UCLA and Arkansas were the final two programs involved with Sam Tai but after the Las Vegas (Nev.) Liberty strong-side defensive end visited the Bruins this past weekend the decision to commit was one he felt comfortable making.
The relatively close proximity to home was an important factor for why Tai committed to UCLA on Wednesday and the school's academic reputation was probably the biggest reason why the Bruins won out.
"This weekend's visit was a huge thing," Tai said. "When me and my family went out there we all realized we were able to get out there within four hours and be able to watch a game. It was huge. There was a family atmosphere that my parents felt and being able to talk to the coaches for a little bit was huge.
"The distance was a factor but the main one for me was academics. Being raised, my mom has always taught me football won't last forever and I should have a backup plan and a degree from UCLA speaks for itself. With that degree, it weighed a lot on my decision and it helped me out a lot. The distance was another thing that helped out.
Tai, a 6-foot-4, 234-pound two-star prospect by Rivals.com, had developed a good relationship with coach Rick Neuheisel, offensive coordinator Norm Chow and defensive line coach Todd Howard since he camped with ULA this summer.
Those relationships also played a big role in his decision-making process. His parents felt comfortable with the school and especially the coaching staff and so it wasn't an altogether difficult decision for Tai, who also had offers from Colorado, Colorado State, Fresno State, Idaho, San Diego State, UNLV, Wyoming and others.
"I've built a relationship with coach Chow and coach Neuheisel, just talking to them these past couple of days," Tai said.
"Coach Howard, the d-line coach, he and I have kept in touch since the camp and have built a pretty good relationship so far. It helps out having a good relationship with my parents to let them know they can have peace of mind where they're sending me and know I'll be in good hands."
Arkansas was definitely under strong consideration and Tai even visited with the Razorbacks but after seeing the Bruins play Oregon State and then considering the distance and academics UCLA won out for his commitment.
"Arkansas plays in the SEC and it's a big-time football program, that was a huge factor on their side, but the academic degree was what swung me over to UCLA," Tai said.