The Bruins are now 9 days away from their New Years Eve date with Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in SF. After Tuesday's Senior (and everybody else) cut day, the Bruins were back on the practice field for one final practice before taking their Christmas break. While the whole team decided to actually take part in yesterday's session, 4 Bruin players learned that they will not be taking the trip to San Francisco.
UCLA junior quarterback Richard Brehaut has been suspended for a violation of team rules, and Tony Dye, Alberto Cid and Isaiah Bowens have all been ruled academically ineligible for Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
No word yet on the team rule that Brehaut broke. And while the main issue with this news is that the 4 players failed to live up to their responsibilities as UCLA student-athletes, the effect is that the Bruins depth is taking a hit entering their final game, with backup duties behind Kevin Prince falling to Darius Bell or Nick Christman. Alberto Cid's ineligibility, together with Wade Yandall and Chris Ward slated to miss the game due to injury, the O-Line is going to face some issues, as Jon Gold blogged yesterday, particularly with Illinois featuring the NCAA's top D-Lineman.
On the other side of the game, Illinois will likely be getting a player back, but missing a couple of others next Saturday. The Chicago Tribune reports that linebacker Trulon Henry is expected to play after a faster than expected recovery from a gunshot wound to the hand, while starting fullback Jay Prosch will miss the game due to a Staph infection. The Illini will likely also be missing a couple of players due to academic ineligibility, with one of the players possibly being Jason Ford, the team's leading rusher.
We wrote quite a bit in the last couple of days on the unfortunate revival of the 'over the wall' 'tradition' by some of the seniors. We mentioned Jim Mora's reaction upon hearing the news and his commitment to changing this tradition, and other negative aspects of the culture surrounding UCLA Football. While I hope that Coach Mora's words and the threat of supporting action will stamp out any thought of future Bruin teams pulling this stunt again, maybe there is something about that wall that just draws players...
Frosh yr i said 1 day ima hop that far corner wall..dreams do come true, had a smooth hop over the wall..now its time for some team bonding
Well, if nothing else we can be thankful that Taylor Embree was able to achieve one of his dreams... to lead his team in cutting practice before a bowl game.
A few moments ago, I mentioned soon-to-be Coach Mora's reaction to the wall-jumping. While he was making the radio and beat rounds discussing the incident, he also had a sit down with Bruce Feldman. While his main story on Mora is a few days away, Feldman did publish part of his interview relating to Mora's take on UCLA's football culture and traditions.
"We'll honor the traditions here at UCLA that lead to us representing UCLA on the football field the way it deserves to be represented. Look at a guy like Troy Aikman or Kenny Easley or Maurice Jones-Drew and those great players, and we want to represent that history," Mora said, as he pointed to some of the pictures of Bruins greats on the walls surrounding him in his office. "There are also some traditions that are counter to that, and in my humble opinion, skipping practice is counter-productive to winning and its counter-productive to what we want to be as a football team.
"I'd heard about it but that has never been a part of my world. I've never been on a football team that would skip practice. I think it is disrespectful to the coaches. I think it's disrespectful to your teammates. I think it's disrespectful to your athletic director and I think it's disrespectful to the men that came before you.
Mora went on talking about this symptom of the rotting foundation of UCLA Football, contrasting with Taylor Embree's 'living the dream' tweet saved above.
"I don't care about the explanation. All I know is that guys left practice unexcused. And it will not happen again. That is the last time that someone will go over the wall and be allowed back inside the wall.
... And that action by those players right there is indicative of the fact that it does need a culture change. It's my job to change it. It is not going to be easy. It is not going to happen over night. It's going to involve in a lot of hard work, but that is the task."
Coach Johnson does not plan on disciplining the players that led the jump. If killjoys such as Kevin Prince and Johnathan Franklin have their way, next year's squad will not have the joy of skipping out of game preparation, forcing their teammates to participate in the full number of practice sessions allowed by the NCAA before playing in the second biggest game of their season.
"It was the seniors call," said Franklin, a junior. "In my opinion, if I’m here next year, it won’t be happening."
"I was hoping it was kind of out of our system, but clearly it’s not," said quarterback Kevin Prince, one of a handful of players who returned to the practice field to work out. "Hopefully this doesn’t come back to bite us."
..."I tried to voice my opinion about it but the seniors wanted to do it and ultimately it’s their call," Prince said.
Soon after Tuesday's wall-jumping, Peter Yoon mentioned a bit about the background of the team's wall jumping, and wondered why - besides the internal stupidity of the whole thing - the seniors felt the need to trigger this tradition.
The tradition of skipping practice began decades ago as players sought to have a team bonding day instead of practicing. They said they planned to do that Tuesday by going to a movie. But last week Johnson called off practice for a team bonding day and the team played paintball. Was there really a need for another team bonding day?
So basically, the point of jumping the wall was to allow the team to get together and blow off some steam during a rigorous practice schedule. Something that the coaching staff realized and specifically accommodated in the bowl preparation schedule with last week's paintball outing. As well as blowing one of the few remaining practice sessions intended to improve the abilities of a 6-7 team, jumping the wall was also an insult to a coaching staff who will mostly be out of a job on the evening of the 31st.
... the coaching staff stood hands on hips and watched in bewilderment. They had practice plans ready. They were ready to try and help the players get better.
The same coaches who are about to lose their jobs were committed to doing their jobs through to the bitter end. Too bad the players they are trying to help didn't return the favor.