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UCLA FOOTBALL

Ditching practice doesn't sit well with everyone at UCLA

Seniors put in motion the Bruins' tradition of going 'over the wall' and blowing off a workout even as they prepare for a bowl game, which some teammates and coaches don't appreciate.

December 20, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Don't expect UCLA junior running back Johnathan Franklin to be among those looking to continue the "over the wall" tradition next year when he becomes a senior.
Don't expect UCLA junior running back Johnathan Franklin to be among… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Memo to new Coach Jim Mora: UCLA football does have long-standing traditions.

Sure, the Victory Bell seems USC's permanent possession these days, with the Trojans having won 12 of the last 13 games against UCLA. But Bruins players revived the "over-the-wall" antic Tuesday, ditching practice after warming up.

"It was the seniors' decision," said junior running back Johnathan Franklin, a team captain. "We're going to get together for a team activity."

Asked whether it will remain a tradition when he is a senior, Franklin said, "It won't be happening."

UCLA players have talked in the last few years about changing the culture in the program. That didn't preclude the Bruins from revisiting a stunt introduced in 1980, when the team was preparing for a season finale against Oregon State. The ditch day has surged and ebbed over the years but had been dormant since 2008.

"It's one of those deals that's a tradition for the guys," said Mike Johnson, UCLA's interim coach.

"I knew it was a possibility," Johnson said, so he was prepared.

"You don't want to lose the day of work," Johnson said. "At the same time, we covered a lot in the last two weeks. Today was a day we were going to cover third downs. Last week, I got some third-down things covered."

Johnson said no one would be disciplined for participating.

Other coaches weren't as accepting about the situation. Defensive coordinator Joe Tresey gave cornerback Andrew Abbott an earful outside the locker room.

"It was a team decision," Abbott told reporters. "Everyone on the team has to be with it."

Abbott said that players would go to a movie as a group.

Some seemed to join reluctantly. Franklin, safety Dalton Hilliard and quarterbacks Kevin Prince, Nick Crissman, Darius Bell and Brett Hundley returned to the practice field briefly to work.

"There are still guys in the program who were here at the time it was going on," Prince said "They figured once they were seniors they would get the chance to call it. I was hoping it was out of our system. Clearly it is not."

Prince felt the need to practice, pointing to the Bruins' game against Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31.

"It's disappointing," Prince said. "Hopefully, it doesn't come back to bite us."

Said Franklin: "It wasn't my idea. But you got to go along with it."

UCLA will practice Wednesday then have four days off before leaving Dec. 26 for the bowl game.

Memory lane

UCLA's first victory over Illinois in a bowl game was in the 1984 Rose Bowl, when the Bruins drubbed the Illini, 45-9, behind the play of quarterback

Rick Neuheisel, who threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bruins will face the Illini without him this time. He was fired as coach Nov. 28.

Footnote: Karl Dorrell, another ex-Bruin fired as UCLA's coach, caught two touchdown passes from Neuheisel in the 1984 Rose Bowl game.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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