Jim L. Mora is entering just his second season as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins after spending the last 25 years either coaching or broadcasting for the NFL. Although Mora had next to no collegiate coaching experience before taking the head job in Westwood—he spent just one season as a graduate assistant for the University of Washington in 1984—the coach has already made a splash around the NCAA.
Since taking the helm of the UCLA program, Mora has captured a Pac-12 South Division title, resurrecting a team that posted a mediocre record of 64-63 over the prior 10 seasons.
He also seems to have revitalized a fanbase that was becoming frustrated with subpar performance, illustrated by the 21 percent increase in attendance last season.
Where Mora has made arguably his biggest impact for the Bruins, however, has been in recruiting. This, more than any other part of his success, has come as the biggest surprise to critics who questioned whether a coach with no collegiate experience could handle the grueling recruiting trail.
Over the last two recruiting periods with Mora leading the charge, the Bruins have pulled in the 13th- and eighth-best classes, respectively, based on Rivals.com, and have thoroughly closed the gap with crosstown rival USC.
Mora has done everything right so far in the recruiting game.
He hired a team of excellent assistant coaches, most notably Adrian Klemm and Demetrice Martin, who came in with strong recruiting backgrounds and ties from around the country. He has also re-packaged the Bruins with an exciting, up-tempo style of play, much to the excitement of 17- and 18-year-old recruits.
However, one factor that has been talked about a lot less that has invariably played a big role in Mora's recruiting success is his NFL pedigree.
Although recruits often talk about the importance of education and family atmosphere when making their decisions, it would be naive to say that many top recruits are motivated by anything other than dreams of the NFL. These kids are looking for a place where they can play, gain exposure and ultimately find a home on draft day.
Mora, a coach with a wealth of experience evaluating and developing NFL talent, makes UCLA a location all the more desirable to these forward-thinking recruits. As an experienced coach, Mora can see when he has an advantage and has not been afraid to pitch his NFL resume.
"I'm going to use the credibility I've gained in coaching in the NFL for 25 years to get myself into some of those homes," Mora said in his first press conference after getting the job (h/t Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com).
When a coach who has spent 25 years in the big leagues, four of those as a head coach, comes knocking on a top recruit's door, it is going to be really hard for them to turn him away. This kind of credibility gives UCLA a whole new advantage that it has never had before.
So, why will Jim Mora's NFL connections bring top talent to Westwood? The answer is quite simple really.
As long as top recruits continue to look for advantages in improving their NFL outlook—and I'm pretty positive that they will—they will be eager to play for a guy like Mora, who says that he knows what the pros are all about and can actually back that statement up.