It was bound to happen to sometime. Ironically it wasn’t Lane Kiffin that started it. This week UCLA head coach Jim Mora found himself in hot water after making a not-so-subtle jab at his rival school across town. College coaches taking shots from the confines of their own campus directed at another are not new. Ask SEC coaches circa the 1990s how they felt about the Old Ball Coach a.k.a Steve Spurrier. Go outside the SEC and ask Free Shoe U err, I mean Florida State on their opinion of Spurrier.
Kiffin isn’t a stranger to controversial statements. As the newly appointed head coach of Tennessee, the young Kiffin went out of his way to suggest that Florida coach Urban Meyer was violating NCAA rules by contacting recruits outside of protocol. One would think that Kiffin, now the USC coach, would bring such swagger to the Pac-12 making enemies from Seattle to Tempe. As it turns out, the swagger award would go to Jim Mora, the Bruins first year coach.
Appearing on a radio show Mora made a revealing comment on his approach of telling recruits about the safety of UCLA, in comparison to any other university that happens to be in a bad neighborhood. Coincidentally there is such a school in the greater Los Angeles area that might fit the criteria. Hey, what do you know, it happens to be UCLA’s biggest rival.
The quote that stirred the hornets heard on the Jim Lodge Show went as follows, ”We don’t have murders a block from our campus.”
According to Mora, he had no idea that two graduate students were murdered near the USC campus in April. Mora says he doesn’t read the paper. Don’t worry, Jim, Mike Gundy doesn’t read the paper either. Although Gundy went on a tirade about an article he read in the paper. That’s another story.
Kiffin was less than excited about his campus being indirectly (or directly) compared to the OK Corral telling the LA Times,
“I would like to say that our staff does not negative recruit. There’s so many good things to talk about here, as far as the school and the history of the program. It’s the greatest place in the world, so there’s no need to talk about other places.”
I would be very surprised to find out that coach Kiffin doesn’t compare USC to other campuses, and this could be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. That is an assumption as Kiffin claims to play it classy on the recruiting trail, so I’ll take his word with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, Mora offered an apology in the LA Times article,
“The interviewer and myself were talking about UCLA football and the tremendous attributes of the UCLA campus and I truly regret and I’m sorry if my words caused any pain. That was not my intention.” Mora continued, “I don’t spend the day thinking about what USC thinks. Just like they don’t spend the day thinking about what we think.”
Clearly Mora is playing the “aw shucks” card by pretending to be ignorant of any connection to murders and the USC campus. While bringing up a specific murder to the media is unsavory, I have no problem with campus safety as a point of comparison in the recruiting process. As a parent would you want your child to attend a campus in a neighborhood with a high crime rate? I wouldn’t.
Collegiate head coaches are salesman. It is their job to convey why their school is a fit for talented young athletes. In a decision about where I, or my child will spend the next four years, I would want all the information possible. It is imperative that the student and parent do their own homework as well.
The lesson for Mora is to keep his recruiting tactics to recruits and their parents only. Mora would also be wise to be more concerned with the murdering that the Trojans are committing against the Bruins on the football field. Wins, not words, are the way to a recruit’s heart.