For the first time in over 40 years the UCLA Bruins football program will be run be a man with no ties whatsoever to the school. Jim L. Mora, son of famed NFL coach Jim “Playoffs?!?!” Mora, was named the new head coach following a very disappointing 6-7 season in Los Angeles. The Bruins will end the season with an appearance in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against equally disappointing Illinois. Assistant Head Coach Mike Johnson will fill in for fired Rick Neuheisel in the bowl game.
While the writing was on the wall for Neuheisel earlier in the season, UCLA’s 50-0 debacle against cross-town rival USC was the icing on the cake. Because of the Trojans post-season ban, UCLA was given the Pac-12 South’s bid to the first Pac-12 Title game where they lost to Oregon 49-31. At 6-7, the Bruins were given a waiver by the NCAA in order to play in a bowl game. Why a 6-6 team is even bowl eligible speaks volumes of the disaster created by the NCAA and the BCS as it pertains to college football.
So enter Jim Mora and his share of baggage. The 50 year old former Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks has a career head coaching record of 31-33. He led the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth in his first season and it was really downhill from there. A couple of mediocre seasons were capped off by an odd radio interview in which Mora, coach of the Falcons at the time, said if The University of Washington came calling he would return to the Pacific Northwest to coach the Huskies immediately. This just happened to be at a time when the Falcons were still in the midst of a fight for the playoffs.
Although Mora claimed he was “just messing around,” Atlanta Owner Arthur Blank failed to see the humor in it and fired Mora following the season. Following a 5-11 season as Head Coach of Seattle, Mora was relegated to the broadcast booth for FOX and the NFL Network.
Its clear UCLA is hoping to capture the similar magic ‘that school’ across town received when Pete Carroll arrived to lead the Trojans back to national prominence. Carroll had also been an NFL head coach who had been away from the college game for many years. Mora had one winning season as a head coach in the pros. Ironically; Carroll’s 33-31 career record is eerily similar to that of Mora although Carroll-coached teams made two playoff appearances.
Change is typically a good thing for any major college program that has had recent struggles. The first year especially can be a significant year of improvement. Unfortunately, I don’t see the Jim Mora era ending well at UCLA. Lane Kiffin, like him or not, seems to have the ship righted at USC and UCLA will have numerous question marks at key positions in 2012, unlike the Trojans who return a lot of talent.
I also have concerns about Mora’s ability to coach and motivate. He often seems more interested in selling himself rather than his team and in Los Angeles; this is not a real strong quality to have. Throw in new coaches at Arizona and Arizona State and you have an even more difficult recruiting road let alone the product on the field. For the UCLA faithful, I wish you the best, but I don’t see this match working in the long run.
This post was contributed by Jeff Herbst. Jeff has had a passion for sports ever since he could first walk. He works with Phoenix Bats, a company that creates wood bats such as their world-class maple baseball bats for amateur and professional ball players around the world.