UCLA is moving on from Jim Mora.
The program announced Sunday, a day after the Bruins dropped to 5-6 on the year with a loss to rival USC, that Mora has been fired (on his birthday, no less) before the end of his sixth season with the program.
“Making a coaching change is never easy, but it’s an especially difficult decision when you know that a coach has given his all to our university,” said Bruins athletic director Dan Guerrero. “Jim helped reestablish our football program, and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward. While his first four seasons at UCLA were very successful, the past two seasons have not met expectations. We thank Jim and his family for his service to our school and his unquestionable commitment to our student-athletes.”
Overall, Mora totaled a 46-30 (28-26 Pac-12) record at UCLA. The Bruins won the Pac-12 South in his first season, 2012, and won 10 games in 2013 and 2014. However, things have dropped off since then. The team went 8-5 in 2015 and had a miserable 4-8 campaign in 2016, much of which was played with star quarterback Josh Rosen sidelined by injuries.
“I would like to thank Dan Guerrero and the university administration for giving me the chance to work at a great institution for the past six years,” Mora said (full statement here). “Coaching student-athletes at UCLA has been the most rewarding experience of my career, and I know the future is bright for the program.”
UCLA said in a release that the terms of Mora’s contract — i.e. his buyout — will be honored in full “exclusively using department-generated funds.” Guerrero said a national search for a new coach will begin “immediately.” Josh Rebholz, UCLA’s senior associate athletic director, booster Casey Wasserman and longtime Dallas Cowboys QB and former UCLA great Troy Aikman will “assist Guerrero in the search.”
“I am grateful for the willingness of Josh, Casey and Troy to help us recruit the very best coach to Westwood, as their advice and counsel will be indispensable,” said Guerrero. “We have no set timeline to make a hire but will move as expediently and comprehensively as possible. We will not comment on the search or candidates until we announce a hire, and I would remind our passionate supporters that speculation, rumors and innuendo are just that.”
With Mora out of the picture, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will serve as interim coach for the rest of the season. The Bruins have a chance to clinch bowl eligibility at home against Cal on Saturday.
Where does UCLA go moving forward? The name Chip Kelly will certainly be in the discussion. Kelly, the former Oregon and NFL head coach who now works for ESPN, is a candidate at Florida, but he’s been linked to the UCLA job — before it was open — in the past.
What’s unknown here is where Kelly’s head is. He’s famously reclusive, even to those close to him. He’s been speculatively linked to UCLA, a place where he could potentially hide in plain sight amid the din of Los Angeles.
Kelly’s positives are obvious, but there are some “quirks.” From Thamel:
Kelly is a proven commodity, as going 46-7 in four seasons at Oregon established him as one of college football’s most innovative minds of this generation. He’s the surest bet on the board to rejuvenate a program.
There are some quirks to Kelly, many of which revolve around his stated preference of being locked in on coaching his team. Kelly isn’t keen on the booster glad-handing, rubber-chicken banquet speeches and general day-to-day hysteria that come with high-profile coaching jobs. Kelly has a low-key personality off the field, and he’s reiterated to friends that “fit and people” will be the ultimate determinations of where he coaches next.
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