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Chip Kelly says UCLA will continue planning as if football season will happen

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly speaks at the Pac-12 Conference football media day in Los Angeles, on July 25, 2018.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Chip Kelly doesn’t coach at a Cal State University, but the college system’s decision to hold most fall 2020 classes virtually still had the UCLA football coach’s phone buzzing.

There were immediate concerns whether CSU schools could resume NCAA sports without students on campus. Puzzled players and assistant coaches asked Kelly how the decision would affect the Bruins. He punted on the questions for now.

“Nothing that was said in the last 24, 48 hours directly impacts us playing games in September,” Kelly said Wednesday on a Pac-12 webinar with Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith and Arizona State’s Herm Edwards. “But you never know.”

UCLA has a nonconference game scheduled for Sept. 19 at San Diego State. On Tuesday, San Diego State President Adela de la Torre announced a “flex solution” that will feature certain lab, art studio and performance-based courses in person while offering lecture-based instruction online.

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Nevada Las Vegas’ Desiree Reed-Francois and Boston College’s Martin Jarmond are believed to be the finalists for UCLA’s athletic director job.

The UC system, to which UCLA and fellow Pac-12 rival California belong, is exploring a “mixed approach,” spokeswoman Claire Doan said Tuesday. All classes at UCLA through the current academic year were moved online in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The virus will tell us when we’re able to come back,” Kelly said. “Until that time, we’re just going to keep planning like we have a season coming up. No one has told us that we’re not playing. No one has told us that we are definitely playing. We don’t want to be surprised.”

During a week-long webinar series, many Pac-12 coaches agreed that a six-week run-up would be the minimum to adequately prepare a team for the season. Kelly added Wednesday that if strength and conditioning coaches could work with players beforehand, he thinks it would be possible to use a two-week strength program without on-field coaches combined with a four-week training camp.

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“These players have to be in condition,” Edwards said, “and as much as we think they’re working out on their own, they’re not in football shape by any stretch of the imagination and the one thing you don’t want to do is put players in a position where they can get hurt.”

Jake Kyman, UCLA’s freshman shooting guard, keeps busy during coronavirus restrictions by working on filmmaking skills in his Aliso Viejo neighborhood.

While players are scattered across the nation, coaches can meet with their team virtually up to eight hours a week, per NCAA rules. Very little of UCLA’s time is spent on Xs and O’s, Kelly said.

Instead, the team meets for “Bruin Breakfast” on Mondays, hearing from guest speakers and discussing the message they hear every week. Coaches want to stay connected to players and that even goes for staff members.

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When Kelly missed a recent call from inside linebackers coach Don Pellum, the head coach asked the assistant why he had called. Pellum responded that he was calling as a “wellness check.” Even when Kelly said he was doing fine, Pellum insisted they talk on the phone.

“It’s physical distancing that we’re going through right now,” Kelly said, “not social distancing.”


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