According to a Los Angeles Times report from J. Brady McCollough, 30 UCLA football players have signed a document calling for a “third-party health official” to be present for all team activities to ensure that protocols for COVID-19 protection are followed.
Most telling, the document asserts that players don’t trust Chip Kelly’s program to act in their best interest in regards to their health, citing “neglected and mismanaged injury cases.”
The players are also demanding whistleblower protections and that each player can decide whether or not to come back without worrying about retaliation or losing his scholarship.
“These demands reflect our call for an environment in which we do not feel pressured to return to competition, and if we choose not to return, that our decision will be respected,” the document reads. “If our demands are not met, we will refrain from booster events, recruiting events and all football-related promotional activities.
“The decision to return to training amidst a global pandemic has put us, the student-athletes, on the frontlines of a battle that we as a nation have not yet been able to win. We feel that as some of the first members of the community to attempt a return to normalcy, we must have assurances that allow us to make informed decisions and be protected regardless of our decision.”
These developments come after virtual team meetings were held Wednesday and Thursday. Most players are expected to report to voluntary workouts on Monday, a fact the players say they weren’t made aware of until Tuesday (6/16).
The NCAA recently announced that UCLA and other teams who open the season on Aug. 29 can start mandatory practices on July 6. However, UCLA must get clearance from L.A. County to start its second phase of training camp on that date.
Junior Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who has been Kelly’s starting quarterback the last two seasons, is one of the 30 players who signed the document.
“Time and time again, we see individuals within [UCLA] Athletic programs who ought to defend and protect us leave us in the dark to fend for ourselves,” the document says, again not citing examples. “Starting with neglected and mismanaged injury cases, to a now mismanaged COVID-19 pandemic, our voices have been continuously muffled, and we will no longer stand for such blatant injustices.”
Kelly’s tenure has been an unmitigated disaster from day one. After signing a lucrative five-year, $23.3 million deal in January of 2018, the Bruins limped to a 3-9 overall record and a 3-6 mark in Pac-12 play. They went 4-8 last season, going 4-5 in league games.
Since Kelly arrived, more than 70 players have left the program even though they still had eligibility remaining. That’s an astounding number.
From 2009-2012, Kelly went 46-7 overall and 33-3 in Pac-12 action at Oregon. He led the Ducks to the 2010 BCS Championship Game, losing 22-19 to Auburn on a late field goal.
Oregon won 12 games in each of Kelly’s final three seasons, winning the Rose Bowl in 2011 and the Fiesta Bowl in 2012. Then he became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, going 10-6 in each of his first two seasons.
However, Kelly was fired in 2015 after a 6-9 start. He got his second NFL head-coaching gig with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, but he and the team parted ways after an abysmal 2-14 campaign.
Kelly worked as a college football analyst at ESPN in 2017.
UCLA is 7-17 on Kelly’s watch. 5Dimes has the Bruins’ season win total at 5.5 (‘over’ -130, ‘under’ +110). They have 30/1 odds to win the Pac-12 at the Westgate SuperBook.