UCLA appears to have made the best of what could have become a bad situation with the hiring of former Seahawks coach Jim Mora Jr.
The Bruins, who had hired two straight alums in Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel, turned to somebody slightly out of the box. It’s a pivotal hire for UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who didn’t cover himself with glory in the past two football hires, and some believe his job rests with this one.
From the time Mora voiced his interest on a Seattle radio station recently, I thought he was a good choice for the Bruins. They made the obligatory push for Boise State’s Chris Petersen and came up short, and thrashed around for a time before settling on Mora.
Mora can use his experience at two NFL jobs, the Seahawks and Falcons, to impress upon recruits that he knows what it takes to get to the NFL. And he won’t lack for energy, saying, “We’re going to attack recruiting with relentless passion.”
The challenge will be adapting to the college game. He played at Washington, of course, but his coaching expertise is all at the professional level, save for a season (1984) at the UW as a grad assistant. From there, it was on to five different professional teams.
He’ll want to hire some staffers, key ones, with college experience. It takes somebody familiar with the labyrinthine NCAA recruiting rules — what and when is a dead period, or a quiet period — for a program to stay on top of things. Beyond that, there are the basics of simply planning 20-hour weeks (the maximum allowable for athletes by the NCAA) and all the other workings of a team within a university, not unto its own.
Across town is USC, which will come off a strong 2011 season into a three-year period of recruiting sanctions, dropping yearly scholarships from a max of 25 to 15. How Mora takes advantage of that penalty — and ultimately how it equates on the field — will say a lot about whether his first real tenure as a college coach is successful.