The message UCLA brass sent through head football coach Jim Mora's contract extension is clear: The Bruins are trying to position the program to be a national contender.
Keeping Mora in Bruins' blue and gold through 2019 is just one phase in the process of building a top-tier program. That much is evident in the contractual details spelled out Tuesday by The Los Angeles Times, as the key takeaway is a stipulation that puts as much pressure on the UCLA athletic department to perform as it does Mora.
"UCLA will waive all buyouts if the university has not started construction on a football facility before October 2015," writes Chris Foster.
Sure, there are plenty of elements to Mora's new contract more specific to the coach. One is that the deal itself was reached in December as a proactive response to reports national powerhouse Texas, via The Dallas Morning News, and Mora's alma mater, Washington per The Los Angeles Times, were interested in luring the coach away from UCLA.
The second point per The Los Angeles Times report is that at a base salary of $3.5 million, Mora is now the second highest compensated public university coach in the Pac-12, behind only Washington's new hire Chris Petersen. That's a considerable climb from 2013 when, according to USA Today, Mora fell behind public university program counterparts Todd Graham (Arizona), Sonny Dykes (Cal), Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), Kyle Whittingham (Utah) and former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Mora earned the increase with a 19-8 record, UCLA's first 10-win campaign in eight years and a Pac-12 South championship, all in his first two seasons. The extension should help keep future collegiate suitors at bay, and at least give Mora something to think about should NFL franchises try to bring him back to the pro game.
With the construction caveat, UCLA is reciprocating Mora's commitment to it with a commitment to him. But more so, the university athletic brass is taking a crucial step in the process of building a long-term football power even if Mora pursues another opportunity elsewhere.
Construction of new facilities is an increasingly central facet of establishing a football program. In the Pac-12, there's an ongoing construction boom that is evolving into a veritable arms race, making UCLA's need for an upgrade all the more apparent.
Mora spelled out the meaning of a new facility in a video debuted on UCLAFootballFacility.com in December.
It's important that the nation see that UCLA is determined to be a national player every year. For us to take the next step as a program...what we need to do is put one of the most remarkable football facilities on this beautiful campus.
The desire is there; finding the resources to do so is not as simple. An evenly distributed, record-setting television contract brokered in 2011 helps, as outlined in a November New York Times report. But that revenue only goes so far.
Per an October Los Angeles Times report, UCLA's vision comes with a $50 million price tag. While a new facility would theoretically help the Bruins win in the future, victories in the present are necessary to help fund the project.
To that end, there is a direct correlation between Mora's on-field success and revenue coming into the program. Foster reports "a 21% increase in football attendance [in 2012], which translated into more than $6 million in additional revenue."
The proverbial iron is hot, making this the time for UCLA to strike. Buzz around the program is growing after its 10-win 2013. The Bruins appear in the Top 10 of initial 2014 rankings of outlets like Sports Illustrated and boast a preseason Heisman Trophy favorite in quarterback Brett Hundley.
UCLA's success beyond 2014 is contingent on investing all the current excitement into a larger plan. Mora's contract extension is a significant step in that direction.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer.
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