Forbes: UCLA of­fers good mix

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Ben Bolch ben.bolch@la­times.com Twit­ter: @latb­bolch

Forbes grades UCLA as No. 2 on its list of the top 25 schools that ex­cel aca­dem­i­cally and in sports.

Foot­ball and school may be in­com­pat­i­ble, as UCLA quar­ter­back Josh Rosen re­cently con­tended, but his univer­sity ranks among the finest in the coun­try at max­i­miz­ing the dual life of a ma­jor col­lege ath­lete.

Forbes this week graded UCLA as No. 2 on its list of the top 25 schools that ex­cel aca­dem­i­cally and in sports (trail­ing only Stan­ford), and Bru­ins coach Jim Mora on Thurs­day as­serted that his play­ers could have the best of both worlds.

“I be­lieve that the only thing that holds us back from what we want to achieve is our­selves,” Mora said af­ter his team reached the mid­point of its fall train­ing camp. “I don’t be­lieve in the vic­tim men­tal­ity and I don’t be­lieve in en­ti­tle­ment. And I’m not say­ing that Josh has a vic­tim’s men­tal­ity or en­ti­tle­ment be­cause he ab­so­lutely doesn’t.

“If peo­ple were able to spend time around him that these play­ers and this staff do, they would re­al­ize that usu­ally when Josh makes a state­ment like he did, it’s be­cause he is stick­ing up for oth­ers who maybe have not had the op­por­tu­ni­ties in life he has had.

“You can com­mend him for that. You can crit­i­cize his words or the way that they were framed, but I think it’s re­ally hard to crit­i­cize the mo­ti­va­tion, which is to help his team­mates and help those around the coun­try that maybe didn’t grow up in the same cir­cum­stances as Josh.”

Rosen told Bleacher Re­port in an in­ter­view re­leased ear­lier this week that he con­sid­ered it lu­nacy to play col­lege foot­ball while also slog­ging through school­work.

“Look, foot­ball and school don’t go to­gether,” Rosen told the web­site. “They just don’t. Try­ing to do both is like try­ing to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no busi­ness be­ing in school, but they’re here be­cause this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way.

“Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments. OK, raise the SAT re­quire­ment at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose ath­letes and then the prod­uct on the field suf­fers.”

Rosen went on to say that he had trou­ble jug­gling his foot­ball prac­tice sched­ule with his in­tended course­work as an eco­nom­ics ma­jor and when there was a con­flict, foot­ball pre­vailed. He also put an onus on col­leges to do more to help play­ers “in­stead of just find­ing ways to keep them el­i­gi­ble.”

Mora said UCLA made the aca­demic in­ter­ests of its play­ers a pri­or­ity.

“We spend mil­lions of dol­lars mak­ing sure that are stu­dent-ath­letes are not just grad­u­at­ing, but they’re get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion,” Mora said be­fore men­tion­ing the school’s hiring of former Bru­ins and NFL line­backer Ro­man Phifer last summer as its di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment.

Mora said Phifer’s role in­cluded help­ing play­ers con­nect with alumni with like­minded in­ter­ests “so they can start to build a net­work and build a sup­port sys­tem that will help these guys when they get done play­ing foot­ball, whether that’s af­ter one prac­tice or 15 years. We want to make sure they al­ways have the chance to fill their emo­tional and mo­ti­va­tional buck­ets, so I think as a school, as a depart­ment and as a pro­gram, we are go­ing to great lengths to make sure that our play­ers are al­ways on the right track to suc­cess.”

Mora said Rosen’s com­ments pro­vided a les­son: Those who of­fer an opin­ion have to be will­ing to deal with the fall­out.

“You may cre­ate per­cep­tions that peo­ple don’t agree with and there may be con­se­quences,” Mora said. “So if you’re go­ing to make state­ments, you have to un­der­stand there are go­ing to be con­se­quences. I’m re­ally proud of the fact that at UCLA, we have a re­ally tremen­dous bal­ance of aca­demic and ath­let­ics.”

Quick hits

Chris­tian Pabico, a walkon re­ceiver from Long Beach Poly High, con­tin­ues to make a com­pelling case to snag UCLA’s one avail­able schol­ar­ship. He’s been a fa­vorite tar­get of Rosen in re­cent days. “He, right now, is play­ing his way into the ro­ta­tion,” Mora said. … Mora said run­ning backs Bran­don Stephens and Nate Starks con­tin­ued to fight through in­juries and guard Na­jee To­ran was deal­ing with tight­ness in his back.

Michael Owen Baker For The Times

UCLA COACH Jim Mora ap­par­ently didn’t mind when quar­ter­back Josh Rosen spoke his mind.

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