For at least the last ten years, UCLA football prospects would have just about the same experience when they attended a UCLA game at the Rose Bowl. They would be fed In n Out Burgers at the recruiting tent on the tailgating grass in front of the Rose Bowl. They were mixed in with all of the recruits from the athletic department.
UCLA wanted to offer a pre-game setting that would make it easier for the football recruits to spend more time with the coaching staff. The In and Out Tent is still functioning very well to entertain recruits from other sports. In fact, the tent has gotten an upgrade itself, with wide-screen televisions and more comforts.
But the tent presented logistical problems for the football recruits. The recruits would have to check in at the recruiting tent, pay their $10 (which they have to do per NCAA rules if they're getting food), and then get their In N Out, and they'd have to wait in line each time. They would then have to go to the Recruit Will Call on the south side of the Rose Bowl to get their tickets, where they also had to wait in line. Recruits on official visits would first be given a tour of the Rose Bowl, the locker rooms, training room and the Court of Champions, which would add even more logistical issues, since they'd have to exit the Rose Bowl, go get their tickets at the Will Call, and then have to go to the In N Out tent to eat.
The athletic department and the Director of On-Campus Recruiting, Angus McClure, have now updated and upgraded the experience.
"Our first goal was to make it more recruit-friendly," McClure said. "To make it an easier and more enjoyable experience for the recruits, so they could focus on the program."
There was also the problem with the celebrity of Head Coach Rick Neuheisel and Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow. When Neuheisel or Chow would exit the Rose Bowl to make their way to the recruiting tent to talk to recruits, they'd get mobbed by tailgating fans.
So, logic took over the logistics. UCLA football recruits have now been separated from other sports recruits. They no longer go to the recruiting tent and get fed In N Out burgers, but go into a room underneath the south side of the Rose Bowl, one that has air conditioning and wide screen, high-def TVs. The room is actually the press room that McClure and his staff now adapt every game to accommodate the football recruits and their families.
So, now, recruits have one place to check in, pay for their meal, get their game tickets, and get escorted by hostesses to the recruiting room or on a tour. Now, recruits on unofficial visits can get a tour of the Rose Bowl, which is important, since the Court of Champions is a key recruiting tool. If you're not familiar, it's a shrine on the south wall of the Rose Bowl that chronicles the history of the stadium and the bowl game. It includes many UCLA-related historical points, and Neuheisel himself is on it.
It's quite a bit easier now for UCLA coaches to come from the locker room, which is just a few steps away, to visit with recruits and their families.
Recruits how have just a short walk to the Rose Bowl field, so they can take in more of the team's pre-game warm-up.
The food has also been upgraded. For the same amount, $10, recruits and their entourage are given a menu to choose from, a menu that can change bsed on the time of the game. For instance, last Saturday for the Oregon game, it was a 12:30 start, so the menu had brunch items such as breakfast burritos, fruit, and smoothies. Previously, it wasn't exactly great with early games when, say, at 10:30 a.m., a recruit and his family only had the option of Double Doubles. Various restaurants are now used for catering.
The room is decorated with UCLA football memorabilia – posters, jerseys, etc. Each UCLA senior has a photo hanging, with his name, position and high school. The recruits also can watch any game that's on television while noshing, listen to music (and be able to plug in their own Ipods to the sound system) and talk with the coaches.
As opposed to being out in the Pasadena heat under a big tent, recruits and their families are in air-conditioned comfort.
"The feedback we've received this week has been unbelievable," said McClure. "The recruits enjoyed the atmosphere of the game so much more this way, and they got to spend more time with the coaches, which is what they want to do."
McClure and his staff have been working up to this for sometime, and it came to complete fruition this last Saturday. It's more work, with the staff having to go to the Rose Bowl Friday night to set up the room, and then have to take it all down at halftime and adapt it back to the press room in 15 minutes, but McClure says it's incredibly worth it.
"You could see a definite difference in the appeal to the recruits this last Saturday," McClure said. "This is a more accurate representation of this program and the excellence it wants to accomplish. This is the kind of image we want to project at UCLA."