A UCLA football program that was long a national force in high school recruiting, often edging rival USC for the best young players in Southern California, momentarily ceded those designations earlier this week.
Just check the title it gave itself.
The nickname surfaced Monday on the official UCLA football Twitter account. A graphic illustration showed a group of Bruins transfers in uniform below a list indicating that the school led the nation with 20 transfer starters since 2020.
Atop the post, on a faux city limits sign, was the slogan: “Welcome to Transfer U.”
The message sparked an immediate uproar on social media and message boards.
Wasn’t this the stuff of teams that can’t get enough high school recruits? How should high school recruits feel about coming to a team trumpeting its transfers? Could this plug-and-play approach really be sustainable?
UCLA coach Chip Kelly gave his input Wednesday, and it wasn’t to thank his social media team.
“That shouldn’t have gone up,” Kelly said. “That was a mistake the head coach saw, and when I saw it, I said, ‘That’s a mistake.’ ”
Would Kelly have the post that by Wednesday morning had generated nearly 500 likes and 60 comments — many of them snarky — deleted?
“Do people go back and look at it afterward?” Kelly asked a reporter inquiring about removing the message. “I’m not in that world, so if you want it off, I’ll take it off.”
Kelly said there was some validity to the thrust of the post, that UCLA was among the teams dominating the transfer market, but that he would continue to blend transfers with high school recruits.
“I think what their point is, we’ve been very efficient with our portal,” Kelly said. “I think the kids we bring in here play and that’s a credit to how we do that. We’ve always approached it like it’s free agency in the National Football League, so how can they contribute to the program?”
Kelly’s transfer recruiting has been an undeniable success. UCLA started nine transfers in its season opener, including running back Zach Charbonnet, left tackle Raiqwon O’Neal and twin edge rushers Gabriel and Grayson Murphy.
USC also brought in a slew of transfers this season, albeit under different circumstances. Craving a swift makeover, new Trojans coach Lincoln Riley imported quarterback Caleb Williams, receiver Jordan Addison and other widely known stars who could transform the team into an instant winner.
By contrast, Kelly has hoarded transfers to plug roster holes created by mass defections and his own undistinguished high school recruiting. UCLA’s high school recruiting classes have shrunk in each of Kelly’s seasons at the school, from a high of 27 players in 2018 to 11 in 2022. Conversely, the number of transfers has ballooned, from two in his first season to 13 this season.
It might feel as if Kelly has all but abandoned high school recruiting given his team has only six players who have verbally committed for the class of 2023. That figure may not rise appreciably because the Bruins have extended the fewest scholarship offers among Pac-12 schools.