We have reached the middle of $C Week, and Neu was pleased with an energetic, but focused and workmanlike practice on Tuesday. That's about all he had to say to the media after practice, leaving the beat writers to come up with multiple ways to discuss how UCLA's defensive backs respect Southern Cal's passing game and Disciple-of-the-Humanitarian Matt Barkley. Sean Westgate and Isaiah Bowens sat out of practice with injuries. Adam Maya talked with Derrick Coleman and discussed the importance of his play to the Bruins' moments of success in 2011, while Peter Yoon published his (mediocre) grades for the 2011 UCLA season heading into the regular season finale.
Of course, yesterday saw news break of the alternate road uniforms that Morgan Center has chosen to outfit the team in for the Southern Cal game. Achilies wrote about the ridiculousness of changing from the traditional all-home outfits that mark the rivalry game. Coach Neuheisel, along with Pete Carroll reached an agreement to revive this old practice, fighting against DG's heros in the NCAA bureaucracy in the process. When rumors of the change first broke over the weekend, Neu spoke not only of his continuing support of this tradition, but of a lack of awareness that such a change was in the cards.
Neuheisel said Sunday night that he was not aware of any uniform change for this game and hinted that he'd like to keep the tradition of UCLA wearing blue and USC wearing red.
"No one’s told me anything," he said. "We’re blue and gold as far as I know. I’ve heard the rumor, but I have no indication of that. ... I love the home uniforms. I think it’s one of the classic games in college football."
Artistic merits of the uniforms aside, I don't see anything inherently wrong with changing things up on occasion by wearing an alternate uniform. As Achilies mentioned yesterday, players tend to like it, and it may bring a little extra something to the team and the game. However, that 'little extra something' should not need to come out for the U$C game...And while Neu seems to be of the same mind, the players do have mixed reactions to the change.
"I don't really care about any of that stuff," senior running back Derrick Coleman said. "All I'm really focused on is beating them. The uniforms don't mean anything if you lose. I don't really care what happens, I just want to beat the Trojans. At the end of the day that's what we all came here to do."
Said junior cornerback Aaron Hester: "It would give us that extra confidence. You look good, you feel good, you play good. A lot of people around the country think our uniforms look good now but having something different, like an alternate would be nice. I think this is the right time to bring them out."
As both Yoon and Adam Maya noted, Tony Dye raised an interesting point about the uniform change - as a team captain, neither he or any other team leaders had any input into the decision to abandon the home uniform tradition. Along with Coach Neuheisel being out of the loop, it appears that Morgan Center kept the players and the rest of the program out of the loop as well.
"Those equipment people won't budge for anybody," he said. "It's kind of frustrating because I'm a captain and they wouldn't tell me, but I'm praying and hoping it's all-white. But that's me just guessing. ... You know I've been pushing for all this, but I gave up on all that at the beginning of the season."
To be fair, Tony likes the idea of the alternate uniform. But as he told Peter Yoon, he had given up on having one available at the start of the year. Though Dan Guerrero told us in his
newsletter 'blog' that they have been working with Adidas for months on the plan, the team's knowledge of or input into the design was not wanted. Morgan Center's stupidity in timing the unveiling aside, not giving the team input into when to wear the uniforms looks like yet another fail. I don't know if this is common with other college programs and alternate uniforms - it is in baseball - but it should not have been so hard for someone in Morgan Center to meet with Coach Neuheisel and the team captains to tell them about the availability of the alternates, and that while they need to be used at least once in 2011 (assuming that Adidas needs to exposure in order to sell the replicas), the decision of when to wear them is a team decision.
Given when other schools tend to break out the alternates, the Thursday night ESPN game in Arizona - with a total monopoly on the national CFB audence - would have been the logical time for all parties to unleash the road uniforms. Or the team's visit to Pac-12 newcomer Utah, or maybe harnessing the excitement of alternates in the battle with Andrew Luck up at the Farm. Anytime but the crosstown rivalry. I wish I could say that this lack of awareness of tradition, the unwillingness to cooperate and communicate even with other parts of the athletic department, or the complete tone-deafness of Dan Guerrero and his band of administrators was a one-time thing. Alas, this is just another example of how Morgan Center is supremely out-of-touch and constantly behind the pack, trying to play catch up in a too-little, too-late PR effort that is embarrassing at best. This latest saga is just more fuel on the fire for why we need wholesale regime change in Westwood.