Wednesday, December 21, 2011
UCLA: Quit the day
By ESPN.com staff
A guy from my high school played for both Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, and the story he told of the transition always stuck with me.
Faust was a really, really nice guy. And his teams ranged from mediocre to bad. Holtz? He walked into his first meeting with his new players and immediately started yelling at them. Told them to sit up straight, take their hats off and put their feet on the floor.
Three years later the Fighting Irish won the national championship.
So how do you think Holtz would have handled the grand UCLA tradition of quitting practice?
If you've ever been part of a team that you cared about, one that you sacrificed for, this is an abomination. The very idea that this is sold as a tradition is an insult to an outstanding university. It's not unlike saying player arrests were a tradition for Florida during the Urban Meyer Era. Some Bruins fans -- the younger ones -- might conclude that losing to USC is also a tradition.
Just because something bad happens over and over again doesn't mean it's a "tradition." A more accurate term might be "addiction." Such as, Bruins, to mediocrity. Or indifference.
Scott Reid of the Orange County Register nails it here. As does Peter Yoon of ESPN LA. They are tough on the Bruins, but it's certainly not gratuitous. New coach Jim Mora should read both columns. They will prepare him for what he's up against. And he needs to think deeply about how he will change the culture of this football program.
You don't always need to scream and yell. The old-school stuff Holtz used doesn't connect with some young people today, and might be a tougher sell in Southern California where there's a bit more "question authority" hardwired into the culture.
Still, Mora can tell his team in calm, firm tones that things will be different going forward. He needs to set down a clear, short list of expectations. He needs to tell players that if they don't like the new expectations, he will be glad to sign their transfer papers. And then he needs to say that if they ever go "over the wall" again, he will run them into the ground the next day.
While he's at it, he also can tell them that if they ever take team business to Twitter -- any team business -- they will be suspended.
There are obvious things Mora must do to transform the Bruins back into a winning program. Recruiting better players being priority one.
But programs that win consistently are more than great players. Oregon would be the best example of a positive culture at present in the Pac-12, though I know it will annoy some to read that. Chip Kelly's "Win the day" mantra has suffused a team that has won three consecutive conference titles, and it's done so with numerous off-field distractions.
Based on what happened Tuesday, Mora inherits something that falls a bit short of what they do in Eugene.
Quit the day.