Dec 032013

Updated 12/3/2013 3:45 pm

Our take on Mora, the Washington rumors, the UCLA coaching staff and the “home run” hire at Southern Cal

We had to laugh at all the reports of Mora being in Washington yesterday. While it makes good drama (and good business) for sites to exploit the fears of UCLA fans, there is not much to it.

First, Sarkisian resigned only yesterday and it seemed to come off as a surprise to the Washington administration. In fact, Sark had said just before resigning that while Southern Cal had contacted him Sunday, there were no negotiations. Looking back, the validity of that statement is dubious if not an outright lie. The idea that Sark resigns in the morning and Washington brings Mora to campus for an JM_1afternoon interview is ludicrous. This is a big decision, involves big money with a lot riding on it for Washington. That means that a number of people in their administration would have to sign off on just contacting Mora, never mind bringing him in for an interview. And Mora showing up there the same day would be a huge PR disaster for him as well. If it was true, can you imagine what would happen if he interviewed and didn’t get the job? Neither side is going to make an emotional decision that quickly.

Anyway, Mora has a lifestyle here now. His son Cole is a freshman on the soccer team at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont. Mora has been seen attending his son’s games and we have always felt there was a connection between Mora taking the UCLA job and his son deciding to attend college nearby. Mora’s parents live in Palm Desert, and his father attends most of the home games.  For those sites speculating that his parents will just move up there with him, forget about it.  Jim and Connie Mora moved to Palm Desert and built their dream retirement home.   They are staying put and anyway, their presence in So Cal was another incentive for Mora to take the UCLA job.     Mora’s wife Shannon is getting very involved in the Jim Mora Foundation, as well as the UCLA community. In other words, they have quickly started planting a life here with stability. Do they really want to move back to Seattle and start again?

By all accounts, Mora is satisfied with his experience at UCLA and our sources tell us he has a very good relationship with Dan Guerrero in spite of what other sites are reporting. The University has upgraded Spaulding Field, is launching a campaign to build a new $50 million dollar on-campus football facility, and have been very open to Mora’s suggestions, such as introducing black as one of the approved colors for marketing and branding purposes (trust us, at UCLA this is a much bigger deal than it would seem on the surface – if you remember the Washington game – Mora asked the fans to come in black, and the AD marketing office countered with “blue or black”).

So in summary, we don’t see Mora leaving, especially for a comparable program like Washington. However, that doesn’t mean that UCLA does not need to do anything to keep him. He is obviously a game changer for the University and it is important to keep him happy. While we have not seen Sark’s contract (and won’t since it is a private school), there is no doubt that Sark will make more than Mora. It is critical that UCLA pay Mora and his staff a competitive salary – show them that they are valued. Even if he does not ask for it, they need to offer it.

Ultimately, if Washington is Mora’s “dream job” there is not much that UCLA can do. Period. However, Mora seems like a man who is motivated by different things than most other coaches. He has passion about his UCLA players, and seems genuinely committed to them. It would be very difficult for him to leave for another PAC-12 job today. Anyone who saw his press conference after the win over Southern Cal would probably agree. He shows none of the signs of a coach looking for greener pastures or the next big opportunity. In other words, he seems content and happy.

The timing is not right for Mora to leave.

What About The Other Coaches On Staff?

Well, Running back Coach Broussard has been let go. While other sites are reporting that DeShaun Foster will automatically get the job, we have not been hearing that. It very well may happen, but we are hearing that Mora is looking at options, including bringing someone in from the outside, and also in re-organizing his staff’s titles and responsibilities. There is some concern about whether Foster is ready or not. As of right now, we only see one (maybe two) of the coaches leaving on their own accord, but it will depend on many factors. We think Coach Klemm will remain, but we can all assume that he will get offers. Good coaches that are also elite recruiters will always be in demand. If we want to keep a coach like that we have to be prepared to pay him and keep him happy.

Why Did USC Hire Sarkisian?

Isn’t this what everyone is asking, especially all USC fans.  USC reportedly was ready to pay up to $6 million on the new coach.  USC is supposedly the premiere place in the country for coaching football, it is in the heart of recruiting nirvana, it has Heisman’s, national championships, heck it even has palm trees.  Isn’t conventional wisdom that they should be able to get just about anyone they want?  Saben, Sumlin, Peterson and the gang were all supposed to be banging on the doors of Heritage Hall, right?

We believe that the termination of Kiffin early in the season created a black hole for the program.  They never wanted Orgeron to be the head coach and never expected him to be successful.  But after he went on his run and a groundswell of support started for Orgeron with fans, alums, donors, recruits, former players, and current players, panic set in at Heritage Hall.  The loss to UCLA gave them the opportunity to get out of the Orgeron dilemma.  For recruiting purposes they did not want to wait until the NFL guys were available and their first tier top college choices had turned them down.

Bottom line is they panicked and brought in a safe choice.  Sarkisian is a good recruiter in So Cal and a good recruiter overall.  He has proven to be a good but not great coach.  He is an offensive mind and can’t command $6 million.  He has USC ties. He is also a good speaker and will be a fine schmoozer with the donors.

Given all that, would you rather have Sark instead of Mora?  Sark over any number of other good coaches?  Would anyone even argue that he is among the top 25 coaches in the country?    Does he stand out?  Is he a home run hire?

The answer is no to all of these questions.

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  1. How do you think all these coaching changes will affect recruiting?

  2. It is too early to predict since there are many factors in play right now, such as does Coach Klemm stay or not? Who is the new running back coach? Etc. Overall, we expect a very solid class in February. We still have a lot of openings and some real difference makers are interested in us.

    As for the USC recruits we are in competition for, we expect their core loyal recruits will stay with Sark. Some of these kids grew up USC fans and their families buy into it. Not much will change that THIS YEAR. The tide is changing for the future however.

    The bigger question is will Sark stick with them? Some of USC’s commitments were never recruited by him.