Struggling on the field, UCLA football players thrive in the classroom

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes during a game against California.
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has made the Director’s Honor Roll at UCLA twice.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Chip Kelly said he harps on just two things with his UCLA players: “books and ball.”

While the Bruins have failed to master the second part of their coach’s mantra, going 7-17 in Kelly’s first two seasons, they have taken a winning approach with their academics.

The football team has posted program bests for the number of Director’s Honor Roll recipients three times since Kelly’s arrival in November 2017.


The team placed 57 players on the honor roll that requires at least a 3.0 grade-point average while taking a minimum of 12 units in winter quarter 2020, 71 players on the honor roll in fall quarter 2019 and 79 players on the honor roll in spring quarter 2020, all topping the previous known record of 43 players on the honor roll in fall quarter 2016.

“We’re really proud of where our academic trajectory is headed,” Kelly said, “and we hope our athletic success is going to follow that.”

UCLA’s two-deep chart revealed 22 players who have been with the team since coach Chip Kelly’s arrival, sparking hopes for a fast start when the season opens Saturday.

UCLA’s team GPA of 2.989 in winter quarter 2020 and 2.977 in the fall quarter 2019 were the best in those respective quarters in at least five years. Seventeen players logged 4.0 GPAs in the spring quarter 2020.

Kelly has said he prioritizes high school prospects who can succeed both academically and in football because being disciplined as a student leads to being disciplined on the field.

“Just going back to being a recruit, you come to a school like this to have high grades, to be an academic scholar,” said quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who has made the honor roll twice. “That comes with part of being a UCLA Bruin and coach Kelly knows that, that’s why he chose a place like this.”

The surge in academic success could bolster recent Academic Progress Rate scores that have teetered on the edge of potential sanctions because of a flood of transfers. The team’s most recent multiple-year APR of 944 was slightly above the 930 needed to avoid penalties.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the rest of the Bruins enter game week focused on what’s ahead: Saturday’s season opener vs. Colorado.

“It’s always a little bit of time behind,” Kelly said of the lag in APR scores posting, “but I know in future years our APR will certainly go up because our academic success rate has gone up.”

Voting matters

The Bruins did not practice Tuesday as part of new NCAA rules prohibiting team activities on election day.

The school announced Monday that 98% of its eligible athletes had registered to vote, with 17 of 25 teams posting 100% registration and 19 teams — including football — posting at least 90% registration.

Sunny outlook

The weather should be ideal for UCLA’s season opener against Colorado on Saturday, especially considering it’s being held in Boulder in November.

State and county health officials cited rising community spread of COVID-19 as the key factor in their decision not to allow family at UCLA and USC home games.

The forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 57 degrees, the afternoon game likely completed well before temperatures approach the overnight low of 30. The weather will turn more seasonal by Monday, when daytime highs are expected to climb only into the high 20s.

Just like being there?

UCLA announced a virtual game-day experience for fans who cannot attend the home opener against Utah on Nov. 13 at the Rose Bowl because of restrictions related to COVID-19.

“Bruin Gameday Live” will provide live statistics, social media interactions and trivia contests, among other content, including a live pregame show from the Rose Bowl hosted by Jessica Rosales and former UCLA quarterback Wayne Cook.

Fans can find the virtual experience at