Would Jim Mora Really Leave UCLA to Return Home and Coach Washington?

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2013

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The time is nigh for Jim Mora to put his money where his mouth is and accept the head coaching position at Washington, even seven years removed from the day when he stood up and bombastically threw his hat into the ring.

Update: Wednesday, Dec. 4 — 9:00 a.m.

Mora spurned Washington on Tuesday night, signing a six-year extension to stay with UCLA, according to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports:

Welp. So much for all of this.


Former Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian defected from Seattle to Southern California on Monday, accepting the same position at USC—a job he had been obsessed with since leaving the program as an assistant in 2008.

According to Dave Mahler of Sports Radio KJR, Sarkisian took defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox—the tentative favorite to fill his post at UW—to Los Angeles with him, freeing up the Huskies' head coaching job for an external candidate.

That's where Mora comes into play.

Despite enjoying rare success in Westwood with UCLA, where he has transformed a sputtering program into SoCal's top football school, Mora is a former Huskies player from the early '80s—someone who has spewed much bluster about his obsession with the team, especially how much it would mean for him to coach there.

According to ESPN.com, here's a transcription of what Mora, then the head coach of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, said about coaching at Washington during a radio call in 2006:

Interviewer: If it ever works out, if there's an opening, and you're available, we want you to coach the Huskies.

Mora: Well, I really have a lot of respect for Ty [Willingham], and I know he'll do a great job. But if he ever decides to move on, and get in the NFL or you know, go back to Notre Dame or whatever, if that job's open you'll find me at the friggin' head of the line with my resume in my hand ready to take that job.

Interviewer: If you're available.

Mora: It doesn't even matter if I'm available.

Interviewer: So if you just won the Super Bowl, and it's available, you're there?

Mora: I'd be there

Interviewer: You're there, OK.

Mora: Dewey, I promise you that. Now, I want to see Ty succeed, and I want to see that program succeed. But if he decides at some point that he's ready to move on and they want me, I will be there. I don't care if we're in the middle of a playoff run, I'm packing my stuff and coming back to Seattle.

Interviewer: So, are you saying ...

Mora: You know, it's funny, and I mean that, and I'm dead serious, the further I get away from it the more I'm drawn to it. You know, that's the job I want, so...

Interviewer: You would leave the Falcons for that job?

Mora: Absolutely.

Interviewer: Wow.

Mora: As I'm sitting here, I'm looking at a Huskies helmet.

Those are not the words of a man with tepid interest in a program; those are the words of a man who truly cares about a school. Unless, of course, he doesn't, in which case they are the words of a sociopath. No one should be able to feign passion like that in such a public sphere. Absolutely no one.

In the ESPN story from 2006, Mora—whose comments created a stir, predictably, with his current team in Atlanta—backed off his sentiment by calling it merely a joke. "It was me doing a radio interview with a close friend and former college roommate," Mora said. "[I was] just joking about the [Washington] job."

But it was too late.

Mora's words were spat onto the airwaves, forged into the abiding record of the Internet. Ever since that moment, they have become a rallying cry and a beacon of hope for starry-eyed Huskies fans up north. The timing had never worked out before, so no one could blame him for it taking so long, but now the timing is perfect.

Again, Mr. Mora: It's time to put your money where your mouth is.

On paper, it makes little sense for Mora to leave UCLA for Washington. It's one thing to abandon a program for greener pastures, but another thing entirely to leave a program for browner ones.

That's how this move would appear to many people, especially folks in Westwood. UCLA and Washington are both on the upswing as programs right now, but the Bruins are moving on a much steeper gradient. They won the Pac-12 South last year and once again enjoyed a stronger season than the Huskies in 2013—one that included a 41-31 win over Washington in November.

Under Mora, UCLA also scored the No. 7 recruiting class in 2013, according to the 247Sports composite. That was by far the best haul of any team in the two Western time zones, including a couple of future superstars like defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes and running back/linebacker Myles Jack.

Still, it's not like Washington is some sort of slouch. It finished No. 18 in the Class of 2013 rankings, and Mora—a hometown boy—would be able to dominate recruiting in the Pacific Northwest, while also using his L.A. connections to compete for kids from California.

Plus, as CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman points out, Washington athletic director Scott Woodward and the Huskies' lavish, newly renovated facilities could make for a much more pleasant work environment:

The most empathetic Washington fan might frown on poaching Mora from UCLA, on doing precisely to the Bruins what USC has just done to them. UCLA believes in its coach's current commitment. After beating the Trojans for the second consecutive year, Mora extolled the current state of being a Bruin.

"It’s an exciting time at UCLA, man," Mora said, according to Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. "If you want to play for a fun, tough, hard-nosed football team that can go win games anywhere, come to UCLA, because it’s brewin’ over there."

Washington would be pulling the rug out from under UCLA, just as the Trojans did to Washington, tugging on heartstrings to lure Mora away from a student body that adores him. The Huskies know how it feels to be left standing on the bare, hardwood floor. They know how unjust it would feel to folks in Westwood.

But this is how the business works. Each year's coaching carousel is like a season of Survivor, complete with dubious alliances, orchestrated backstabbings and Darwinian thematics. The most self-interested players are hated, but they usually end up successful. The morally pious among the group are sent home before Episode 3.

Fair or not, the wheels on Mora-to-Washington are already in motion. According to RealDawg.com (part of the 247Sports network), the Huskies have already offered the position to Mora, and negotiations with UCLA have already begun:

Washington is ready to open the doors for its prodigal son, his words about this being a dream job still ringing in its ears. If Mora is indeed lining up first for the position, CV in hand, there is little left to stop him from donning the purple and gold.

It's been seven years in the making, but Mora's devotion to the Washington Huskies can no longer be treated as a hypothetical. This either is or isn't where he'd choose to be over all other jobs in America—collegiate or professional.

Will you put your money where your mouth is, Mr. Mora, by accepting the job in Seattle? Or is that spot still reserved for your foot?


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