Former UCLA head coach Jim Mora and former Bruins offensive line coach Adrian Klemm have been named in three separate lawsuits by three former UCLA football players all alleging mishandling of injuries. Mora and Klemm were named alongside UCLA’s regents, trainer Anthony Venute and the NCAA.
The three suits, filed separately, have been filed by former UCLA offensive linemen John Lopez, Poasi Moala and Zachary Bateman. Lopez and Moala say the UCLA staff mishandled their respective concussion diagnoses, while Bateman says his foot injury was mishandled.
While filed on apart from each other, the suits allege similar treatment from the football staff. Below are separate portions taken from Lopez’s and Moala’s filings, obtained by the Los Angeles Daily News.
UCLA’s concussion policy “was mainly for show, as players were rushed through the process in order to return them to the playing field as soon as possible without properly clearing their return to play,” the Lopez suit alleges.
“The team’s punishing practice regime left no time for Moala to recover from any of the post-concussion symptoms he experienced and the team’s supposed post-concussion protocol was well-known to the players to be just for show and was not followed in any meaningful way by the coaches and trainers,” the Moala suit alleges.
The players also say the UCLA staff belittled and humiliated players in front of others, dismissing their injury claims to get them back on the field as quickly as possible.
In fact Lopez said he was singled out by Klemm in a special drill in which teammates dealt Lopez repeated hits to the head.
“Come on, guys!” Klemm said according to the suit. “(Expletive) him up!”
Lopez said he suffered concussions in 2013 and ’14 during practices and a third in 2015 after hitting his head during a fall, sending him into a downward spiral that culminated in a 2016 suicide attempt.
UCLA had seven players diagnosed with concussions during the team’s 2013 training camp, five of them offensive linemen.
“I don’t know why we seem to have this rash of head injuries,” Mora said at the time. “I’m not sure how serious all of them are, but we’re going to treat them all as if they’re very serious.”
Bateman says he was discouraged from seeking an MRI on his feet from a member of UCLA’s training staff, but an MRI conducted by an outside specialist discovered two fractures on his right foot.
“While we cannot comment on the specific details of a pending lawsuit, we want to make it clear that the health and safety of our student-athletes is UCLA’s top priority,” UCLA said in a statement. “We strongly deny and will defend ourselves against the allegations made in the lawsuits. We handle every injury with the highest standard of care. Our team physicians and sports medicine staff work hand-in-hand on diagnosis, monitoring and treatment, and they are the only individuals who determine when a student-athlete is cleared to participate in their sport; coaches are not involved in these decisions. Moreover, we take potential head injuries very seriously. As one of the world’s leading research institutions, and a partner in the largest-ever concussion research study conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense and NCAA, we believe our concussion protocol is among the strongest in the country.”
The suits seek up to $15 million in damages.
Mora was fired after the 2017 season and spent the 2018 campaign as an ESPN college football studio analyst. Klemm, who was hit with an NCAA show-cause penalty in September 2016, was let go in January of 2017 and was not in coaching for the 2018 campaign. The Pittsburgh Steelers hired him in February as the club’s assistant offensive line coach.