Things are looking rather rosy for UCLA Athletics so far this year, and while Football is not in session it is still at the forefront of our minds. No, a blowout of a pathetic Cal team in a pathetic Pac-12 conference still does not get my juices flowing. If the basketball team does well in the tournament, to me it will just be reminiscent of Lavin's first Elite Eight team, a team that under Harrick would have likely been in the Final Four or even the championship game. I don't see things getting better than this year under TIARA. Anyway, that's already too much space on him.
Let's just go over a few items of note on UCLA Football recently.
- All the hoopla about Coach Jim Mora being pursued by Washington and Texas eventually led to a new contract for him. While it is still debatable whether UCLA Football has arrived anywhere yet, it is clear that things have improved for the program. If anything, Mora's new contract signals that UCLA is ready to play with the bigger boys in coach compensation (though probably not yet the biggest, which might be ok). Per Chris Foster at the LA Times, Mora's new contract makes him the second highest paid coach in the Pac-12 for a public university. That is anywhere from 2nd to 4th in the conference, behind Washington, perhaps Southern Cal and Stanford (who don't disclose salaries). His total contract is for $21 million, including $3.25 million in 2014.
- More importantly, two other items were negotiated by Mora, benefiting more than just himself:
1. UCLA will waive all buyouts if the university has not started construction on a football facility before October 2015
2. the pay pool for assistants was increased to nearly $3.5 million
Sure, we can all poo-poo the arms race in college football, but if you're in it, this is how you have to play. A playoff appearance this year could set up the program really well going forward.
- As many of you know, the NFL combine is kicking off today (look for the open thread coming soon). A couple of fanshots were already posted about our two standouts, Anthony Barr and Xavier Su'a-Filo. Many already saw Barr as a first-rounder, if not top 5 pick. But XSF is possibly sneaking into the first round after his combine performance as some experts predict.
- Continuing with the XSF story, it really brings to light the more than a decade-long struggle that UCLA has had in putting linemen into the NFL. Xavier says that he came to UCLA to start a legacy, and it seems the combination of his commitment, and Adrien Klemm, could potentially have done just that.
- Finally, just to prove the point, UCLA only has 3 linemen in the NFL now, along with 2 long snappers. And you can see the list here of active NFL players from UCLA. With 25 players, this puts UCLA on par with Utah. Think about that for a second. UCLA is 4th in the conference, behind Southern Cal, Cal, and Stanford. Essentially, this just means that the state of California is a huge pipeline into the NFL, but because of lame coaching, UCLA did not get to take advantage of it. That should change starting with this year's draft.
- Last but not least, some words of encouragement for any Bruin who does not get drafted. Just look at the list of Bruins in the league today. A lot of those guys were not drafted but kept grinding and found a spot. Our own Derrick Coleman even sports a Super Bowl ring now. It can happen!