I had a chance to visit with new UCLA coach Jim L. Mora Wednesday afternoon. As you probably have heard, the former NFL head coach isn't a big fan of one of the Bruins' football traditions, the one where the players "go over the wall" and skip practice as they did right after their pre-practice stretching period on Tuesday in keeping up with something the upperclassmen of the program have been organizing for years in Westwood. It became obvious in the first 45 seconds of my sitdown with him that Mora is determined to change some things around the underachieving program and he didn't mince words.
"We'll honor the traditions here at UCLA that lead to us representing UCLA on the football field the way it deserves to be represented. Look at a guy like Troy Aikman or Kenny Easley or Maurice Jones-Drew and those great players, and we want to represent that history," Mora said, as he pointed to some of the pictures of Bruins greats on the walls surrounding him in his office. "There are also some traditions that are counter to that, and in my humble opinion, skipping practice is counter-productive to winning and its counter-productive to what we want to be as a football team.
"I'd heard about it but that has never been a part of my world. I've never been on a football team that would skip practice. I think it is disrespectful to the coaches. I think it's disrespectful to your teammates. I think it's disrespectful to your athletic director and I think it's disrespectful to the men that came before you.
Asked if someone tried to explain the tradition to him, Mora shot back, "I don't care about the explanation. All I know is that guys left practice unexcused. And it will not happen again. That is the last time that someone will go over the wall and be allowed back inside the wall.
"(UCLA athletic director) Dan (Guerrero) and I talked about how this football program needed 'a culture change,' and if that wasn't the case, I wouldn't be here. And that action by those players right there is indicative of the fact that it does need a culture change. It's my job to change it. It is not going to be easy. It is not going to happen over night. It's going to involve in a lot of hard work, but that is the task."
I'll have more on my visit with the new Bruins coach in the blog in a few days.