If the early returns from the current online poll are any indication, it looks the overwhelming sentiment here is not to approve of the seniors decision to organize yesterday’s ditch day at practice. Norm Chow didn't mince words and went straight to the point:
The majority sentiment on BN is in line with what Chow was mumbling. And David Woods from the Daily Bruin also echoed the same sentiment as he blasted the players today (emphasis added):
It all reeks of an uncaring attitude. I can understand that football practice is hard, but that’s why I don’t play football (along with the fact that I have no discernible athletic talent, although I did once coach a group of second-graders to a youth basketball championship). In normal years, ditching one practice in the spring is probably not going to have too significant an impact.
If you’ve got the same offense and the same defense year after year, then one missed practice is probably not going to do that much harm. But this team lost most of its experience and all but three coaches from last year.
Every team in Division I gets a limited number of formal practices before the season starts. Yeah, there are informal sessions that the players are "encouraged" to attend, but spring practice and August practice are the only two times that the team practices in pads and in actual game situations.
Given all the new players, all the new coaches, the new offense and the general feel that every starting spot on the team save the defensive tackle spots and the middle linebacker spot is up for grabs – I don’t know, I guess it would seem prudent for the players to not ditch practice and actually focus on becoming better at football. That is, for the most part, why they have scholarships.
But let's not all get too carried away ...
Predictably some outsiders – the usual suspects (RN haters) – are taking this story (which in the grand scheme of things is not that big of a deal) to get off their potshots at RN. They are advancing the perception of how he might not be in control of this program, so they can fit that into their neat little narrative based on what allegedly took place in Boulder and Seattle. Uh yeah whatever.
The sky is not falling. Those concern trolls are forgetting how it took more than a year for someone like Coach Howland who has now an established reputation for being a total disciplinarian and a control freak, more than year to take control over our basketball program. Do people remember how Coach Howland had to deal with Lavin’s left over in his first year, most of whom had no clue what it meant to "bring it" in Howland’s practice every day? Lot of those guys quit on Howland his first season, which resulted in a disastrous 11 win season. Eventually Coach Howland was able rebuild the foundation of that program based on his ideals and vision by working with the upperclassmen who bought into his vision (such as Dijon, Ced, Ryan) and blending them with his own recruits.
We think CRN is on the right track just like Howland. To CRN’s credit he is doing what he can to make the seniors feel a part of his efforts to bring back UCLA football. Obviously it will take a while for his message and his vision/ideals of our program to get instilled in all the players. But given what we have heard from CRN in last few months and the coaching staff he has been able to put together, we feel good that eventually the same culture change will take place in the world of UCLA football, just like it methodically happened under Howland in hoops.
So I am sure by now the players have gotten the message and hopefully use it to adjust their mindset to close out the spring camp with a strong finish and come back all fired up for the Fall.