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UCLA athletics should be thanking San Diego for all the athletes we’ve sent to the Pac-10 school over the years. Yes, you’re welcome, Bruins.

UCLA became the first school to win 100 NCAA team titles Sunday when the Bruins’ women’s water polo team won its third straight national title with a 5-4 win over Stanford at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.

Leading the way to all three water polo national titles was senior Kelly Rulon, the national college player of the year in her sport as a junior in 2006 and alumnus of San Diego’s University High.

Rulon, who was named the NCAA tournament MVP, will probably be named the national player of the year again and a first-team All-American for the third straight season (a four-time All-American, counting her second-team selection as a freshman). She again led the Bruins in scoring and established a UCLA career scoring record.

Three other San Diegans playing and contributing significantly for UCLA were junior Brittany Rowe (University City High), sophomore Tanya Gandy (Rancho Bernardo High) and sophomore Katie Rulon (Kelly’s sister also from University High).

The number of San Diegans to help UCLA win national titles (70 by the men, 30 by the women) would be too many to list here, but a couple of other national players of the year in their respective sport to lead the Bruins to national titles were Helix High’s Bill Walton in basketball (1972 and 1973) and more recently Morse High’s Monique Henderson in women’s track (2004).

Of course, part of the reason UCLA can thank San Diego is no visionary leaders at San Diego State emerged to build something when the city and the campus were growing in the 1960s. In fact, you could say the magic Don Coryell performed in football while working with virtually nothing in resources in the 1960s stunted any visionary ideas.

Athletics, coupled responsibly with academics, plays a big role in a university’s national prestige and ability to attract applicants.

But it’s been left until now — in a much more competitive environment and tougher economic climate — for SDSU to try and play a game of catch-up with the deep pool of athletes in its own backyard.

TOM SHANAHAN

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