There was a mutiny at UCLA football practice Monday morning. The crew jumped ship early. While UCLA Coach Terry Donahue shouted, waved his arms and tried to block the exit, about a hundred heavily padded players thundered past him and headed for the showers.
"We can't help it," one Bruin shouted as he passed by. "We just caught the Christmas spirit. Gotta go sing some carols."
The seniors lead this exodus, which they call "going over the wall," once during the Bruins' two-a-day sessions. They also get one chance at it during Rose Bowl practices.
"I wasn't ready for this today," Donahue said. "I thought they did it last Tuesday when they all ran off the field before sprints. Then when I gave them Thursday off, I told them that was it. But they got me again. Sometimes there is a very thin line between management and labor."
As the players emerged from the locker room and buzzed away on their mopeds, they left him with shouts of "Merry Christmas, Coach."
Faced with a reporter who was duly noting all of this, Donahue said, "Now, I don't want you to get the impression that we are not taking our Rose Bowl practices seriously. We had some good practices early last week--Friday was a bad one because they were so full of prime rib they were lethargic and not at all sharp the day after the Beef Bowl. But you'll see us really get serious when we come back after Christmas.
"We like to get all of our activities out of the way before Christmas. Two team parties, the Beef Bowl, Disneyland. Once we get back from the break, even before we put them in the hotel, it's all business. Then we really concentrate on Iowa.
"In the early practices, we just want to get back in our routine and get our timing back. We don't want it to be like a boot camp or like two-a-day practices. If we did that, they wouldn't want to win the conference championship. They'd rather have the time off. We want them to enjoy this time. It should be a reward. We try to get a balance between work and reward."
According to National Collegiate Athletic Assn. rules, Donahue is allowed to hold 16 practices for the bowl game. He usually has 13 or 14. This year it will be 14--if you count Monday's abbreviated version.
"These players are good workers and they concentrate during practice," Donahue said. "Our practices never last more than two hours or two hours and 15 minutes.
"We don't want to push them too hard too early. We don't want them to burn out."
UCLA quarterback David Norrie was held out of contact drills Monday because of a deep bruise in his right thigh. UCLA Coach Terry Donahue said that Norrie probably would be able to resume practice Thursday after resting over the holiday. . . . The only other major injury during Rose Bowl practice was suffered by nose guard Jim Wahler, who broke his thumb. He is wearing a cast that reaches almost to his elbow, but Donahue said that he would be able to play in the Rose Bowl game. . . . Donahue was deluged with compliments Monday morning for the job he did as a TV color commentator on the Holiday Bowl Sunday. Said Donahue: "I wish I had had another couple of days to prepare. I talked with both coaches Sunday morning, but I had to leave for the stadium before I could really study my notes.". . . Any time spent in Rose Bowl preparation is time lost recruiting for coaches at this time of year. But, Donahue said, what he loses in time spent with recruits he makes up for by not having to sell his program. "One Rose Bowl game might hurt your recruiting, but having a group of them like this (three in four years) means that you don't have to convince anyone that you have a good program. I think we have seen the effect in our last couple of recruiting classes." That is evidenced by the number of young players who are good enough to be included in the two-deep roster.