Jim Mora Runs a Professional Operation at UCLA — Not So Much

Mora ucla coach from video

Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out

In a gag-me-with-a-spoon move coming from two time zones away, ESPN’s Adam Rittenburg dished up an unappetizing morsel about the professionalism of Jim Mora and the UCLA football program. Mora, it seems, runs his organization like an NFL team.

Since Rittenburg went to Northwestern and is currently rumored to be living just outside Chicago, he is a good candidate for being spoon-fed what appears to be a promo piece for the temper brewin’ Bruin. But those of us living in the One True Time Zone know better. Jim Mora’s professional approach to football is the subject of this week’s Three-and-Out.

1. The guy never stood a chance. Let’s get straight to the impossible-to-overcome issue, which is Mora’s sensitive formative years as a player and then as a coach. Bottom line: The guy is a Husky. He played under Don James from 1980 through 1983 and got his coaching start as a graduate assistant under James in 1984.

Moras football career was born on the wrong side of the tracks.


Mora’s football career was born on the wrong side of the tracks.

Let’s just hope that when Mora talks about running his UCLA program in the NFL way, he doesn’t take it as far as James did. While James won recognition for National Coach of the Year in 1977, 1984 and 1991, he was compelled to resign after the 1992 season. It turned out that the program was just a little “too professional” — boosters providing “jobs” for players but not requiring them to work, some instances where recruiting funds went to players and recruits … that sort of thing.

What’s bizarre is that — even after 11 straight beat downs — Washington fans still brag about their semi-quasi national football championship in 1991 and conveniently forget that they sort of cheated to get it. But that’s an issue for another day.

2. Jim Mora, NFL Coach. Rittenburg’s novel — excuse me, article — states, “His NFL roots shape the college program he oversees.”

Uh — okay, let’s take a look at Mora’s NFL coaching career. His overall record as an NFL head coach was 32-34. He had one winning season with the Atlanta Falcons — his first, when he was playing with someone else’s money.

Mora followed that season up by going 8-8, and then 7-9 the following year. Apparently not interested in sticking with the inevitable 6-10 that would have been the natural mathematical progression for the next year, the Falcons fired him.

For some strange reason it appears he did more radio work than television.

from video

For some strange reason it appears he did more radio work than television. Go figure.

After Mora’s two-year stint as a “broadcaster” — which is coach-speak meaning either unemployed or retired (and he was too young to retire) — the Seattle Seahawks latched on to the former Dog in 2009. But as it happened, the Seahawks had higher aspirations than the 5-11 season that he delivered, so it was back to being a “broadcaster” for Mora. Two years passed, and then finally, UCLA came knocking …

3. UCLA’s Professionally-Run Organization. To find someone to write glowing comments about Jim Mora’s professional way of doing things, UCLA obviously had to go farther east than Kansas, which sort of explains the Rittenburg/Chicago connection.

Why not Kansas? In last year’s Alamo Bowl against Kansas State, UCLA squandered a 31-6 halftime lead, but held on to win, 40-35. On the post-game handshake, Mora snubbed Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, arguably one of the most respected coaches in the game.

Mr. Principles-R-Us was apparently upset that a KSU player bolted through the line and hit UCLA QB Brett Hundley as he was taking a knee on the game’s final play.

Never mind that UCLA was penalized 15 times for 128 yards in the game. That’s bad enough and only gets worse when you consider that it wasn’t even Pac-12 refs. But you do the math. The penalties were obviously not all five-yarders, with 53 yards to spare.

Throw in the cheap shots that Mora’s players have taken at opponents such as this Eddie Vanderdoes number on Jake Fisher and you come to the conclusion that Mora’s ethics are more situational than professional.

Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich have a professional hissy fit in front of players during Oregon game.

from video

Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich have a professional hissy fit in front of players during Oregon game.

To Mora’s credit, his teams have gone 10-3 each of the past two seasons, which is not bad. But he has yet to coach a win over a top 10 team, and last year he had narrow misses while winning against Colorado (overtime) and California (by two points). Then with the Pac-12 South on the line, the Bruins choked against a Stanford team having an off year. And they choked ugly, 31-10. Even the Heimlich Maneuver wouldn’t have saved them.

True to his Husky roots — and his professional experience in the NFL — Mora has brought a penchant for losing to the Westwood campus, at least when it comes to games against Oregon.

But if all of this isn’t enough to convince you of the professionalism that Mora brings to the UCLA campus, here’s a tantalizing cut of him — perhaps inspired by Jameis Winston? — professionally dropping the f-bomb in front of students at a pep rally that was canceled due to tuition hike protests:

In each of Mora’s three years at UCLA, the Bruins have gone 6 – 3 in conference play — good, but not going anywhere. It’s certainly not deserving of the rave reviews coming out of Chicago, especially considering that this has been during a time when USC was down due to NCAA sanctions. With the sanctions now over, Mora can only thank his lucky stars that USC had the foresight to hire Steve Sarkisian away from the Huskies.

With Huskies in charge, the future of college football in LA remains hazy.


With Huskies in charge, the future of college football in LA remains hazy.

With two former Huskies in place in the epicenter of the fertile West Coast football recruiting grounds, it will be an interesting contest to see who is more successful at snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. It could be a long time before the Pac-12 Championship trophy ever smells the smog of Southern California again. In the mean time, the situation in Los Angeles remains just Ducky.

Top photo from video

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Mike Merrell

Mike Merrell

Mike (Editor-in-Chief) is a 1970 graduate of the University of Oregon where he attended the Honors College and received all-conference honors as a swimmer. After college, Mike ran for the Oregon Track Club and narrowly missed qualifying for the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. He continues his involvement in sports with near-daily swimming or running workouts, occasional masters swim competition (where he has received two Top-10 World rankings), providing volunteer coaching to local triathletes and helping out with FishDuck.com. Mike lives on 28 acres in the forest near Sandpoint, Idaho, where he has served as a certified public accountant for most of his working career. His current night job is writing novels about Abby Westminster, the only known illegitimate daughter of Britain's finest secret agent who has to bring down arch-villains plotting dastardly deeds. And, yes, Abby is also a DUCK!

  • J.Lewis

    The yr before Mora took over, the Trojans had beaten UCLA 50-0 at the end of the season, so they’ve come a long way since then including beating a Sr Barkley led Trojan team the very next yr that had nothing to do w/sanctions genius. A little fact for you old man, your Ducks had more upper class starting OL last yr than Mora has had all 3 yrs coaching the Bruins…combined! Things are a changin’! Do ur freaking Homework before writing such a meaningless article..but I know homework is a foreign word to anybody who spent 4 or 5 yrs in Eugene.

    • SeattleDuck

      Have fun with your clown coach who doesn’t know what to do on gameday.

      Question before you go: If a 4-star signs at UCLA but transfers before ever playing a down, was he ever a 4-star signing to begin with? Bye Priest Willis!

      • Tom

        I don’t know why I’m replying since you don’t seem to be a rational or knowledgeable person, but Priest Willis played a solid amount the last two years. Don’t really know what you’re trying to say.

        • SeattleDuck

          Sorry I didn’t respond to this immediately; I got caught up reading about how another 4-star transferred away from UCLA (Woulard).

      • SonofWestwood

        SeattleDuck, dude, you’re a straight up tool. So eager to jump on Mike Merrell’s rickety bandwagon you missed the tiny fact that Willis played in 12-games last season. Back to school ya duck d*** ridin’ hater. http://www.uclabruins.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=30500&ATCLID=209043560

    • Mike Merrell

      Congratulations to Mora for not losing 50-0 to USC.

      I certainly agree that the Ducks had more “upper class” just on the OL than Mora has shown in all three years coaching the Bruins, or will ever have for that matter — f-bombing a pep rally, for crying out loud!

      Changing? 6-3,6-3,6-3 in conference play. Homework? I did enough to know that “homework” is not a proper noun and should therefore not be capitalized.

      “Do ur freaking Homework …” — classic.

  • Tom

    I feel bad for this author. It might be fun to write this sort of thing; Oregon fans will no doubt enable you and its probably therapeutic to bash people based on information you found on the internet, and then come to amusing conclusions based on that information. I think when you finish writing an article like this, you have to ask yourself: how is this constructive? Did you contribute anything to anyone? I think its great to be a die hard supporter of a team, but this kind of writing lacks composure and maturity and really only serves to piss people off, while making yourself a target of people’s hatred. I just don’t understand why people write these incendiary, trolling articles that don’t lack any objective truth and are seriously selfdestructive.

    • SeattleDuck

      At the end of that very long paragraph I went back to the beginning, re-read the opening statement, and I think you can rest easy knowing that nobody needs you to feel bad for them.


    Seriously sounds like some Hurt DOG Fans here as everything about Mora is true, as he negatively recruits against Oregon and all in all he’s just really not that great of a Coach. USC had sanctions put on them because of what, because of cheating and Pete Carroll was one of the best. Talk about deflated Footballs, they were pretty good at it. The Mutt’s SUCK and they are very good at it as well as their Coaching fraternity. Make no Bones about it Mora is not an ethical Coach just as Sarkisian. If you people are all Butt Hurt about the truth then go somewhere else and WHINE!

  • SonofWestwood

    Ya know….. We Bruins like to think Husky and Duck fans have more class than to pile on to a desperately blatant plea for attention like this. This entire piece is a whiff — a silly cheap shot that clearly exposes Mr. Morrell’s envious grudge against the LA Schools (where he obviously couldn’t get in) and whose only hope for exposure is (a) the “real” press is off for the summer and (b) enough UCLA Fans might actually stumble upon this sinking ship of a blog to jump in to rescue the “writer” from his lifelong insecurity issues, professional irrelevancy and the small, yellow member perched at the top of his goofy, green galoshes. Nice try, Mike. Don’t quit your day job. Oh, and Good luck with Vernon Adams (and hapless Lundquist for that matter) the Spartans, Trojans and Cardinal — Not So Much. #GOBRUINS

  • C Carter

    Ha Ha the writer sounds like is but still hurts from the decades of pounding UW put on the ducks. FYI we still own Oregon head to head in victories. Oregon claim to fame is beating Washington 11 straight years but fails to mention those were the 11 worst teams in UW history.

    In the end UW is so much more of a University than Oregon you can’t even compare them.

    UW has more Trophies than Oregon.. And better history.

    FYI can I still buy a 12-0 Duck T-shirt.. Lol.. You guys actually printed those.. When you were actually 12-1…