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AD leaves big shoes to fill at UCLA

Pac-12 has rich history of winning NCAA championships

The recent hiring of a new athletic director at UCLA created hardly a ripple outside Southern California.

Long-range planning by the new AD could have seismic implications for NCAA member institutions, however.

On May 19, Martin Jarmond was entrusted with the herculean responsibility of sustaining a standard of excellence that has produced 118 NCAA team championships, which ranks second only to Stanford’s 126 all-time.

The leadership transition at UCLA will not lower expectations for a program that has won NCAA championships in 20 sports and boasts a current student-athlete Graduation Success Rate of 92 percent, an all-time high.

The legacy of Dan Guerrero, Jarmond’s predecessor, includes 32 NCAA championships and visionary marketing and fundraising strategies. In 2007, UCLA Athletics became the first program to win 100 NCAA team championships.

The shoes that Jarmond will attempt to fill left imprints across the NCAA competitive landscape, as reflected in the nearly three dozen national titles, 29 second-place NCAA finishes and 130 Top 5 NCAA finishes that distinguished Guerrero’s tenure.

UCLA programs are not accustomed to looking up at the competition, regionally or nationally.

In the coaching profession, it has been said that you want to replace the coach who replaced the legend.

Unfortunately for Jarmond, who served as athletic director at Boston College the last three years, he is the immediate successor to a legend in athletic administration.

The challenges presented by COVID-19 will only shorten a honeymoon that was going to be brief anyway.

Serving as an athletic director in the Pac-12, a conference that boldly and aptly trademarked itself the Conference of Champions, is not for the faint of heart.

Since 2017, every Pac-12 school except Washington State has won at least one NCAA championship.

Just keeping up in this conference will not guarantee job security or cultivate patience at UCLA, which has been ranked as the top public university in the nation three consecutive years.

Only three institutions across all divisions have won at least 100 NCAA titles and all three are Pac-12 members: Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Oklahoma State and Penn State are rank fourth and fifth, respectively, with just over 50 NCAA championships each.

The Pac-12 is the only conference to win 500 NCAA championships, over 200 more than the Big Ten and 300 more than the SEC.

The Pac-12 led the nation with 13 NCAA titles in 2018-19. While no other conference has won ten or more NCAA titles in a single year, the Pac-12 has achieved the feat 11 times, including a record 14 in 1996-97.

The Pac-12 reign of dominance extends to the administration of President John F. Kennedy. The Pac-12 has led or tied the nation in NCAA championships in 53 of the last 59 years. In the six other years, the Pac-12 placed no lower than third.

Into this enchanted land of lofty aspirations and unprecedented achievement, 40-year-old Jarmond has ventured.

On the Westwood campus that often doubles as the setting for movies of all genres, Jarmond must prove capable of navigating the drama associated with athletic competition at the highest collegiate level, while avoiding the comedy of errors that can snowball into epic disaster.

The entire UCLA community has fingers crossed that the new athletic director will prove capable of delivering blockbusters that transform action to triumph and fantasy to everlasting glory.

Jim Caltagirone resides in Altoona. He is an occasional contributor to Voice of the Fan.

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