If you followed UCLA recruiting this offseason, you are aware that Coach Mora and his staff signed a few more players than there are available scholarships. Although it is normal for coaches to do so, the topic has become the "issue du jour" with regard to recruiting, mainly due to the SEC's common practice of "oversigning" regularly. While I doubt many people would advocate oversigning as a matter of practice, programs do have to plan for medical retirements and defections due to grades and disgruntled players, so the issue isn't exactly black and white. The situation is compounded when a new coach comes aboard due to the simple fact that programs generally face more defections.
Peter Yoon, whom we consider a good source of UCLA related material, recently wrote an article titled,"UCLA Must Cut Seven Scholarships". At best, the title is misleading. At worst, it's a hatchet job. At the end of spring, everyone knew UCLA Football had seven more scholarships assigned than the 85 limit (Peter Yoon is now reporting that UCLA is currently 3 over the limit). The problem is that Peter Yoon is continually referring to the reduction in players as "cuts", ignoring the fact that UCLA currently has a number of injured players who are undoubtedly contemplating medical retirements, as well as the fact that Coach Mora just put the team through a very rough Spring in which there will be some players who decide that the new regime isn't for them. Quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if UCLA Football has less than 85 scholarship players next season.
Ending Spring football with 7 scholarships over the 85 scholarship limit is not abnormal. In 2009, UCLA ended Spring football 6 over the limit and still had room to take on a late Josh Smith transfer. It's normal. Coaches all over the country sign more players than they have scholarships for simply due to attrition. Again, players retire for medical reasons and transfer for a myriad of reasons. Coaches simply have to prepare for the inevitable.
The complicated mess of trying to determine how many defections and retirements a team will have is even more muddled when a new coach comes in. A dozen or so players left Michigan when Rich Rodriguez came aboard. Remember, Coach Mora has stated numerous times that he is bringing a "culture change" to UCLA. In Yoon's article, Coach Mora referenced the pending defections as related to the change in the program rather than as "cuts":
"We made this spring as tough as we could," Mora said. "It was kind of a fight or flight type of atmosphere. Who was willing to make the commitment? I still think there are a couple of guys that are half in and half out and we'll have talks with them."
Coach Mora's comments show that there may be defections related to effort, which is much more palatable than "cuts" for oversigning. Some may call that justification, but it is a reality. Coach Neuheisel did not run grueling practices. Players got used to it. Coach Mora runs things differently, and some players may not be able to adjust. If they won't or can't do it Coach Mora's way, Coach Mora should not be obligated to keep them around.
It should also be noted that the scholarships were one-year renewable scholarships. Coaches are not obligated to renew scholarships under the terms of the contracts, regardless of how everyone feels about it. Obviously, I doubt our fanbase would stand for a coach that makes a habit of non-renewing scholarships, but it's a fact that Coach Mora may face this season. Given that he's a new coach bringing about change, he should be afforded that opportunity. On the flip side, I fully expect Coach Mora and UCLA to take care of the players. If they want to transfer, Coach Mora and UCLA should assist them however they can. If they want to remain at UCLA, UCLA should step up and find a way to ensure they can afford to remain at UCLA. It's the right thing to do.