The reigning NCAA Champion UCLA Bruins may be losing their home of over 30 years, Jackie Robinson Stadium, as a result of a 125 year-old land deed that a federal court ruled in August had been violated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
In 1888, the VA had agreed to a deed with the federal government that the land upon which the stadium would later be constructed was to be reserved for the benefits of disabled veterans and was not to be utilized by any outside interests and/or ventures.
However, since the stadium’s construction in 1981, UCLA has leased the land from the VA (the stadium itself is situated just off of the UCLA main campus), who has also leased the 387-acre parcel of land to the Brentwood School, a film studio storage lot, and a commercial laundry service.
The deed violation was originally brought to light by a class-action lawsuit (Valentini v. Shinseki) filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2011 on behalf of complainant groups such as various veterans groups and four homeless veterans.
As a result, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero was forced to rule in favor of the ACLU, as the VA was in clear violation of their deed agreement, having used their land for purposes not inclusive of the healthcare of disabled veterans.
Despite the ruling, Judge Otero held his ruling in abeyance for a six moth period that would allow the federal government ample time to construct an appeal. In addition, the tenants of the property (including the UCLA Bruins) were not ordered off of the property upon the announcement of the ruling.
UCLA Bruins Athletics Director Dan Guerrero is optimistic that the university will make a strong push towards ensuring that Jackie Robinson Stadium remains the home of the Bruins.
“It is my expectation that we will, indeed, continue to play Bruin baseball at the current home of the NCAA Champions,” wrote Guerrero in an August 30 letter. “I have been in regular communication with Coach John Savage, and he, along with our fans, has my commitment that UCLA will continue to to everything possible to work toward making this a reality.”
However, if the ruling is neither modified nor rescinded, UCLA will ultimately lose the right to the stadium. Guerrero is cognizant of that reality, whereupon he added in his letter that “we are doing our due diligence to identify other viable locations, in the event that the federal court forces us to vacate the stadium.”
Nevertheless, with the ruling looming in the backdrop, the Bruins will continue on with normal operations, which includes completing fall practice and preparing for their 2014 season opener on February 14 against Portland, which is still scheduled to take place at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Just over four months removed from celebrating their first national championship, the Bruins are unsure as to whether they will have a definitive place to call home. As they did throughout the entire NCAA Tournament, the Bruins will fight and continue on regardless of the situation.
If there’s anything that you can count on, it is certainly this team’s admirable resolve.