UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero didn’t want to do this–you know he didn’t.
The last thing on Earth he wanted was to conduct another football coaching search as he heads toward umbrella-drink retirement in 2019.
But, if it was ever going to happen, it was going to happen Sunday. Terrible timing for Jim Mora.
The athletic department was coming off its worst public relations weeks after the shoplifting fiasco in China.
Guerrero, who was on the trip, was already in a foul mood and so was Chancellor Gene Block, also on the China trip with his wife. It was an embarrassing, humiliating escapade that is not over yet. UCLA got in bed with LaVar Ball’s family and woke up Sunday to a tweet fight between Ball and the President of the frigging United States.
Another loss to USC, on Saturday, well, that had to be tipping point. Who cares how hard the Bruins played? Guerrero decided not to wait to see if Mora could become bowl eligible at 6-6 with a win over Cal next week. He wasn’t going to allow GoFundMe a chance to fly another plane banner over the Rose Bowl. If you don’t think Guerrero is pissed off, understand this. He fired Mora on Jim’s 56th birthday.
“Making a coaching change is never easy, but it’s an especially difficult decision when you know that a coach has given his all to our university,” Guerrero said in a statement. “Jim helped reestablish our football program and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward.”
It was the right move–I just never thought Dan had the guts to do it. I said it three years ago, two years ago, one year ago and one month ago: Mora’s future with UCLA was tied to Josh Rosen. If they didn’t win together, they’d go out together. And that’s the way it’s going to happen.
Yeah, there were a lot of injuries, but the bottom line is the bottom line: the Bruins’ record in the Josh Rosen era stands at 17-19. Rosen didn’t play in all those games, but that’s the era. UCLA went to the Foster Farms bowl two years ago, and lost it, to 5-7 Nebraska. That was followed by last year’s 4-8 drop off and this year’s 5-6 face plant.
Rosen was supposed to be a generational, transcendent player. And if he wasn’t, that was never, ever going to be Rosen’s fault.
Mora’s first three years at UCLA were a promising 29-11, which included three wins over sanctions-weakened USC. The last three years have been a slippery-slope slide.
Mora has a $12 million buyout clause and it is important to note that UCLA’s statement specifically mentioned payment would not come from boosters (i.e. Casey Wasserman), but with “athletic-department generated funds.” This is the new power of Pac 12 revenue streams and more important, the schools’ $280 million deal with Under Armour.
No more looking under couch cushions for buyout money. But still, this was a bold swallow for a state school notoriously frugal and deliberative.
And this brings us to “what’s next.” UCLA is better positioned now to hire a top-shelf coach. It is paying top dollar (finally) for assistant coaches, yet the school remains a mysterious, bedeviling jewel. Or is it Pandora’s box?
So where does the school turn? For many years, with mixed results, UCLA relied on cheap labor and former players to get the job done: Terry Donahue, Karl Dorrell, Rick Neuheisel. The school doesn’t have to do that any more. Here are my thoughts on coaches UCLA should consider: The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.