It didn’t take long for UCLA to find a rebound after breaking up with Rick Neuheisel a few weeks ago as the school has reportedly hired Jim L. Mora (aka Jim Mora Jr.) to be its next head football coach.
Perhaps L.A. will find itself in another Pete Carroll-esque football fairytale: A failed NFL coach has a tough pill to swallow, taking a perceived demotion to keep his career alive and turns out to be a college football genius, creating one of the most dominating programs in the nation. Carroll was 49 years old when he landed the USC job, Mora is 50. USC football was down in the dumps at the time, just like UCLA is now, not having made the Rose Bowl in a school-record 13 seasons.
After finishing 6-7, UCLA will play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl with offensive coordinator Mike Johnson at the helm as interim coach. Johnson served as the Falcons quarterbacks coach under Mora in Atlanta, a connection that bodes well for Johnson who may very well get to keep his job as a result. UCLA is expected to officially announce the Mora hire Saturday.
This hire is interesting to me in that UCLA’s first choice was Boise State’s Chris Petersen, who is one of the “it” coaches in college football. Everything about Petersen screams “college.” After Petersen turned down the gig, UCLA appraoched Miami’s Al Golden (who wasn’t interested) and subsequently met wth Houston’s Kevin Sumlin who was not offered the job, according to the LA Times.
It appears as though after most of the big names in college ball either already took jobs elsewhere (like Urban Meyer, Rich Rodriguez, etc.) or declined UCLA’s offer, the Bruins went to the next big name they could find, even though he lacks experience at the collegiate level.
That’s where Jim Mora comes in. Sure, we know his name, his famous father and “PLAYOFFS!?!” Sure, he has been a head coach before, but in the NFL, with the Atlanta Falcons, and most recently, Seattle Seahawks before being fired and replaced by Pete Carroll in the offseason of 2010. In fact, Mora’s only coaching at the collegiate level came in 1984 as a graduate assistant at the University of Washington, his alma mater, according to the LA Times. Mora has spent the last two seasons as a television analyst for NFL Network and co-hosts a podcast as well.
According to the LA Times, Mora was interested in the UCLA job from the get-go, meeting with university officials twice. Mora’s interest in the Bruins gig wasn’t completely out of left field as he was born in Los Angeles and his father served as an assistant coach at UCLA in 1974.
With Carroll out, Kiffin in, and still no NFL team, this would be a golden opportunity for UCLA to get its Mojo back. Mora’s name alone will help sell tickets but UCLA alumni and Los Angeles football fans will demand success on the field in order to sustain their interest in the Bruins. Mora certainly has his work cut out for him.
To read the LA Times article about UCLA’s hiring of Jim L. Mora, click here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-spw-ucla-jim-mora-20111210,0,3170928.story
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