Los Angeles college football coaches have had some tough run-ins with the media this season, but coach Jim Mora Jr.'s battle with L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers might have been the worst confrontation of all.
Following UCLA's 35-17 loss to Stanford last week, Simers asked — in a somewhat confrontational manner — whether Mora has tanked the game in an effort to play Stanford again in the Pac-12 championship instead of having to face-high powered Oregon for a chance to play in the Rose Bowl.
Of course, Mora disputed the claim.
"I've never, in my life, stepped on the field to compete and not given my best. Nor will I ever," Mora said. "
Simers said Mora did something similar during preseason NFL games when he was a coach in the league and Mora replied that those games didn't count.
The ordeal seemed to boil over when other media stepped in to ask questions, but about four minutes later, Simers chimed in by telling Mora: "There's nothing better to developing a winning culture than going to a Rose Bowl. So your easier path to the Rose Bowl was Stanford."
"Is that a question or a statement?" Mora asked. "If you're asking me a question, I'd be happy to answer it. If you're going to make statements, then make them… What I thought about was Stanford, playing and beating Stanford. That was all we thought about. That was it. That was the end of the world for us. The universe dropped off after the Stanford game. That's all we wanted to do.
"This is a press conference where you ask questions. If you want to come up here and take the mic, there's a seat here and a seat here. It'd be great. I'd love to have you up here. You don't scare me."
OK, Simers is a columnist and he's well-known for stirring the pot. His points are valid and even some of the other media point out how UCLA played a lot like old UCLA against the Cardinal and not like the team that defeated USC a week earlier. With Stanford, UCLA knows what it's getting. The game is fresh, what happened is fresh, there's not a lot of motivating to do. With Oregon — a team that just demolished Oregon State — it would take a lot more work to get ready, especially on a short week.
Not saying UCLA tanked the game on purpose, but in terms of writing a conspiracy theory column, Simers was asking the right questions. And if UCLA ends up beating Stanford and playing in the Rose Bowl, Mora is going to look like a genius.
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