Why Would Mora Say That???

Jim L. Mora, the head of UCLA football, the winningest coach in UCLA history (over a 3 year span! Don’t forget that nugget!) is either a mastermind of capitalizing on the cache of a star player or he’s absolutely nuts. You pick.

Other than cases involving criminal scandals and actual news, there hasn’t been a more polarizing character in college football over the past couple years than Josh Rosen. The Chosen One” came to Westwood as the successor to Brett Hundley and was annointed to take Mora and the Bruins to even greater heights.  The jury is still out on Rosen’s football career, and there arguably isn’t anyone in college football with more to prove this year than Rosen, Mora and the Bruins. . .

. . . but at a time when the focus for a team should be turning towards the actual football field, Mora and Rosen keep launching fodder at the media that keeps news about Rosen solidly off the gridiron. Much of the hullabaloo about Rosen has been self-inflicted; it started off his freshman year with coeds and hot tubs and continued with social commentary about Trump.

Just last night, it was reported that Rosen told reporters he was going to stick to talking football:

“I mean, Coach [Jim] Mora kind of addressed the whole thing,” Rosen said, “but at this point I’m kind of just talking about camp.”from Kyle Bonagura of ESPN

It seems like Rosen might finally be understanding that always saying and showing exactly how he feels like he’s narrating a stream of consciousness novel might not be making things easier for himself (as fun for it is for all of us). But college kids need to learn these lessons for themselves and however you feel about Rosen’s comments and actions, there isn’t really any argument that he isn’t a great kid with a bright future that is kind of learning as he goes.

However, what about Mora and UCLA Football? Rosen complained about how schools aren’t doing enough to ensure the success of all NCAA athletes, but maybe he should narrow his focus a little. Is UCLA Football handling him right? Do they have any idea how to do this at all?

There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to Rosen’s availability or ability to address the media; the only consistent thing has been the inconsistent staccato pattern. You rarely see any local stories quoting Rosen in the news and he is never available for local radio interviews (even as Sam Darnold appears on the UCLA radio partner multiple times over that time period).

UCLA makes Rosen available for national stories (to writers for SI or Bleacher Report), and its during these features that he has said the things that make all the headlines. Whether he’s talking about “hanging with his girl homies” or he’s talking about the plight of the student athlete, UCLA has regularly thrust him out there to wax on about life, but they have also severely limited any opportunities to talk about actual football. After the bleacher article story broke, it was almost a week before he addressed the media at practice, when he finally addressed it with the above quote about “just talking about camp.” It must be awkward for a beat writer when the last line of every report has to be: Rosen was not available to the media after practice.

So he’s finally learned a valuable lesson, right? Well what about his coach? Almost immediately after Rosen is quoted, Mora is ignites another story with this bit of news:

“My firm belief is that he will not leave,” Mora told Yahoo Sports on Sunday afternoon of Rosen declaring for the NFL draft after this season. “I don’t think he’ll leave.”

Whether he stays or not isn’t the point. Just making that statement instead of giving a noncommittal sound byte automatically makes this the lead topic and question for the rest of the season. Of course Rosen’s status becomes a big story as soon as the season ends, but why give that opinion now when everyone just assumes he will leave?

Maybe we will see some sort of genius level strategy after this all plays out in the 2017 season, but right now it looks like Mora is on tilt and UCLA Football has no idea how to handle so much attention.


Episode 137 – Mike Channels Buffalo Bill

Here it is!

In this episode we welcome back Jamaal from LASportshub.com (.com) and we unveil a couple new jingles that Mike made for the upcoming season (WARNING: one of them gets a little “Silence of the Lamb-y).

After opening the show, we have GoJoeBruin Headlines, Mike’s Training Camp Report, some breaking news about Josh Rosen, and our new segment Eye on the Enemy.

If you need to do some shopping, please check out citadelshopx.com to buy tickets for the 12th Annual Shopping Extravaganza on Saturday, September 23, 2017 (buy tickets under LA Grizzlies Football!)

Lastly, we recorded an extra episode this week! WB2: The Pac 12 Preview will be released on Friday, so keep your eyes open for that.

Go Bruins!

Rosen Comments Should Touch A Nerve

This really is all much ado about nothing. I know we got fired up yesterday on the Crosstown Podcast about Josh Rosen’s Q&A on Bleacher Report but two days as the lead on SportsCenter and every CFB Writer’s article (including this one) is a little much. . . but a collision of a lot of things made Rosen’s comments incendiary:

  1. only being available to the media for odd features a couple times a year,
  2. giving a bullet like “football and school don’t go together” and
  3. saying the word “Alabama”, so here we are…

Still most of what he said is either absolutely true or just the regular babble:

  • How’s the shoulder? – 100%, Sweet!
  • Did you miss the game? – Yeah, I’m a competitor, so it was hard to watch
  • Are you ready to get back? – Hell Yeah! 8 hours sleep per night!
  • Got any hot takes? – Um… It’s hard being a NCAA Athlete and UCLA is harder to get into than Alabama

Pretty much all of that falls into the NO CRAP category. Of course you piss off the South because of the implication, but does that make it any less true? That’s reality: some schools are harder to get into than others. That makes the headlines, but the idea that football and school don’t go together does deserve some thought. There is no denying that major college football makes billions of dollars every year for universities, networks and support companies all across the country, and its pretty clear that the players suiting up at the Power 5 schools across the country are not getting a fair piece of the pie.

The fact is that football and men’s basketball are the programs that pay the bills at most universities. Without the revenues from those sports, the scholarships and prospects for all of the other athletes would be drastically altered. Unfortunately, the structure of college sports makes compensating athletes in the revenue sports a super complicated issue that has yet to be untangled. But that’s really not the focus of Rosen’s comments this time. . .

Rosen almost spontaneously waxes on:

“Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. . .”

[the obvious bit about Alabama is next, but he goes on to say:]

“Any time any player puts into school will take away from the time they could put into football. They don’t realize that they’re getting screwed until it’s too late. You have a bunch of people at the universities who are supposed to help you out, and they’re more interested in helping you stay eligible. At some point, universities have to do more to prepare players for university life and help them succeed beyond football. There’s so much money being made in this sport. It’s a crime to not do everything you can to help the people who are making it for those who are spending it. . .

. . . If I wanted to graduate in three years, I’d just get a sociology degree. I want to get my MBA. I want to create my own business. When I’m finished with football, I want a seamless transition to life and work and what I’ve dreamed about doing all my life. I want to own the world. Every young person should be able to have that dream and the ability to access it. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

Rosen is right, universities should provide whatever resources are necessary for a student athlete to prepare themselves, and NCAA rules have changed over the the last decade to protect players and give them year-round access to services. But does an aspiring NFL player really have it so bad compared to other athletes trying to go pro?

Of the four major sports in the USA (the NFL, NBA, MLB and the NHL), which sport has the best support in place for its athletes?

NBA wannabees have the most similar structure to NCAA football players; the most popular route is still to attend college for a time and then play oneself into getting drafted into the NBA. However, NCAA Basketball players only have to play one year in college (if they choose that route), so there are many stories of 1 and done players barely setting foot in a classroom en route to their appointment on draft day with Adam Silver. Players that aren’t interested in college, go play overseas (like Brandon Jennings’ season in China) or maybe try and make it in the NBA’s D-League (who max out at $25,000 per season and average far less). But at the end of the day, there are only 60 picks in the NBA Draft every year for thousands of players, and let’s not forget that US college players are competing against prospects across the globe. If a player wants to take advantage of a scholarship and stay in school, that’s their choice, but so many of these guys take the long odds and don’t make it. The current relationship between the NBA and NCAA gives them that freedom, but also makes it so much easier for them to crash and burn without the parachute of an education or the years of security they would get on campus.

The MLB has a proper minor league that prospects can make themselves eligible to be drafted into, or they can choose to attend college. The minor league experience can be vastly different depending on how good you are; of course, the talent will rise to the top and be well compensated along the way (I mean, how often does a Clayton Kershaw come around???), but for the other guys (who might be able to play in college but choose not to) it can be a pretty gruelling and humble existence. The ones that choose school don’t necessarily get all the options and privileges that the NCAA football and basketball guys get either. The numbers show that only about a third of NCAA baseball players are on full scholarships. There just isn’t enough money in these programs to support a baseball sized roster, so a lot of these dudes just have to make the best of it.

The NHL has a similar system to baseball in that they draft athletes when they turn 18 and they have a minor league system structured around the American Hockey League. AHL players probably have it better than any of the other minor leagues in that the minimum salary is over $42,000/season and the league average is north of $90,000. The AHL employs over 800 players; that’s a good chunk of guys making a good living playing minor league hockey, but there are thousands of other hopefuls grinding away in far less secure situations.

Do football players really have it that bad compared to the other sports? Across the country there are over over 10,000 scholarships available to Division 1 college football players. At a minimum, that’s a chance to take classes for free and take advantage of the academic support services, plus room and board at whatever university they are attending (obviously the MAC experience will be drastically different from the Big-10). What about the players from the Power-5 schools, the programs generating all that revenue? As I said before, there is definitely some inequity when you talk about the cash that Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Deshaun Watson make for their universities, and at some point there has to be some sort of correction. But for an aspiring pro athlete, does anyone really have more resources at their disposal to help them be successful than an NCAA football player in a Power 5 School?

There are people to tell them what to eat, people to help them create a schedule, people that help them workout, tutors to help them with class (in North Carolina, they even had people to take their classes for them). I haven’t even mentioned the facilities that these guys train, eat , study and do everything else in. If an athlete wants to play football long enough to go to the NFL (less than 2% make it), they can major in underwater basket-weaving to stay eligible and get out in 3 years. For the guys that want to play football and get their BA, MA and Doctorate all at the same time, they can do that too. It all about the time that individual wants to put in and how much of that opportunity they want to use or squander. Obviously, these schools should be held to their agreements when a player is hurt or limited by something beyond their control, but until the NCAA figures out the money quandary, what else can universities do to help them succeed?

Playing football is hard, and playing while going to school at the same time is harder. But should we make martyrs out of these guys? The system that exists (as imperfect as it is) provides an opportunity to develop as a player and build a safety net if desired thousands of  young men across the country every year. How much more motivation should they need? On the flip side, earning a degree can be hard, and the degree of difficulty varies drastically based on what route you choose. But should any of us really be entitled to anything more than the opportunity to earn it?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him study statistics.

Go Bruins

New UA Gear Makes UCLA Fans Bleed Green

I don’t want to sound like a stingy human being for what I’m about to discuss, but what I saw when I perused my alma matter’s newly minted Under Armour(UA) athletic apparel, I was truly upset.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I have not been the only UCLA student who has had to be frugal with financial aid and delay gratification, especially when it came to purchasing school apparel.  That’s why it came as a shock when I looked at the cost of a UA hoodie and saw the $115 price tag!  I know that there is a “cheaper” $80 version, but it’s the principle of the matter.  College tuitions have risen 55% nationally since 2015. How can you ask students/parents to pay $115 for a hoodie while simultaneously having to pay more to earn their degree?

Maybe I’ve been out of school too long to see that this is simply inflation, and I should just deal with it? So, I took a quick glance at some other official college apparel websites and surveyed their average cost of school-branded sports apparel to make sure. Here’s what UA, Nike, & Adidas offer:

Sure enough, UCLA charged the most for their hoodie!  Now, to be fair, I think it’s highway robbery for a hoodie to cost $70-85; but compared to $115, that seems downright reasonable!  I don’t know whose decision it was to charge that price.  However, if it was UA, then their latest quarterly earnings report might be a little karma coming back to bite them on their backside.

Once again, I decided to take a quick glance and see how well Under Armour was doing.  Turns out UA isn’t doing too well lately!  In fact, they’ve lowered their profit outlook for next year and also presented a restructuring plan to become more efficient due to sagging sales .  Maybe if they reduced the cost of their UCLA apparel, they could turn their fortunes around…

Ok, probably not, but I’d really like to buy a new hoodie without giving them my arm AND my leg.


Episode 136 – The Crosstown Podcast!

bills nuggetsIn this episode of the What’s Bruin Show the boys are joined by Michael Castillo and Alicia de Artola for the annual preseason Crosstown Pod. How do they think UCLA will do? Is USC really a playoff team? Did Bill really eat all these chicken nuggets????

Listen Here:

Episode 136 – The Crosstown Podcast!

Want to join in on the talk? Call the WBS Hotline! (805) 399 – 4WBS (Suck it Reign of Troy!)

One Title in 42 Years

In 1995, I took my 9-year old son Jeremy to the NCAA Final Four in Seattle. He still considers that vacation to be one of his favorite childhood memories.

When the Bruins won the championship that year, it was their first title since John Wooden’s last team, in 1975. As the Bruins and their fans celebrated in Seattle, I said to Jeremy, “Enjoy this. It’s been twenty years. It could be twenty or more years before the Bruins win another one.”

Jeremy, who is now 31, and I were reminiscing about 1995 after UCLA was eliminated by Kentucky last Friday night. He asked me, “Why haven’t the Bruins won more championships?” And, in a more pointed question, he asked, “Who is to blame?”

He wanted an answer, and I gave him one: J.D. Morgan.

Morgan, for whom the campus athletic department’s building is named, attended UCLA and later coached the Bruins to eight NCAA championships in tennis. He also served as the school’s athletic director from 1963 to 1979. During those sixteen years, UCLA won thirty  national titles, including ten in basketball under John Wooden.

When Coach Wooden retired in 1975, it was J.D. Morgan’s task to find a replacement. Most UCLA fans at the time knew who the replacement should be: former Bruins player and chief assistant coach under Wooden, Denny Crum. Crum had left UCLA after the 1971 season, his third straight year of helping the Bruins win a national championship. He was hired by Louisville to become their head coach, and he took the Cardinals to the Final Four in both 1972 and 1975. In both of those years, it was UCLA who defeated Louisville in the national semifinals.

When Wooden retired, Crum was more than ready. He wanted the job. But J.D. Morgan had a blind spot. He didn’t like Denny Crum.

Morgan wanted the new coach to be a guy who wore plain grey suits. The new coach would have to fit a certain conservative image. Crum didn’t always wear grey suits; he even liked to wear turtlenecks. He had a way of speaking his mind – a quality that John Wooden appreciated in an assistant coach. But Morgan wanted someone who would be more docile.

And so, Morgan selected Clean Gene Bartow, the coach of Memphis State. Bartow had led Memphis to the 1973 national title game against UCLA, and Morgan had been impressed with Bartow’s quiet demeanor.

Bartow lasted exactly two seasons at UCLA. It was tough to follow a legend, and Bartow couldn’t handle the pressure. He was followed, in quick succession, by Gary Cunningham, Larry Brown, Larry Farmer and Walt Hazzard. Five coaches in thirteen years, and none of them lasted more than four seasons.

During those same years, Denny Crum went to four more Final Fours at Louisville, winning two national championships, in 1980 (defeating UCLA in the final) and 1986.

In a 2006 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Crum talked about UCLA and what could have been. “I remember when Gene Bartow took the UCLA job out there, he had a really hard time with the media,” Crum said. “I think I could have handled it. And Coach Wooden thinks I could have handled it. And he’s pretty smart. I honestly think I could have won more championships had I gone back to UCLA.”

Because of J.D. Morgan’s stubbornness, we never got to find out if the Bruin dynasty might have continued well past John Wooden’s retirement.

And that’s my answer for Jeremy – and for all Bruin fans.

Jim Bendat is the author of Democracy’s Big Day (available on Amazon) and a frequent guest on the What’s Bruin Show. He is a lifelong sports fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of LA Sports.