Jim Mora has a history of not really thinking through what he says or does. While with the Atlanta Falcons, he was seen taking hits of sniffing salts on the sidelines with players to get hyped up. While still head coach in Atlanta, he called the head coaching position at the University of Washington his “dream job,” which didn’t sit well with the fans and ownership of the Falcons. And now, before ever coaching a game for the UCLA Bruins, he’s crossed the line in the rivalry with cross-town USC.
While discussing recruiting on the Roger Lodge radio show, Mora said that he makes a point to tell parents of prospective recruits how safe the campus is at UCLA, quote, “We don’t have murders a block from our campus.” While in addition to being horrifically graphic and putting a terrible image into the mind of parents, it’s also a terribly classless shot at the Trojans. In April, two Chinese students were murdered near the USC campus and the whole tragic event became international news. That means, Mora is either completely oblivious to the world around him (and the city he just moved to specifically) or he’s resorted to playing dirty in the recruiting war in L.A.
Mora is taking the former stance. Yesterday, the coach gave the sorriest non-apology on record for his comments, claiming he was just saying that UCLA’s campus was safe and wasn’t talking about anyone else. “If anybody, whether USC or Cal State San Bernardino, is offended by the statement, that that’s their insecurity, not mine,” said Mora. I don’t think anybody is going to accuse him of going after Cal State San Bernardino, though, since they don’t really get into too many recruiting brawls with the Bruins.
When Mora was told about the two students who had been murdered, Mora appeared shocked by that coincidence. “They were?” said Mora. “I don’t read the paper, I don’t watch the news. So I don’t know that stuff.” Congratulations, UCLA! You hired the most out-of-touch human being on planet Earth to lead your football program. When asked if he was concerned about USC officials being offended by his off-hand comments about campus safety, Mora brushed it off, saying: “I really don’t care. I don’t concern myself with them or anybody else right now.” And that is probably the biggest lie he’s told yet.
UCLA is stuck in little-brother mode to the more successful, more popular, more important big-brother of Los Angeles in USC. They’ve been trying to break out from behind the Trojans’ shadow for years, including when Rick Neuheisel, Mora’s predecessor, put up ads around Southern California announcing “the college football monopoly in Los Angeles is over.” They spoke a little too soon, though, as Neuheisel went just 21-29 in four seasons with the Bruins. Meanwhile, USC has won 12 of the last 13 games against UCLA, including a 50-0 beat down last season to send the Bruins limping to the Pac-12 Championship game while USC served out its postseason ban.
This stunt reeks of the same sentiment. Mora has a history of being an idiot whenever he has to speak to people, especially when they’re holding a microphone, but this whole thing crosses a line. To be that specific in your recruiting speech when an event that tragic is so fresh in the consciousness of your cross-town rival is a scumbag move. Two people, completely separated from football, lost their lives in a senseless act of violence and Mora is using that to mock USC?
He can feign ignorance all he wants, tell everyone that he doesn’t pay attention to the news, but I’m not buying it. Mora is just another big-mouthed moron trying to break UCLA out of its football funk with words rather than actions on the field. But he should have learned from his predecessor or any little brother who says something dumb: you don’t poke big brother with a stick if you don’t want him to take it from you and beat you with it.
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