UCLA’s Jim Mora vows to stop practice-ditching tradition
UCLA Coach Jim Mora was direct and stern about the Bruins’ tradition of going over the wall to skip out on practice.
“It’s completely unacceptable and will not be part of the program going forward,” Mora said of Tuesday’s action, a tradition that dates to 1980. “It’s a privilege, not a right, to play football for the UCLA Bruins. With the commitment you make when you sign on here comes a commitment to do what is asked of you.”
Mora said he and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero discussed such issues during the interview process.
“We both agree that the culture of UCLA football needs to change,” Mora said. “We’re going to do all we can to change it.”
Other UCLA coaches have tried to end the ditch-day antic by negotiating alternatives. Karl Dorrell would schedule it as a day off. Rick Neuheisel tried offering seniors a special day off.
Mora had a more direct approach in mind, saying, “I’m not about making threats, but I can tell you this, my general feeling is if they feel they want to skip out on practice and skip over the wall, they might as well keep going.”
The “over-the-wall” day came with the Bruins preparing to play Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31. UCLA was not bowl eligible with a 6-7 record and needed a waiver from the NCAA to participate.
“Dan Guerrero gave these kids an opportunity to compete one last time for UCLA,” Mora said. “It really bothers me that they disrespected that gesture.”
Mora said he would talk with the team about it Jan. 9, his first official meeting as head coach.
“I hope they had fun going over the wall [Tuesday] because it is the last time it is going happen,” Mora said. “It might happen again but you won’t see those guys on the field the next day.”
Three are ineligible
UCLA starting guard Albert Cid, linebacker Isaiah Bowens and safety Tony Dye are academically ineligible for the bowl game.
Tackle Jeff Baca was moved to guard during practice Wednesday with Brett Downey playing Baca’s tackle spot.
“The transition from tackle to guard is a little easier than guard to tackle,” Baca said. But, he added, “you don’t have as much space so you have to be more precise in your technique.”
The Bruins are thin on the line, having lost starting guard Chris Ward to a knee injury.
Dye, a starter when the season began, was questionable for the game because of a sprained ankle. Bowens is a reserve linebacker who plays on special teams.
Brehaut is suspended
Quarterback Richard Brehaut was suspended for the game for violating team rules.
Brehaut started four games this season before suffering a broken leg against Washington State on Oct. 8. Darius Bell and Nick Crissman will back up starter Kevin Prince.
Defensive tackle Kevin McReynolds will not require surgery on his knee, which he injured in practice Monday. An MRI exam showed no ligament tear. … Cornerback Brandon Sermons sat out practice because of an injured shoulder. … Quarterback Brett Hundley did not attend practice, having received permission to return home to Arizona early for the holiday break.