At UCLA, some dignity is lost in drive to succeed at football


BOULDER, Colo. -- Proving it was no fluke when Sacramento State, Colorado State and Fresno State somehow found a way to beat Colorado, UCLA did the same Saturday.

The gutty little Bruins, while not winning by 55 like mighty Fresno State, did a fantastic job of holding on to win by 28 and cover the 20-point spread.

Hail to Rick Neuheisel’s players for rising to the occasion and Jim Mora for getting to the bottom of what has undermined the Bruins’ chances of success for so long.

This week, Mora announced the schools’ sports information department is incompetent.

I’ve thought so for years, with the sports information department putting out a news release every week reminding the Bruins just how crummy they have been — noting this week the team hadn’t won in Boulder since 1984.

Something needed to be said, but to hear an insider such as Mora say so publicly after kicking some of these haters out of practice was obviously a tremendous step forward for UCLA.

And you have to admire the way Mora sent the traditional “it’s us against them” football message to his team.

According to witnesses, it was like someone shredding a tackling dummy, or tossing fresh meat to a pack of animals.

He berated an unassuming sports information assistant in front of the whole team for allowing a TV cameraman to stand in the wrong place.

In doing so, he gave the sports information assistant an earful of some very impressive obscenities, which of course the young players would expect from their demanding leader.

Then Mora forced the guy to make the walk of humiliation off the practice field.

It’s what we’ve come to expect from our really good college coaches as they set out to make men out of the kids in their programs.

And you know the Bruins had to just love it, with UCLA fans no doubt also admiring Mora’s drive to be the very best at whatever the cost of human dignity.

That’s when a program knows it has the right guy, or as Mora put it: “I’m not going to jeopardize what we’re doing as a football team because of the incompetence of some people.”

I think it’s pretty well understood football is the most important thing going on at UCLA, and every man, woman and child needs to understand that.

Can I have an eight clap, please?

I checked with the school’s sports information director (SID), Nick Ammazzalorso, to see whether the incompetence Mora was talking about had started at the top with him.

But he was quick to say he wasn’t at practice Wednesday when Mora went ballistic, or even in his own office.

Now maybe someone could call Ammazzalorso a slacker, but apparently not incompetent.

“I can tell you who was there,” said Ammazzalorso, and maybe you could call him a “squealer.”

Steve Rourke and Danny Harrington,” said Ammazzalorso, and so I wanted to know whether he considers these employees incompetent.

“No,” he said.

So is he saying Mora was wrong?

“I’m not answering that one,” said Ammazzalorso, and apparently everyone at UCLA is afraid the coach might yell at them. Obviously no one was afraid of Karl Dorrell and Neuheisel, so UCLA lost. Things are definitely looking up.

I checked with Rourke, the sports information assistant who was dressed down in front of the whole team. I wanted to know whether he considered himself incompetent.

“Maybe on a day,” he said, obviously still shell shocked.

I didn’t think he would disagree with Mora.

I asked whether Mora had apologized, because I guess you could say he had embarrassed the school official publicly even though most would agree it is all part of building a winner.

“He reached out,” said Rourke, and that sounds suspiciously as if there’s a 10-foot pole separating Mora and sports information.

“He apologized to me,” said the slacker, ah, Ammazzalorso.

Now I understand why Mora wouldn’t apologize publicly; how would it look to his team going soft behind the players’ backs?

In addition to the sports information people, Mora also booted the media from practice the other day. The Los Angeles Times had already pulled its reporter a day earlier.

The Times thinks its reporters should report what they see. I know this irritates both USC and UCLA.

If it was up to the Trojans and their fans, no one would have reported the living arrangements for Reggie Bush’s parents.

The Times is no longer attending Trojans’ practices as well, allowing reporters more time to check on the living arrangements of parents who now have sons playing for USC.

Ammazzalorso wanted to make it clear the media is still welcome to attend UCLA practices and ask whatever it wishes to ask.

But per the school’s policy, he said, “all injury information must come from the head coach.”

You could see where this might be a problem. Before Mora had coached a game at UCLA ,he had already established himself a liar.

When he went on the radio and said something about UCLA recruits not having to worry about murders taking place a block away from campus, he denied he was referring to USC. Everyone knew he was referring to USC but he still persisted in not telling the truth until he was forced to come clean.

“I like our SID,” cracked Lane Kiffin this week, and I’m sure he wasn’t referring to Mora.

Then of course Kiffin told everyone he didn’t vote USC No. 1 in the USA Today poll and we know now he did.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with lying in sports in the name of winning.

And right now Neuheisel’s players are winning, and as the berated UCLA sports information assistant could tell you, nothing else really matters.