UConn hires Jim Mora as next head football coach

The University of Connecticut has hired former NFL and UCLA coach Jim Mora as its next head coach, the school announced Thursday.

Mora, 59, last coached at UCLA in 2017, and he compiled a 46-30 record and four bowl bids in six seasons at the school. Mora also spent four seasons as an NFL head coach with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks.

It's a big move for UConn, an FBS independent that has publicly declared its commitment to the sport despite uneven recent results. Mora replaces Randy Edsall, whom the school parted ways with in September. UConn is 1-8 this season and plays at Clemson on Saturday.

The hire is unconventional in many ways, as Mora played collegiately at Washington and didn’t spend any time in his coaching career in the Northeast. Mora’s most significant exposure to Connecticut comes from working at ESPN from 2018-20.

Jim Mora Jr. looks on prior to the College Football Playoff title game between Clemson and LSU on Jan.13, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jim Mora Jr. looks on prior to the College Football Playoff title game between Clemson and LSU on Jan.13, 2020, in New Orleans. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Mora’s hire matches with UConn’s ambition to become a prominent Northeast football brand. While the football program left the AAC so its powerhouse basketball programs could be lodged in the Big East, UConn viewed this hire as the key to staying relevant as a Northeast independent.

“I’m not going to compare ourselves to the likes of Notre Dame,” UConn athletic director David Benedict told Yahoo Sports earlier this year. “But BYU is not necessarily so far out of the realm of comparison that we can’t establish ourselves like BYU as an independent.”

Mora’s hire is a sign of Connecticut’s commitment, as Benedict had said the school would be willing to pay upward of $2 million annually for a coach. The commitment to football is so important to the school that Gov. Ned Lamont declared he was “all in” on football at UConn.

Along with Mora being a proven commodity at the college and NFL levels, he enters the job with a huge advantage. Mora will have five weeks to get to know the roster, work the transfer portal and attempt to recruit before the Dec. 15 early signing day. Mora’s hire continues the trend of schools making moves early in the cycle to gain an advantage around the sport’s modern calendar.

UConn has gone 4-29 over the past four years and didn’t play in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The school hasn’t reached a bowl game since 2015 or registered a winning record since the Fiesta Bowl season of 2010.

Since being fired in November 2017, Mora has still been getting paid by UCLA. His contract with the Bruins runs out in January.