Jim Mora opens up on accepting UConn job, vision for Huskies

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Jim Mora cropped 1/5/2021
Jim Mora cropped 1/5/2021

UConn turned heads Thursday when it announced Jim Mora as its next head football coach. The Huskies replaced Randy Edsall, who stepped aside Sept. 6, with an outside candidate in Mora.

Prior to working for ESPN from 2018-21 as a college football studio analyst, Mora was UCLA's head coach. Mora, who went 46-30 overall and 29-24 against Pac-12 Conference play over a seven-year stint with the Bruins from 2012-17, revealed at Thursday's introductory news conference why UConn piqued his interest to come back.

"Listen -- I recognize the challenge and I relish the challenge," he said. "I'm a competitor. I love to compete. And I love a hard challenge. There's a saying that I really like, and that's, 'Hard things are hard.' And I just think this is an amazing opportunity. You know, when the job came open, I expressed my interest. I have a burning desire to coach again for many, many reasons. I love being on the sidelines. I love the competitive aspect of recruiting and the game. I love the strategic part."

UCLA went 9-5 (6-3) in 2012 and posted consecutive 10-win seasons from 2013-14. Mora, a Los Angeles native and the son of former NFL head coach Jim E. Mora, takes over the Huskies after a primarily West Coast career.

"Maybe more than anything, though, I love the relationships with the players," Mora said. "I love beginning a relationship with a family and a young man at an early age and helping them get to where they want to be in life. And typically, these young men come into a school like UConn with desires to go on and play in the NFL. And I've certainly been able to have some success in helping young men get to that point.

"But I think I'm equally as proud of the fact that the student-athletes that I was able to coach at UCLA, they graduated and they were prepared for life after football. They were prepared for success after football. And so, when you marry what I think is really with the values of UConn, I think they're absolutely in sync. I mean, this is a nationally prominent brand. There's a desire for athletic excellence. And yet, there's also a desire for (academic) excellence."

Mora was also an NFL head coach with the Atlanta Falcons (2004-06) and Seattle Seahawks (2009), going 31-33 overall. UConn, which is unaffiliated with a football conference and has not recorded a winning season since the 2010 campaign's 8-5 finish, has ground to make up but Mora has high hopes for the Huskies.

"There's a tremendous balance right there," Mora said. "As I got into discussions with (director of athletics) David (Benedict) and we got deeper into this thing, my juices just really started to flow. And it became something that I was very, very passionate about. And I know the facilities there are great. I know there's a fertile recruiting grounds around that area. And it just is an opportunity for me to do what I love at a place that I'm really growing to love.

"David afforded me the opportunity to talk to about 11 different people at the government level, at the university, some of our most ardent supporters. And to a T, everyone expressed the exact same sentiment about UConn and UConn football -- and that was one of pride and one of support. And so, for somebody like me, I gravitate toward that. So I'll just tell you what ... I couldn't be more excited."