UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland is used to the rabid attention his team gets throughout the season and beyond. But on Thursday, he'll get to experience something that's a little different from the norm for UCLA.
He'll get to coach a game that nobody can watch. NCAA rules allow for men's basketball teams to conduct a practice scrimmage against another Division I team but forbid anybody from watching it beyond "athletic department staff members and those individuals necessary to conduct the practice scrimmage."
So when UCLA scrimmages Cal State Fullerton at the Los Angeles Sports Arena Thursday afternoon, they'll do it under lock and key.
"Sorry you guys can't come tomorrow," Howland said during a media teleconference on Wednesday evening. "Even Ryan Finney (UCLA basketball's sports information director) can't come. It's sort of amazing."
The NCAA rules are so strict, UCLA won't be able to share a score nor any statistics from the scrimmage with any media outlets. Pac-12 rival Washington and head coach Lorenzo Romar (who served as an assistant at UCLA in the mid 1990's) ran into some troubles with these rules when he mentioned a scrimmage between the current team and a team of former Huskies (many currently locked out of the NBA). The Seattle Times reported Washington "positioned ushers and closed the curtains around the main floor (at Edmundson Pavilion) to keep the scrimmage private."
Howland won't need to put a curtain up around the Sports Arena court and isn't that worried about getting the team situated while Pauley Pavilion undergoes renovations. No fans can come Thursday, but the Bruins play 14 games this year at the Sports Arena, and Howland does hope to see lots of Bruins fans make the trip for those games.
"The athletic department is doing everything it can to help people get to those games and support our team," Howland said. "I think we'll have free buses for students and buses for a nominal fee from Jackie Robinson Stadium so they can be bused down and back."
The buses won't be running tomorrow but Howland is clearly more focused on using his time during the preseason to coach and prepare this group of players to become a team. Having a chance to face off against Cal State Fullerton, even with nobody else around to see it, will be an invaluable learning opportunity.
"Playing against a Division I team with Division I athletes is a good thing," Howland said.