The program continues to pay a price from the seniors decision to show "leadership" for "organizing" ditch day. From the LA Times on what kind of impression the stunt left on the high school coaches and recruits showed up to watch the practice:
"I guess that's why they're in the Lay's Potato Chips Bowl every year," said Chris Pascal, Kennedy's freshman coach.
Coaches from Encino Crespi High also left with a vivid impression.
"Let me put it this way, they wouldn't have done that at Fresno State," said Coach Jeremiah Ross, a former Fresno State player.
Pascal said he and other coaches had yet to receive an explanation or apology from UCLA as of Wednesday afternoon even though they were required to leave their e-mail addresses when they signed in before practice.
"They had recruits there, and can you imagine what they think after being driven there and being sent back onto the freeway at 5 p.m.?" Pascal said. "The four of us were standing there for a half-hour, someone could have said something. On the way home we thought about going over to USC because we knew they would be on the practice field."
Speaking of the "tradition" Donahue spoke about it to the LAT in a story that pointed out how it got started and who restored it:
"The players thought it would be a good idea to throw the coaches in the shower, then go over the wall," Donahue said. "That's exactly what they did. I climbed up the tower so they couldn't get me. Then they proceeded to wander around campus singing Christmas carols."
UCLA beat Oregon State, 34-3, and the tradition had legs. It surfaced again Tuesday, when UCLA players gathered in a huddle, then sprinted through the gate at Spaulding Field, ending practice before it had begun.
BTW the LAT report left no doubt who restored this stunt as a "tradition" in Westwood (emphasis added):
UCLA coaches have been dealing with it ever since. One season during the Bob Toledo years, players made their escape only to find that Toledo had caught wind of the plan and had locked the locker room doors. Players were left milling around campus in their uniforms for hours.
The tradition was banned by Toledo, only to be restored under Karl Dorrell, though he managed it. Last season, he picked the day for the players but did not inform his assistant coaches.
Don’t get down though. Reading Stewart Mandel’s impressions from attending UCLA practices (Stewart was there before ditch day I am assuming) on SI.com it’s pretty clear the challenges RN and co are facing in the coming year, yet at the same time unlike the Dorrell years there are reasons for hope:
The departure earlier this week of veteran tackle Aleksey Lanis due to recurring knee problems leaves the Bruins with just two offensive linemen who played the position last season. UCLA's top returning receiver, Dominique Johnson, had just 25 catches last season (Everett, who caught more than 30 balls in 2005 and '06, is also back after missing most of last season with an ankle injury), and its top two tailbacks, Kahlil Bell and Raymond Carter, have sat out most of the spring with injuries.
The true impact of the new coaches will likely be felt further down the road -- particularly at quarterback. Strong-armed juco transfer Kevin Craft switched his commitment from Hawaii following Chow's hiring and will likely take over for Cowan either this year or next. Meanwhile, one of the nation's top recruits for next year, Aaron Murray (Tampa, Fla.), recently visited practice, and another similarly rated quarterback has expressed his interest.
"UCLA carries significant weight in recruiting," said Neuheisel. "This school has won 100 national championships [in all sports]. Football has been a national player -- it's time to be one again."
It won't happen overnight, but at least the Bruins will finally be fun to watch.
It’s going to take a while. But given how CRN has gone about in building the staff around him, the energy he has brought in last few months (ditch day notwithstanding), there are reasons to be optimistic he will eventually get us there and get our players to meet the expectations that have been set by tradition that actually matters. Meanwhile, he will make our Bruins fun to watch if not interesting for the first time in almost a decade.