UCLA players get bowl expense checks
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA's football program was all atwitter Sunday night after the staff withheld bowl expense checks from players who failed to attend workouts during finals week.
Several players voiced their concerns via Twitter and they received their checks Monday, but the episode created quite a stir as players claimed they wouldn't be able to eat without their checks.
Receiver Randall Carroll tweeted, "We are being held from our checks because we chose not to participate in voluntary workouts. This is f----- up. its against ncaa violations," and linebacker Aramide Olaniyan tweeted, "Honestly don't know how I'm going to eat tonight. Genocide in Westwood."
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The NCAA allows schools to provide players a per diem and living expenses during bowl game preparations because most campus cafeterias and dorms are closed for winter break. UCLA, which is using funds from the $750,000 it is getting for appearing in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, was to allocate those funds to players on Sunday.
Players who did not participate in workouts the previous week, however, did not receive their checks. In a statement, the school said the issue had been resolved.
"All of our players were advised that they would need to complete three of five workouts and submit academic exit forms prior to Sunday's practice in order to receive their bowl checks," the school's statement said. "Those who did not complete their assignment had their checks withheld. The coaching staff changed its mind when they realized that withholding the money would cause the players some financial hardship."
At issue is whether the workouts in question were voluntary or required. The team did not practice last week, and because it was finals week, some players skipped the workouts in order to study.
"It was most of the team," Carroll said Monday. "It was not like it was a handful or five guys that missed. We go to a hard academic school so we have use time studying (during finals week) instead of workouts."
Interim coach Mike Johnson called it a misunderstanding among the players and staff.
"It was a situation where there was some miscommunication and there was some gap in communications," Johnson said. "And it was a situation that we got fixed this morning and we're fine with the results. Nobody starved to death and everybody is on board getting ready for Dec. 31st and it's all straightened out."
Johnson was vague about whether or not the workouts were mandatory.
"They were workouts that were scheduled," Johnson said. "But the thing I want to say about that is that the last thing we want to do is to have anybody starve. That wasn't the intention at all. They were workouts that had to be done and all we wanted to do was get three workouts and that was it."
Olaniyan argued that the players were never informed that their expense checks would be withheld if they did not complete the workouts.
"We weren't really aware of that until Sunday so a lot of guys were left with zero dollars, no money so that's why it was such an uproar for the team," he said.
Carroll, a junior, said he had never heard of mandatory workouts during finals week but also hinted that the academic exit forms might have been just as much of an issue.
Athletes must have professors sign off that the players have completed their coursework at the end of each quarter and the players must then turn those forms into Will Peddie, the director of player development who oversees academic services for the team.
"Most of the guys felt like it wasn't even the coaches who were pressuring us. It was like our player personnel people, William Peddie," Carroll said. "That's a bigger problem. We felt like it wasn't the coaches who withholding the checks."
Punter Jeff Locke said the whole thing got blown out of proportion. Locke insisted that all players knew the workouts were mandatory and said Carroll, Olaniyan and center Kai Maiava -- who also complained on Twitter -- made the school look bad. He defended the school on Twitter, tweeting "Check your facts before making accusations that hurt UCLA. Finals lifts can be mandatory."
"The way it was treated by some of the players in the media made us look bad," Locke said Monday. "The way it was put out by some players made it look a lot worse than it really was. I think it was handled fine. We might have messed up for a second, but in the end it's all fine."
Peter Yoon covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com.