VARSITY TEAMS: 21
INTRAMURAL SPORTS: 18
FAMOUS ALUMNI: KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, JACKIE ROBINSON
EXTRA CREDIT FOR: RECORD 94 NATIONAL TEAM TITLES
All things considered, UCLA should change its name to the University of California, Loaded with Athletes. Consider: The Bruins have won 94 national team titles in 19 sports, the most of any school. The 49 current or former UCLA athletes at the Atlanta Olympics took home 22 medals, and their haul of 12 golds was exceeded by only six countries. The list of alumni is even more mind-blowing than these accomplishments would lead you to believe.
UCLA can boast of the best player in the history of college basketball ( Lew Alcindor, now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Softball ( Lisa Fernandez) and volleyball ( Karch Kiraly). The media darling of the Atlanta Games, Kerri Strug, is now a freshman in Westwood. Bruins athletes as social crusaders? How about Arthur Ashe? Even after you throw in Troy Aikman, Gary Beban. Jimmy Connors, Gail Devers, Kenny Easley, Florence Griffith Joyner, Rafer Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Eric Karros, Liz Masakayan, Corey Pavin, Sinjin Smith, Peter Vidmar, Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes and the many other All-Americas, there's still little doubt as to who is UCLA's top athlete ever. That would be Jackie Robinson, the 1940 NCAA long jump champion, star of the basketball team and a quicksilver starting halfback on the football team. Oh, and a pretty decent shortstop, to boot.
No wonder SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has put UCLA athletes and coaches on its cover 93 times and has bestowed four Sportsman of the Year awards on them. SI even ran a six-page paean to the song girls in the March 16, 1981, issue. "One lost the top of her halftime uniform while dancing in front of the band," the article reported breathlessly, "causing every spit valve in the horn section to weld shut and two freshman percussionists to attain puberty at precisely the same moment." Yes, UCLA is a great place to be a sports fan.
The venues are first-rate, starting with Pauley Pavilion, home to 35 national title-winning teams. O.K., it's a schlepp to get to the Rose Bowl for home football games, but it's the Rose Bowl. Jackie Robinson Stadium is the most charming place this side of Wrigley Field to take in a baseball game.
UCLA is a first-rate place to play, too. It doesn't hurt that the climate is terrific or that the 11-acre intramural field is right off Bruin Walk in the heart of campus. Intramural sports are hypercompetitive in everything from basketball to squash to inner-tube water polo. Which brings us to the school year's most eagerly anticipated sporting event, held every spring. March Madness? Puh-leeze. Try the intersorority beach volleyball tournament.
By the way, it's only a 15-minute bike ride to the azure Pacific. At the university's Aquatic Center in Marina Del Rey, students can get sea kayaks and sailboats, not to mention instruction in their use. There's a surf club—and a ski club. In fact it's possible to double-dip on the same morning by catching some swells at sunrise and then making the 80-mile drive to Mountain High Ski Area, in the San Gabriel Mountains, in time to catch the first run of the chairlifts.
Yet for all its other sporting credentials. UCLA will forever be known as a basketball mecca—the school that under coach John Wooden won 10 NCAA men's titles between 1964 and '75. But the success of the varsity is only half the story. UCLA is a pickup hoops hub, and with 38 rims on campus there's always a game somewhere. The most stirring basketball is played in the late spring and summer at Pauley, where varsity players as well as Magic, Shaq and a couple dozen other members of the sport's royalty convene. Longtime NBA guard Doc Rivers once said some of the best teams he ever played on were in the pickup games at Pauley. Naturally, students pack the joint to watch, and sitting up there in the stands, in the shadow of all those championship banners, they're thinking the same thing: Now this is a jock school.