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Seasons Change, UCLA Doesn’t: Why We Ended Up With Jim L. Mora

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A special guest post from BruinBlue with poignant thoughts on yet another bungled football coaching search by the clueless UCLA regime. - BN Eds.

First, and most important, they don't know what they're doing in the athletic department at UCLA. None of them. That does not mean that Mora is guaranteed to be a bad coach, or fail, though the latter is pretty likely. But it means that the people who run coaching searches at UCLA absolutely do not know how to do it. Obviously, they don't have the capacity to close the deal with a top-tier candidate like Petersen. But most importantly, they don't know how to identify the right kind of coach to potentially turn this program around in a big way, which so desperately needed to be done.

Now, after years and years of this, after all this hope and ultimate letdown, it certainly has occurred to me that maybe "turning this program around in a big way " is not that important to them. And when I say "them," I of course mean the AD, his helpers in the search, the Chancellor who signs off on the hires. I think that there is this incredibly foolish propensity to want to stay in a comfort zone, even to hire people who had some connection to UCLA or to Terry Donahue. Yes, I go on about Donahue; but seriously, why do you think that Mora, who was not on any other lists, was on this one? Because his father was an assistant coach with Donahue in the '70's, here, and because Mora himself was an assistant for five or so years when Donahue was GM in San Francisco. Weren't you originally surprised to see Mora on the list at all? Well, that's why he was on it, and that's why ultimately Guerrero fell back on him, when he had no other idea of what to do. To me, that means that Donahue had a hand of some sort in the four football head coach hires after he retired in 1995. That is not a good thing at all, but UCLA simply cannot get beyond it.

Now, the other thing is that it is obvious, as we have discussed before, that Guerrero has no clue as to the names and careers of national college football coaches. I actually think that he has not heard of most of them. This is more than appalling. Why was there at least no approach to Dan Mullen, or to, say, Gary Anderson, or maybe Paul Johnson? Because Guerrero doesn't know any coaches, outside of those his teams have played (Sumlin), those who coached in this conference (Bellotti), those who the search firm came up with last time, and who knew Chancellor Block (Golden), and those who Donahue knows (Mora). That's it. That's basically the Guerrero list of coaches. So we are almost playing with two hands tied behind our back, because we don't know any good coaches to look at. That is why for three straight searches, we have not gone after any of these second-tier names which many of us who closely follow college football carefully watch, and actually make lists of, to try to help in some way. They don't know, and they don't care, at UCLA.

So we are almost beaten before we start. Unless we somehow landed Petersen, we were almost doomed from the outset. Guerrero didn't know where else to go after Petersen. He showed that when he went after Sumln, and then Golden. After that, he had no more ideas. And as you all know, a great AD is always thinking about potential coaches, just in case. That is, UCLA should have been making a mental list, at least, over a year ago, when Neuheisel was going through another 4-8 year. But they didn't, obviously. Guerrero kept hoping that he could keep Neuheisel, and then when he couldn't, he just tried to wing it as usual, with no knowledge, having cultivated no relationships with coaches or their agents, or any football people at all, outside of the ever-present Field and Donahue. So what happened, while a dreadful disappointment, was actually rather predictable, given the people involved, and their lack of ability. We (and I certainly include myself) just deluded ourselves into thinking otherwise.

So now it's over again. We have made what I think is a very poor hire. The fact that Mora may be better than the preceding coaches is not irrelevant, but it ignores the crucial point that the league is much stronger. Does anyone think that Mora is a better coach than Leach? Than perhaps June Jones at ASU? Than Chip Kelly or Lane Kiffin? And given that Cal and OSU are likely to change coaches soon, and upgrade, maybe strongly in the case of Cal, then where will we be? The odds of UCLA somehow vaulting into national prominence with this hire is very, very small, in my view And if we don't, it will be another failed hire, another five or so years out of our lives, watching us struggle around the .500 mark, never talked about on Gameday, except as a mild joke, or cannon fodder for the better teams; wistfully watching the football powers win big, or make major upgrades in coaches; wishing that we could somehow be there; maybe finally resigning ourselves to the fact that we will never be. To me, it is very sad, and very disheartening.

I realize that people and particularly fans want to hope, and want to be optimistic, and so do I. But just once, can't we have a coach that we are really excited about? Other schools get those, at least sometimes. We never do, not since UCLA hired Dick Vermeil, who was unproven, but who had such a great background that I at least was hopeful and excited. That is what we fans want, hope and excitement. Mora does not provide much of either. And the fact that with all this newfound money, and this supposed determination to really do something big in hiring, we ended up with him, is a terribly sad and infuriating testament to both the people who ran this search, and their absolute incompetence, lack of football knowledge, and concern for the alum, donors and fans who make up the heart of this UCLA program. But it keeps happening, doesn't it? Every single time. And that has to mean that there is something dreadfully wrong with "the UCLA way," and with the people we hire at the highest levels of our university, who have any control of this hiring process. Until and if (if ever) this is all completely changed, these processes, and the weak hires that come out of them, will be the unalterable reality at UCLA.

I should have figured this out years ago, but somehow I always kept coming back to the hope that maybe something would shake loose, and sort of magically change. But there is no magic in bureaucracies, they just keep slogging along in their self-perpetuating way. They will be happy enough if we can go 7-5 most years, keep the books in the black, not have controversy. They want us to stop complaining, go back to our daily lives, show up at the games, donate when they need us. That they are completely tone-deaf to how upset everyone is, to how close many people are to just giving up, or losing interest or hope, is not in their capacity to realize. They have done it their way again, with all the pleading, hoping, demanding, importuning, warning, explaining, caring that we have shown, ultimately ignored, treated as irritating surface noise, or something to try to placate for the time being, until we are forced to accept their reality. The fans will look to the next season, focus on assistant hires, recruiting, like they always do.

Seasons change, but UCLA does not.

- -BruinBlue