rivalry was starting this game at 10 p.m. on the East Coast.

It was also a killer on our deadlines and almost prevented us from getting a headline on either team on the front page in early editions.

Q: Please tell me you will poke fun at the Southeastern Conference for their opponents this weekend . . . if you haven't already. Wofford? Samford? Western Carolina? I know there's a couple more . . . oh yes . . . Sam Houston State. Good thing these are home games.

Matt Kovach

A: It sounds like pitchers and catchers are reporting for the start of the SEC's Grapefruit League — except the conference is playing this exhibition slate right in the middle of the pennant drive.

You also missed a couple of key SEC matchups this weekend: Jacksonville State is playing at Florida, Georgia is hosting Georgia Southern and Alabama A&M travels to Auburn.

That's seven games against lower-division opponents on one day. Notre Dame, USC and UCLA have never played a 1-AA (now FCS) team.

The SEC does this because it can. The conference has expanded to 14 schools but still plays only an eight-game league schedule. That gives the SEC unusual flexibility and allows its schools to essentially schedule an extra victory every year.

That does not mean the SEC is not a good conference. Actually, it's still ranked by most as the best from top to bottom.

It does open the SEC to outside criticism, although this year Auburn and Kentucky are so bad they might get challenged by Alabama A&M and Samford.

Some people think Mumford (& Sons) could hang with this Kentucky team for a quarter.

Q: I saw that [Brian] Kelly interview, and he did not actually say "stoop so low" as to campaign for his own team. That was your editorial add-on. And what's wrong with voting his team No. 1 in the coaches' poll?

Jason Arado

Arlington Heights

A: If you liked that editorial "add-on" you should see the bedroom I converted into a home office. I have no problem with coaches advocating for their own teams, but don't you think it's a tad telling that Brian Kelly is the only coach in the USA Today poll voting Notre Dame No. 1?

You think all those other coaches have a special attachment to Oregon and Kansas State?

Or, maybe, the sports information directors who vote in place of most coaches took into account Notre Dame's triple-overtime win over a Pittsburgh team that lost the next week to Connecticut.

Kelly also started campaigning for his school a week after he said he would not campaign for his school, but that's OK, too. The BCS system by design puts coaches in awkward and duplicitous positions.

Q: Keep your volleyball, swimming and water polo titles and the SEC will continue to dominate football.

Ric Etheridge


A: That's a deal. And you can keep Starkville and Fayetteville and we'll keep Santa Barbara and Big Sur.

Q: So the Big Ten doesn't get a slot in the Rose this year?

Ryan Fedor

A: No, the Big Ten gets a slot no matter how much I might not want to see three- or four-loss Wisconsin out here again. I think you're confusing the Pac-12 end of the equation if Oregon is lost to the BCS title case. In that scenario, the Rose Bowl might get to replace Oregon with Notre Dame. So you could end up with Notre Dame against Wisconsin or Nebraska or even a rematch against Michigan.

Q: Interesting to think about whether Johnny Manziel or Marcus Mariota would have won the Oregon job.

Pat McCarthy

A: I think had both quarterbacks ended up at Oregon there would not have been enough "Johnny Footballs" to go around.

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