College football broadcasters probably aren’t going to win many fans among coaches and players for questioning an athlete’s toughness on the air. ESPN analyst Brock Huard certainly doesn’t have a fan in UCLA coach Jim Mora for what he said during the telecast of Saturday’s game at Washington.
After Burins quarterback Josh Rosen left the game with a finger injury (on his non-throwing hand) in the third quarter and appeared on the sideline in street clothes, Huard raised the question of Rosen’s toughness. Though he did couch it as a matter of perception and how NFL scouts and executives might view Rosen going out with an injury that he could seemingly play with.
You can hear the discussion between Huard and play-by-play man Bob Wischusen at the 1:58:35 mark of the following video.
“When there’s as much on the line as Josh Rosen being the No. 1 quarterback,” said Huard, “the No. 2 overall pick, what this looks like, what this means to all the NFL evaluators who are in the sunshine today, trying to figure out just went wrong today and what this will mean for the future of Josh Rosen.” Wischusen then asked if there was a question of toughness with Rosen and Huard went on to cite Drew Bledsoe and Brett Favre as quarterbacks who played with pins sticking out of fingers, with broken hands.
Later in the game, sideline reporter Allison Williams added to the narrative. “I’ve been watching him down on the sidelines, and I gotta say I did not like how he responded as things went south,” said Williams during the fourth quarter. ““At the beginning of the game he was engaged, he was asking a lot of questions, which is his trademark. And then as he started to struggle, he got quiet.”
Questioning the toughness of a college player is dangerous territory for a broadcaster. Even Huard acknowledged that he didn’t know if Rosen had suffered a broken hand and hadn’t yet been treated for it. Media and fans can criticize a player for valuing his professional future over competing in a college game, but given the potential millions of dollars at stake, can he be faulted for making that a priority? Yet it is sort of a bad look for Rosen to be on the sideline out of uniform with an injury he perhaps could have played with while UCLA was within one score of Washington in the second quarter.
As you could expect, Mora took a shot at Huard while meeting with reporters on Monday when Rosen’s status came up. (He was vague about his quarterback’s status, though Rosen did not practice in preparation for Friday’s game at Utah.) That discussion begins at the 1:41 mark of this video.
“I would put very little stock into anything Brock Huard has to say about football,” said Mora. “That’ll be controversial! But it’s the truth.”
Mora added that he’s known Huard a long time, going back to the analyst’s college football days. “I know who he is. No, he’s not a friend of mine.” The implication seems to be that Mora hasn’t thought much of Huard’s integrity through the years he’s known him. Or perhaps the coach is irritated that someone he knows would criticize his players and should know better than to question anyone’s toughness when he doesn’t know the details of the injury in question.
— Liam D. Morales (@LiamDMorales) October 31, 2017
So when is the next time the crew of Wischusen, Huard and Williams covers a UCLA football game? (Bruins fans might point out that Mora might not be UCLA’s coach after this season, so opportunities could be limited.) That, along with the days leading up to the broadcast, could be more intriguing than anything which happens on the field.