Another week, another road loss for the Bruins. Jim Mora has now not won a conference road game in more than two years. That’s a problem.
Ben Bolch of the LA Times is fond of pointing out that, after last season, Dan Guerrero told the Times “that his expectation for 2017 was for the Bruins to contend for the Pac-12 championship.”
So, let’s check in on that, shall we?
This morning’s Pac-12 South standings have Southern Cal in first place with an 8-1 conference record and there’s a tie for second between Arizona and Arizona State, which will be settled next weekend in the Territorial Cup. Both Arizona schools are 5-3 in the Pac-12. UCLA is currently in fourth place with a 3-5 record, followed by Colorado and Utah which both have 2-6 records.
That means that the absolute best UCLA can finish in the Pac-12 South is fourth place. Fourth place. At least four games behind the division winner Southern Cal.
That does not qualify as “contending for the Pac-12 championship” in my book. In fact, in order to “contend for the Pac-12 championship,” you must first contend for the Pac-12 South division title and fourth place in the South doesn’t qualify for contending for that either.
At the absolute best, the only thing UCLA contended for this year was a spot in a low-level, third-rate bowl game. I hear the Bruins will be going to the Toilet Bowl if they can get past UC Berkeley. And, if UCLA can’t beat their Northern California brethren, you can just flush another season down the toilet.
Once upon a time, Dan Guerrero also said that he wanted a coach who understood rivalries, presumably because beating Southern Cal was important. And, for a while, Jim Mora was able to do that, but he hasn’t accomplished that in three years and his overall record against Southern Cal now stands at 3-3. So much for at least having that.
What will Dan Guerrero do about the UCLA Football program?
No one seems to have an answer. Now, that seems to be in large part because Guerrero himself refused to comment about it the LA Times on Thursday.
But, Dan has to realize that his legacy as UCLA’s Athletic Director is on the line.
Right now, his football legacy stands at 16 seasons without a Rose Bowl appearance along with three failed coaching hires.
He basically has one final shot at turning things around, but will he take that shot?
Many seem to think that he won’t. They cite Jim Mora’s $12M buyout among other things. But, as I’ve written before, I don’t think the Athletic Department can afford to not take that shot.
Football attendance is off 25% since 2014. If attendance drops another 10% from this year’s average per game, the Athletic Department stands to miss $5M in revenue next year, compared to what it would have had if the attendance had stayed the same as 2014 and that is factoring in the addition of a seventh home game next season.
But, the fact remains that UCLA will still be paying Mora the same next season whether he is coaching or not. That money has been budgeted and spent already. It’s what known in economics as a sunk cost.
UCLA needs football to be generating more revenue than it currently is in order to help sustain the rest of the department. Another year of falling attendance means another year of lower revenues and that’s not good for the overall financial health of the department.
But, it’s not just season ticket revenues that are hurting.
Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register wrote this week that UCLA’s football glory is getting harder to remember. Whicker spoke with former Bruin WR Mike Sherrard.
“We get together and shake our heads,” said Sherrard told Whicker, talking about when he gets together with old teammates. “We haven’t won a Rose Bowl since I was there. And I’m 54.”
Sherrard also pointed that they can’t use a lack of facilities as an excuse any longer.
He also spoke with former Bruin quarterback David Norrie. Norrie said, “The bar has to be higher than what they think it is. The expectation level has to be greater.”
David, welcome to the era of managed expectations.
One of the most interesting statements in Whicker’s article has to do with solicitations for donations to help build the Wasserman Center. Whicker writes:
When the former Bruins got letters, signed by Mora, beseeching them for contributions, some were offended. Shouldn’t luxury follow winning?
Overall, the article is a scathing condemnation of Dan Guerrero’s tenure as Athletic Director.
If Dan Guerrero is as concerned about his legacy as some people say he is, he needs to take swift action and fix the football program immediately.
And he could and should start that tomorrow by firing Jim Mora, naming Jedd Fisch as the interim head coach for Friday’s game against UC Berkeley and immediately starting the search for a new head coach.
After all, what will people remember more about Dan Guerrero’s tenure as AD? The fact that he got some buildings built or that the football program never won a conference championship while he was AD?
Something tells me that it’s the latter.