'This shouldn't ruin their lives.' Chip Kelly calls for leniency in locker-room thefts

UCLA coach Chip Kelly stands on the sideline a game against Stanford

They made a mistake. Let them serve the punishment. Then they can move on.

That was the message from UCLA coach Chip Kelly on Wednesday regarding four Beaumont High students suspected of stealing jewelry and other items from Colorado’s locker room late last month at the Rose Bowl during a game between the Buffaloes and the Bruins.

“I think any mistake at that age, I think it’s a very valuable lesson for them to learn,” Kelly said. “But I don’t think — I’m in 100% agreement with [Colorado] coach Deion [Sanders] that this shouldn’t ruin their lives, so. You gotta let the judicial system take its course. But, you know, to ruin their lives? No.”

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On Tuesday, Sanders had called for leniency regarding those accused of stealing jewelry, headphones and cash from his team’s locker room. A Pasadena spokesperson told The Times that some items had been returned by mail to the team and others were seized during Pasadena Police Department searches involving the students.

Kelly said Beaumont football coach Jeff Steinberg called and “expressed his remorse and disappointment” over the situation. Kelly said he did not have any details regarding how many of the students were football players on unofficial visits hosted by UCLA.

“To that game, we had a lot of kids,” Kelly said. “Finding out exactly what the protocols are … it’s a Rose Bowl deal, they’re all badged up. So how do they get into different places, whether it be our locker room or their locker room? You know, I think that was, they’re still trying to get to the bottom of that, of how that occurred.”

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Podcast host Jason Brown recently claimed that at least two of the Beaumont students under investigation were football players removed from the team bus by Pasadena police officers on the way to a playoff game earlier this month. Beaumont’s season ended with a 26-13 loss to Hesperia Oak Hills.

Steinberg has declined to comment and the investigation is ongoing after the case was turned over to the Los Angeles County Juvenile Division.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.