UCLA suspends two football players

Morrell Presley and Josh Smith were suspended for UCLA’s game at Oregon on Oct. 21 for “a violation of team rules,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said Tuesday.

The official news release said “due to federal and state student privacy laws, UCLA will have no further comment on the matter.”

However, after practice Tuesday, Neuheisel said: “I’m disappointed in both kids, and for both kids, hopefully they will learn the valuable lesson.”


The suspensions marked UCLA’s first day of preparation to face Oregon. The Bruins are coming off an abysmal performance in a 35-7 loss to California on Saturday. They have a budding quarterback controversy with Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut. Plus, they are playing the nation’s second-ranked team.

But it was the suspensions that were the focal point after practice.

Presley, the team’s starting F-back, and Smith, a wide receiver and kick returner, both said they regretted their actions, but declined to talk about specifics.

“I have to make better choices and decisions,” Presley said. “It’s part of growing and becoming a man. I’m majorly disappointed, not only because I embarrassed myself, but because I embarrassed my family and my friends. I will take this one on chin and learn from it, and make sure it never happens again.”

Two sources in the program said the suspensions came about three weeks after a random drug test.

UCLA drug policy calls for a one-game suspension upon a third positive test. The first positive test results in the team doctor being told, mandatory counseling and future testing. The second failed test results in the coach and associate athletic director being notified, with more counseling and tests.

Asked if there was a marijuana problem in the program, Neuheisel said, “I can’t comment on any of that.”

Asked how often players get drug tested, Neuheisel said, “The university has its policy and I’m not at liberty to comment on it.”

Neuheisel went on to say, “I told you who is suspended. I told you it’s a violation of team rules. I don’t want to be argumentative, but I’m not at liberty to talk about those issues. They have their rights and their privacy issues. That’s the way it is. We’re a University of California institution. That’s just the way it is.”

Presley’s absence leaves the Bruins with only two healthy F-backs, Christian Ramirez and Damien Thigpen. Anthony Barr sat out practice because of a calf injury. Neuheisel expected Barr to be ready by the weekend.

This will be third time that Presley has had to sit out a game in two seasons. He was suspended for the Kansas State game a year ago, along with three other players, for violating team rules. He was academically ineligible for the EagleBank Bowl, though he also had an injured shoulder.

Losing Smith costs the Bruins one of their big-play threats. He is 29th in the nation averaging 27.4 yards per kickoff return. He had two returns of 46 yards against California.

“We all go through tests and we make some choices that we’re not so proud about,” Smith said. “But I can get another chance to right what’s wrong. I want to prove to the team that it’s still important to me to be out here.”

The loss of Smith and Presley depletes a receiving corps that is already without Barr and wide receiver Nelson Rosario (high ankle sprain).