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Summer 2003
Field of Dreams
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It didn’t happen overnight for Coach Wooden. It took him 16 years to hang that first championship banner in 1964 (a season his team finished with an unbeaten 30-0 record).

“I don’t think that UCLA is willing, either as an institution or as an athletic department, to sell out.”

They were 16 arduous years, and it didn’t help that UCLA had not yet built Pauley Pavilion and the basketball team was moving around courts at Santa Monica City College, Long Beach City College, Venice High School and Downey Civic Auditorium, among other places. With no real place to call home, Wooden recalls, recruiting “was very, very difficult.” It was made more so because then, as now, academic standards were higher than at many rival schools.

Wooden, however, came to recognize that those standards were actually a plus for him as a coach.

“It took quite a while for me to get it into my own head, but because our entrance requirements were more difficult, we were getting a better class of individual … players who were easier to work with and easier to coach to play as a team,” he says.

EVEN WITH UCLA’S high academic standards, there are exceptions. Applications for admission by potential varsity athletes are treated differently than applications from other students. Such applications — along with those from musicians and others with special talents — go straight to the Special Action Admissions Committee and its chair, Tom Lifka, UCLA’s assistant vice chancellor for student academic services.

According to Lifka, a gifted athlete who does not meet UC eligibility requirements can be considered for special-admit status if the committee believes that, given appropriate resources, he or she can succeed academically at UCLA.

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