By now, certainly, you've heard, seen or read about new UCLA head coach Jim Mora stepping in the proverbial "it" while speaking on the radio with Roger Lodge. As reported by ESPN, during an appearance on KLAA 830-AM, the coach said:
When you're talking about UCLA, it's one of the great schools in the world—not just America, but in the world. It's a safe, beautiful campus in a great area of town. I mean, we don't have murders one block off our campus.
That comment, which many took to be a jab at crosstown rival USC, really blew up the West Coast. USC, a place where two grad students were brutally slain early this year, read those comments as a line-crossing moment in the rivalry. Mora quickly moved to stem the tide:
After learning the details of the shootings downtown earlier this year, I can understand how my comments on the radio yesterday could be interpreted as insensitive to the victims and their families. The interviewer and myself were talking about UCLA football and the tremendous attributes of the UCLA campus and I truly regret and I'm sorry if my words caused any pain. That was not my intention.
Mora tries to make things right. USC folks are going to remain up in arms. This is what happens when you make this sort of a public misstep. People pounce and feast on the mistake.
Hopefully, Mora learns a very integral part of media relations: Honesty is not the best policy.
Negative recruiting and pumping up your school is a part of the game. That's what coaches all over the country are doing. Whether it is talking about a clogged depth chart at School B, the coeds at School C, your ability to get a kid easy classes at your school or being loose with a drug policy, it happens. You sell your school's assets, and you bash the opposition.
How big of a deal are the comments from Jim Mora?
The problem here is that a lot of negative recruiting makes people get that icky feeling. Many times, as in the case of coaches using the Auburn shooting to boast about having a safe campus, or in this very Mora incident, it probably should. Those things are tragic incidents that affect a university community at its core.
But it's recruiting, and that type of rhetoric gets used all over the nation. It's not a Southern thing. It's not a West Coast thing. It's not a Midwest thing. It's a college football thing.
However, the way that you stop the media, fans and public in general from hammering you over your insensitivity is to not bring it up. You have to know where that line is and understand that the media, the public, is not on your side.
They're waiting for that misstep, and while negative recruiting has, is and will always be a part of college football, you're best served not telling everyone how you get into it.