Mora extension the right step for UCLA’s big plans

LOS ANGELES — The stigma that has historically been attached to the UCLA football program doesn’t need to be reiterated, because Tuesday afternoon, UCLA brass said it’s not content living in any shadows anymore when they extended head coach Jim Mora’s contract for another six years.

The move effectively keeps the coach in Westwood through 2019 and ends speculation that he was about to leave after just two seasons to fill the vacancy left by Steve Sarkisian at his alma mater, Washington.

“Jim Mora has established himself as one of the preeminent coaches in all of college football. Under his guidance, UCLA football has garnered national recognition for its success on the field, in the classroom and in the community,” athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a statement that was released during Sarkisian’s introductory press conference. “We are excited about the commitment Jim has made to our student-athletes and this University and feel this extension further demonstrates UCLA’s commitment to building a championship-caliber football program.”

The terms of the contract put him and his assistants in the same realm as some of the top-tier programs. It was smart on the part of Guerrero: If that’s the type of program that you want to run, the staff must be paid accordingly. 

In two short seasons, Mora established the Bruins as a Top-25 contender and nearly had them in the Rose Bowl in his rookie year. But most notably, Mora has led UCLA to two-straight wins over USC, and convincing ones, at that. It’s the first time UCLA has defeated USC in consecutive seasons since 1997-98.

Just two days after defeating the Trojans in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the first time since 1997, Mora’s status suddenly seemed uncertain. With Sarkisian in and Orgeron out at USC, Mora’s name was the first to come up in the search for the Huskies’ new coach. Recruits opened up their commitments and Los Angeles football had itself a new battle off the field.

Before even signing anything, Mora was still recruiting and it appeared he was recruiting for the Bruins, not the Huskies. He had an in-home visit with Joe Mixon, the top running back in the class of 2014.

Mora’s magic seemed to work, as Mixon tweeted out his top four choices this morning: UCLA was No. 1; USC was left off.

“I want to thank Dan Guerrero and Chancellor Block for their tremendous support,” Mora said. “This is an exciting time for UCLA football, and the continued commitment our administration has provided gives us every chance to reach our goals. This staff came here with a commitment to win a national championship; that commitment stands.”

The Bruins can continue in the efforts to build the football program into more than just a Pac-12 power under Mora. With Mora all in, the school is as well.