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
His coaching ability might be questionable, but there is no doubt that Rick Neuheisel, UCLA’s lame-duck football coach, is a well liked and respected person.
Wednesday was Neuheisel’s last practice as the Bruins head football coach after being relieved of his duties by his alma mater on Monday, but will remain with the team through their game against Oregon for the Pac 12 conference championship on Friday.
The UCLA players gave Neuheisel a special send off after Wednesday’s practice by picking him and carrying him off the field as they sung the school’s fight song.
According to the LA Times, “Asked if he could have received a better tribute, Neuheisel said, ‘It’s tough to imagine. It’s meaningful when you work to create relationships. You want the best for them, you want them to achieve what they are capable of achieving. Despite the fact that we didn’t win enough games, I think they are achieving as people. I am extremely proud to be a part of this team and I’m looking forward to a grand finish.’”
A source close to the football program told me that while they were not aware of exact details surrounding his firing, they felt bad for Neuheisel, his children and the UCLA players. The source said the public scrutiny is just cruel in times like these. And it’s not even USC!
Clearly, the players like this guy and are sad to see him go as many have gone on record in support of Neuheisel saying they would do their best to beat the Ducks on his behalf. But the saying still rings true: Nice guys finish last.
Being a nice, affable person might help you recruit but doesn’t necessarily translate to play calling or game management on the field. A record below .500 over four seasons just doesn’t cut it, even for a program that hasn’t been successful in several years.
But hey, there is a silver lining here… Justin Combs, son of Diddy, has committed to UCLA despite the impending exit of the coach who recruited him. Will Diddy Jr. ever be a factor on the team? Who knows, but at least UCLA countered USC’s move of signing Lil Romeo - son of Master P - to the basketball team a few years back.
While it remains to be seen who will serve as the next Bruins football coach, at least we can expect to see one big name on UCLA’s sideline… or in Diddy’s case, several:
Sean, Puff, Sean John, Puff Daddy, Puffy, P. Diddy, and now, perhaps, Diddy Bruin Daddy
For more on Justin Combs, click here: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/high_school/football/hollywood_bound_iona_prep_combs_9aPreLYgj1MJlRCeW2CLOP
News of Puerto Rican officials seizing nearly 500 pounds of Cocaine worth more than $4 million from a home owned by professional boxer Ivan Calderon reminded me of something.
First thing that came to mind was a scandal in Tuscon, a 2-for-1 scandal of sorts, involving the Arizona Wildcats football team.
For starters, the Puerto Rican boxer has denied any knowledge of the cocaine found in his home, which he cited as one of many investment properties.
Now back to Tuscon… I was a sophomore, the year was 2002, circa mid-November when some of my buddies from the football team stopped by my dorm room for a little chat one evening.
The players told me that then-head coach John Mackovic had dished out verbal lashings to some players after an ugly 37-7 loss to UCLA all hell had broken loose since.
Athletes are used to being yelled at by coaches, right? Well apparently everyone has a breaking point, even big, tough football players. According to the players, verbal abuse was Mackovic’s every-day-way, and after the UCLA loss, the coach crossed the line when he hurled expletives at junior tight end Justin Levasseur and told him he was an embarrassment to the team and a disgrace to his family.
Didn’t anyone ever tell Coach Mack you DO NOT bring up mamas and families when trash talking? It’s a rule.
Anyway, the incident prompted more than 40 players, led by then-senior linebacker Lance Briggs, to head over to university President Pete Likins’ office for a chat where the players voiced their concerns and complaints about the 59-year-old coach, in his second year at Arizona at the time.
The meeting with President Likins led to Mackovic apologizing publicly and privately for his actions, but the team remained divided. The Wildcats went on to win only one more game and finished the season 4-8 overall with only one Pac10 victory.
In a strange twist of fate, only a few weeks later Levasseur was arrested on drug trafficking charges after he was stopped while driving through Illinois with 87 pounds of marijuana in his truck.
Perhaps Coach Mack was on to something… but both men would be punished in the end.
Mackovic was unable to regain the trust or respect of his players and was fired 5 games into the 2003 football season. He has not coached at the collegiate level since.
As for Levasseur, he pleaded guilty to a Class 1 felony charge (while two others were dropped), saying that he got mixed up with the wrong crowd in college, and low on cash, made a terrible decision. Levasseur’s father publicly claimed that his son’s actions were spurred by greed. While Levasseur’s football career was over at age 22, he was lucky to avoid serving jail time as he was sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to pay more than $275,000 in fines.
It looks like Levasseur is doing just fine these days, as he is “in a relationship” and living in Phoenix, according to his Facebook page
The last major character in this story is Lance Briggs. In reading his quotes from the Arizona Daily Wildcat back in 2002 ( http://wc.arizona.edu/papers/96/57/02_1.html ), one can see that Briggs was well on his way to bigger and better things on the football field and as a leader.
This was a time when young men were not afraid to stand up for themselves and speak out against something they felt was wrong. They displayed a type of bravery that has been lacking in today’s NCAA. Perhaps current students and faculty alike should borrow this page from Briggs’ old playbook.
While the Arizona football program has suffered several miserable seasons (until recently), the Chicago Bear and six time Pro Bowl selection is one of the few guys us Wildcats can brag about. So for that, I say thanks Lance, and Beardown!
Referee-Inspired Streaker Charged With Criminal Impersonation And An Arizona Alum’s Confessions of Rushing The Field, Dreams of Streaking
If you missed Thursday night’s UCLA vs. Arizona football game, televised nationwide on ESPN, consider yourself lucky. The 48-12 blow out of the Bruins was only worth watching for the following three reasons:
1) You are an Arizona fan or alum, like me
2) You like to see athletes make themselves look like idiots by brawling mid-game
3) You enjoy the art that is creative streaking.
Just before halftime, with Arizona already leading UCLA 42-7, this dope, now identified as 22-year-old UA student Jace Lankow hopped out of the stands and onto the field wearing a referee’s uniform (he threw a wrinkle into the standard Zebra uni by wearing shorts). Here’s a quick play-by-play of what ensued. Lankow finds himself in the middle of a stopped play and did his best ref impression before taking off running while simultaneously taking off his clothes! I’m telling you, I laugh every time I watch the video. He was quickly tackled by security, although not soon enough as he was already down to his undies by the time they took him down. The best part of the video is when security is on top of him, getting the kid in handcuffs when they all start looking in one direction… turns out nakie-boy was just the warm-up act for a bench-clearing brawl between the Bruins and Wildcats which resulted in a few player ejections.
According to KOLD-TV in Tucson, Lankow was booked and charged with criminal impersonation!!! I’m laughing as I’m typing because you can’t even make this stuff up. Impersonating who, a Footlocker employee?
To quote Tim Cowlishaw on Around The Horn, “Don’t condone it, but the streaker looked a lot more like a ref than UCLA looked like a football team or Rick Neuheisel looked like a football coach.”
I echo Cowlishaw’s sentiments all the way around.
First thing’s first; it’s all too easy to rush the field at Arizona Stadium. The first time I did it (yes, it happened more than once) was when we beat the Washington Huskies on November 8, 2003, snapping an eight game losing streak. It was our only Pac10 win of the season (we finished the year 2-10 overall, yikes!), my best friend who was a player on the team had a GREAT game, and the crowd treated this victory like it was a Rose Bowl win.
With time still ticking in the clock, I turned to my parents, who were visiting from California, handed them my purse, and said, “Hold this, I’m going in!!!” I remember my Mom yelling, “Jaaaaccqquelllline!!!” I ran a few rows down, looked over the fence, and jumped, getting a little help from a male cheerleader down below. Yes, the crowd rushed the field in celebration of beating the only other winless team in the Pac10. Sounds pathetic, but I had tears of joy in my eyes. It was our equivalent of a bowl game victory, and a moment I will forever cherish.
Thursday’s ref-inspired streaker looks like he had similar seats in the student section based on the video, so it’s no surprise he made it on the field as easily as he did.
His wouldn’t be the first creative stunt pulled on the U of A campus. Streaking was quite popular when I was a student at Arizona and my friends and I joked that before we graduated, our goal was to streak and end up in the “Police Beat,” a section of the Daily Wildcat detailing all on-campus arrests in a funny, yet factual fashion. Is that not the worst college-related goal you’ve ever heard of?
Anyway, our streaking fantasy was to run through the Integrated Learning Center, (a luxurious and popular new addition to the main library at the time) during finals week in hopes of providing some comic relief to our fellow stir-crazy and exhausted students. Thankfully, we were all too chicken to go through with it, we never even came close, but those late-night, five cups of coffee-induced conversations sure bring back fond memories.
The brilliance of this student to use a referee’s uniform to accomplish his streaking mission comes as no shock, as The University of Arizona is a breeding ground for creative minds.
UA’s Planetary Sciences department leads the nation in building spacecraft sent to Mars, the school houses the world’s most cleverly-named kosher restaurant, the Oy Vey Cafe, and Arizona students were the first to pie Ann Coulter in the face.
Clearly, the ref-streaker was just following a long tradition of innovative Wildcats who came before him. No harm, no foul.