UCLA coach Jim Mora on Wednesday morning – before the team finished warming up and well before the sun came up – threw the media out of practice because television crews apparently set up too close to Spaulding Field.
Mora grew angry and threw out television crews from ESPN and KTLA-Channel 5 before that same message was relayed to reporters working in the media room. Mora’s wrath extended to UCLA’s sports information staff, which also had to leave practice.
“We had some issues with our SID department,” Mora said when asked why the rest of the media was thrown out. “Today’s practice was closed because we didn’t have proper security.
“I’m not going to jeopardize what we’re doing as a football team because of the incompetence of some people.”
Mora’s move to close practice for the day comes on the heels of a growing feud between the media and Pac-12 coaches, many of whom have instituted a policy restricting writers from reporting on injuries, strategy and position changes observed in practice.
Mora, along with USC’s Lane Kiffin, Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Washington’s Steve Sarkisian, and Washington State’s Mike Leach, have instituted the policy. Just last week, Kiffin walked away from reporters 30 seconds into his post-practice interview after he was asked about a player’s return to practice from an injury. Not long before that, Kiffin banned a Los Angeles News Group reporter for reporting on a player’s pending surgery. The ban soon lifted.
Mora on Wednesday also said open practice to the media will resume today, but local media outlets made a preemptive strike. In an effort to uphold their journalistic integrity, the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles News Group instituted their own policy to not have its reporters observe UCLA and USC practices and attend only post-practice interview availability with coaches and players.
Two weeks ago, when the topic of injury lists was a hot topic, Mora said he would be OK if it became mandated across the Pac-12 and other coaches said they would adhere, too. But Washington State’s Mike Leach has strongly voiced his opposition and told writers in Pullman, Wash., last week reporters seeking injury information “is journalism at its most pitiful level.”
Mora’s policy banning writers from reporting on injuries was instituted the week leading up to the Bruins’ season opener against Rice, but it never made headlines because reporters have adhered to the new policy.
Mora’s recent blowup caught national attention for all the wrong reasons, and it wasn’t the first time, either. He was caught in a firestorm the first week of fall camp when he made sensitive comments in a radio interview regarding UCLA’s safety on campus and said, “We don’t have murders a block from our campus.” Mora later apologized and said he was unaware of two students murdered a few blocks from USC earlier that spring.
And like anything that puts UCLA in a negative light, news of Mora’s displeasure with UCLA media personnel along with kicking out the rest of the media quickly spread across town, prompting Kiffin to open his post-practice interview by telling reporters, “I love my SID.”