UCLA Football: Jim Mora’s time had run its course

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Head Coach Jim Mora of the UCLA Bruins looks on during the first half of a game against the Oregon State Beavers at The Rose Bowl on November 12, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Head Coach Jim Mora of the UCLA Bruins looks on during the first half of a game against the Oregon State Beavers at The Rose Bowl on November 12, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Nothing last forever not even among the UCLA Football staff and today it was announced that Jim Mora has been fired as head coach. While he helped bring the national spotlight back to the Bruins, had this program gone as far as it could with him at the helm?

On Sunday, Bruin fans woke up to the shocking news that, in a move so atypical of everything we’ve come to expect from UCLA, Jim Mora had been fired with immediate effect as the UCLA Football head coach the day after a third consecutive loss to USC, and that Mora’s gargantuan buyout of nearly $12 million had been covered, presumably by large donors to the program.

The future of the program will be discussed plenty in the coming hours, days, and weeks, but the immediate aftermath of the move calls for reflection more than anything else. Mora’s first three seasons at UCLA had Bruin fans feeling genuine pride that hadn’t existed around the football program basically since 1998.

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The Bruins won a division title, were in the thick of the hunt for two others, and had a Heisman Trophy candidate and face of the program in record-setting QB Brett Hundley. Mora and his new staff had taken the incredible raw talent that Rick Neuheisel had somehow brought to Westwood during his tenure and turned them into fantastic football players with futures at the highest levels of the sport. The first half of Mora’s tenure saw the Bruins go 29-11, with the 29 wins being a record for a UCLA coach in his first three years.

The second half of Mora’s six-year tenure was, to put it mildly, not nearly as successful. Despite expectations for the program going through the roof with the signing of a top recruiting class in 2015 that included the top quarterback recruit in the country, Josh Rosen, the program seemed to regress as Neuheisel’s signees exhausted their eligibility and were replaced by Mora recruits. Mora’s final three years were plagued by a bevy of unspoken suspensions, the collapse of UCLA Football’s offensive line, the collapse of UCLA’s offense in general under Kennedy Polamalu, and the collapse of UCLA’s defense in 2017 to put the nail in the coffin of Mora’s tenure.

By the end of the 2017 season, it was clear that Mora was no longer the man to lead the program forward. Despite the fact that it was clear his players never quit on him, Mora always seemed to be fighting fires of his own making and his teams simply weren’t producing on a level commensurate with either the potential of the program or the financial and infrastructural commitments that had finally been made to the program by the UCLA athletic department.

Mora’s final three seasons were marked by a 17-19 record, including a 16-13 record in games started by Josh Rosen. Those years carried over the traits that bound the two halves of the Mora Era, a lack of attention to detail and indiscipline on the field, and combined them with a sudden inability to either develop the majority of its talent or put it in the best positions to succeed. If UCLA, with the most talented quarterback in the history of the program, couldn’t break out of near-.500 mediocrity now, then when was it ever going to truly break through under Mora?

Once that stagnation became impossible to ignore, UCLA did the thing that no one has ever expected it to do: it acted quickly, decisively, and with a whole lot of money to make a bold change.

While Mora’s legacy will be defined in large part by what might have been with Josh Rosen behind center and a confounding inability to beat Stanford, the positive parts of his legacy will be found in two places: the unquestionable love and loyalty he engendered among his players and, more importantly for the future of the program, brick-and-mortar. The Wasserman Football Center (and quite frankly, the Ostin Basketball Center) stands today purely because of the singular drive of Jim Mora to push the powers that be to bring UCLA athletics into the 21st century in terms of facilities.

In general, the UCLA Athletic Department has made a financial commitment to its revenue programs in a manner that marked a complete departure from decades of total parsimony, and that stems from Jim Mora and his refusal to take no for an answer when confronted with the apathy and red tape that have plagued the Morgan Center for generations.

Next: UCLA Football: Jim Mora fired as head coach effective immediately

So while we can be honest with ourselves and admit that the time for fresh blood at the head of UCLA Football was nigh, we can also say that Mora’s tenure will probably be remembered fondly by UCLA fans. He gave Bruin fans highs they hadn’t experienced since before the turn of the millennium and modernized the standard operating procedure of UCLA athletics. Future coaches who will be able to cash larger checks and use the sparkling new facilities as recruiting chips for the foreseeable future will appreciate the foundation that Jim Mora laid for them, one that will hopefully be a platform for a permanent resurgence of UCLA football.