Despite his absence from the field since early October, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has proved he’s still one of the most polarizing players in college football. His comments regarding the complex relationship players have with academics proved it again Tuesday.
UCLA coach Jim Mora addressed the comments in an interview on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Wednesday.
“When you express opinions, you create perceptions. You create controversy,” Mora said. “There are those that agree with you and those who don’t agree with you, and you have to be willing to deal with the consequences.”
In a wide-ranging interview with Bleacher Report conducted in the spring and published Tuesday, Rosen conveyed a belief that being a college student and a football player were at odds with each other.
“Look, football and school don’t go together,” Rosen said. “They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs.”
“Human beings don’t belong in school with our schedules,” he continued. “No one in their right mind should have a football player’s schedule and go to school. It’s not that some players shouldn’t be in school; it’s just that universities should help them more — instead of just finding ways to keep them eligible.”
Mora, who said he had a “very productive” conversation with Rosen on Tuesday, didn’t address his star’s concerns directly during his interview, but he defended the job UCLA has done to provide its student-athletes with a worthwhile academic experience.
“Do I know for a fact if his opinions are valid? No,” Mora said. “I know this: At UCLA, according to Forbes magazine, which did an article that combined athletic and academic excellence, we’re ranked No. 2 behind Stanford.”
Mora’s most recent conversation with Rosen wasn’t the first of its kind or outside of the norm, as their close relationship is well-documented. Mora, in an interview with ESPN two weeks ago, provided some insight into the dynamics between the two.
“I just talk very frankly with him, as a father would talk to his son, more than anything,” Mora said. “I try to respect his opinion but yet still try to explain to him why he needs to rethink, not necessarily his position on things but how to express.
“The part of maturing for Josh is I don’t think his opinions have changed. I think that the way he’s expressing them has changed. He’s much more responsible. He understands that he does have a high profile. He also understands that NFL decision-makers are looking at all of that. That’s part of the evaluation process, and that’s something that I’ve really tried to get across.”
After an impressive debut as a true freshman in 2015, Rosen had an underwhelming six games to begin last season, which was cut short because of a shoulder injury.
During Rosen’s time away, USC quarterback Sam Darnold supplanted him as the next big thing while leading the Trojans to the Rose Bowl — and the two have since struck up a friendly relationship. They’ve traded texts and had plans to grab lunch before their schedules got too busy with training camps starting up.
Darnold, who isn’t nearly as outspoken as Rosen, said Tuesday he read the most recent comments from his crosstown counterpart.
“I think it’s definitely interesting,” Darnold told ESPN. “But at the same time, he’s going to say what he’s going to say and people are going to react the way they’re going to react. I think everyone here has a tough schedule and at other schools.
“… Being a student-athlete is incredibly hard, no matter where you go, with the classes they throw you in and the classes you need to complete to be eligible. It’s always going to be difficult. I know we get a ton of help here, and they do at UCLA and Alabama and all the schools.
“I’ve never been that guy [to speak out]. He’s Josh and I’m Sam. I’m not going to change. He’s always been one to speak his mind and he’s a really smart dude.”
From Mora’s perspective, a lot of what Rosen has to say comes in defense of teammates who come from less privileged situations.
“He recognizes there’s young men in that locker room who have overcome tremendous challenges to be where they are, and still have tremendous challenges financially,” Mora said. “To me, it’s him saying, ‘Maybe I do have a little bit of a platform here.’ When in reality, he didn’t have a platform yet, not a legitimate platform. I think he realizes that now.”
The legitimacy of Rosen’s platform can be debated, but it’s clear he has one — a big one. When Rosen speaks, people are going to pay attention.
Stanford coach David Shaw was among those to weigh in Tuesday about Rosen’s comments. The Cardinal recruited Rosen, considered one of the prized recruits in the Class of 2015, out of high school but ultimately did not extend a scholarship offer to the Southern California native.
“I think it’s unfortunate that any player doesn’t realize the megaphone that they have,” Shaw said. “And I can only speak on two things. One, is what we do here at Stanford. And we have lot of guys that have progressed towards graduation really well and play a high level of football.
“… So I think that’s an unfortunate comment that does not really apply to most places, because I think you can get a really good education anywhere. And it’s up to each individual student to play the best football they can, and to walk out of that college with a degree.”
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.