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UCLA football players talk about expense checks controversy

UCLA says checks for food and bills as team prepares for bowl are tied to completing three workouts and academic exit forms during finals, but players say workouts haven't been mandatory in past.

December 12, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Defensive back Randall Carroll, left, and offensive lineman Kai Maiava have spoken out about the expense checks controversy.
Defensive back Randall Carroll, left, and offensive lineman Kai Maiava… (Photos by Don Liebig / UCLA )

UCLA players won't have to go hungry before playing in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

UCLA officials relented Sunday evening after Bruins football players expressed anger over living expense checks being withheld from those who had not completed three workouts and turned in an academic exit form during finals week.

But some players were clearly still puzzled by the situation Monday.

"We've got bills and stuff and we didn't get it so everybody was upset," center Kai Maiava said.

Nick Ammazzalorso, a spokesman for UCLA, said players were told that checks would not be issued unless they completed the workouts and turned in the required form.

That came as news to defensive back Randall Carroll.

"Never since I have been here have workouts been mandatory during finals week," Carroll said. "We go to a hard academic school so we have used the time studying."

Under NCAA rules, players can receive money for living expenses if university services are shut down during bowl game preparations. UCLA is using the money it is receiving from the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which is approximately $750,000 plus travel expenses.

Carroll said "most of the team" did not receive checks. Some went public on Twitter, saying they did not have money for food. UCLA cafeterias are closed during the holidays and the football program provides players only with lunch.

Interim Coach Mike Johnson said "some miscommunication" caused the situation but was coy about whether the workouts were mandatory.

"I don't know about voluntary, but the thing I want to say about that is that the last thing we want to do is to have anybody starve," Johnson said. "They were workouts that had to be done and all we wanted to do was get three workouts and that was it."

Asked again whether they were mandatory, Johnson said: "They were workouts that were scheduled. It was a situation where we are in a bowl game and we do that."

Carroll and other players said workouts were not mandatory during finals week in 2009, when the Bruins went to the EagleBank Bowl.

"It was a difficult situation because guys couldn't work out during finals week and we just wanted to be able to use the money for food and things like that," linebacker Aramide Olaniyan said.

Said Maiava: "I ate some stuff. I'm not broke-broke, but I'm broke. I can afford some McDonald's."

Said Carroll: "Some people had no money in their accounts. They were expecting this money yesterday. That's when this big uproar started."

Carroll didn't place the blame with the coaches, saying players thought "the personnel staff, the people who check our classes" were responsible.

Carroll, Olaniyan and Maiava were among the players who posted comments about the situation on Twitter.

Punter Jeff Locke was opposed to the public comments, saying so in his own Twitter post. On Monday, he said teammates "needed to address the problem in a different way, by talking with the coaches instead of making it public on social media."

Mora arrives

Jim Mora, hired as coach late Friday, is scheduled to take an NCAA compliance exam Tuesday morning and be introduced at a news conference in the afternoon.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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