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UCLA FOOTBALL: DITCH DAY ANGERS NEUHEISEL.

Byline: Brian Dohn

Staff Writer

Rather than continue the process of learning a new offense and working toward improvement, UCLA's football players, led by its senior class, elected to blow off Tuesday's practice.

It is a "Going over the Wall" tradition, pre-dating coach Rick Neuheisel's playing days.

Players finish stretching, but rather than practice, scale a practice field wall and leave.

The tradition began when programs were allowed 20 spring practices, rather than the current 15, and before spring practice and offseason workouts were taken as seriously as they are now.

Neuheisel said the tradition may be out-dated, and was termed "upset" by senior Logan Paulsen.

He was asked about the type of commitment to getting better this act showed, when other of the nation's top programs use every minute of practice time.

"(The) points are well made about the new offense and so forth," Neuheisel said. "It's an unusual deal that has kind of been a tradition over the years, and hopefully people can start to see we've got to figure out a way to move it into another category so that it doesn't derail us."

The Bruins weren't true to the "Going Over The Wall" motto, electing instead to running through an open gate, and Neuheisel and his staff were not pleased.

"I don't know if I would have advised it, but if it's happened, then we're going to try to make it a positive," Neuheisel said. "It, hopefully, won't derail us from the progress that we made."

Neuheisel was checking to see if the ditch day counts against the 15 practices, and it is believed it will.

"Our guys showed good solidarity," Neuheisel said. "It's not what I would have liked to happen (Tuesday), but I remember being a part of teams that did it and still had successful seasons."

Several recruits and high school coaches were on campus to watch the practice. Neuheisel also apologized to several referees, who showed up to work the practice.

"They quit on us," he told them.

Neuheisel spoke with the seniors afterward to make sure the players were united on the decision.

"We discussed it (beforehand) and we said we weren't going to do it, but it is all-for-one, one for all," UCLA junior linebacker Reggie Carter said. "For a lot of the seniors, this is the last go-round. -- If we're going to do it, we're going to do it as a team."

Many of the seniors left out of a back door of the Acosta Center, but Paulsen, a tight end, came out the front spoke with the media.

"All the seniors came together and made a decision," Paulsen said.

"It's (a tradition) we felt needed to be carried on, and we did. --(Neuheisel) was upset, but he understood what we were doing."

The tradition started decades ago, but was halted during Bob Toledo's tenure. However, Dorrell brought it back, although the message was a bit skewed. The Bruins pulled the ditch day once during bowl preparations.

When asked what practice would be like Thursday, Neuheisel said, "the coaches will be ready."

brian.dohn@dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 16, 2008
Words:517
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