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#pounditThursday, February 29, 2024

UCLA Football well enough to go to Sea World, naval ship but not play in bowl game

UCLA players on a naval ship

UCLA’s football team and athletic department are being crushed for the way they handled their bowl game.

The Bruins were scheduled to play NC State in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Calif. at 8:00 pm ET on Tuesday. They announced four and a half hours before kickoff that they would not be playing.

UCLA cited COVID protocols within the program as the reason for not playing.

Naturally, their announcement just hours before the game left many furious. It was especially annoying that UCLA’s athletic director said the team was in a position to compete as of Monday.

NC State had fans travel across the country to attend the game. UCLA fans traveled for the game. And then the Bruins canceled hours before the event, without giving anyone any advanced notice. That was a poor move that didn’t sit well with many, including NC State’s head coach.

What’s worse is that UCLA cited the health and safety of their players as the reason for withdrawing from the game they were supposed to be playing. But they were well enough to visit Sea World days before the game.

They were well enough to visit a naval ship two days before the game.

The mixed message from UCLA is infuriating. If the school were so concerned about the health and safety of the players, why did they have them out at public venues like Sea World and the naval ship just days ahead of the game, at a time when California has thousands of positive cases? The school is being selective about when they care about health and safety, and apparently visits to Sea World are a higher priority than fulfilling a commitment to play their bowl game. For fans of UCLA Football, seeing that message is hurtful and shows they do not prioritize their games. Would Nick Saban have his Alabama players visiting theme parks and sight-seeing ahead of a bowl game and risking positive cases? You know the answer to that question.

UCLA may think that the optics are in their favor because they think they are protecting the health of their students. The truth is the opposite. The optics are against them for flaking without giving any notice. They look bad for being well enough to sight-see but not play in the game they were in San Diego for in the first place. They look bad for not advising anyone, including their opponents, of their situation in advance. They look bad for not playing the game. They look bad for being well enough to play yesterday but not today.

The only surprise in this whole situation is that it took UCLA this long to withdraw from the game. Anyone who knows anything about how the school has been readily canceling sporting events since last year could see this one coming from a mile away.

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