It's a tough time for Bruins Nation.
The bowl game is over, recruiting is in a dead period, and National Signing Day is still 4 weeks away. So perusing the internets and news sources for Bruin related articles is a lot tougher this week. Feel my pain.
Fortunately, Jim Mora appeared in studio on the Rich Eisen Show yesterday (HT to UCLABRU1 for the fanshot yesterday). Being that this is a nationally syndicated show, it's no surprise that we get more NFL playoff talk and we don't get a ton of U.C.L.A. news, but the two issues of national interest, Handshakegate and NFL coaching rumors, were discussed in some detail, and hopefully we can finally put some of these tangential issues to bed once and for all.
After the usual pleasantries and family reminiscing, including the dramatic news that the elder Jim Mora jumps movie theaters, Eisen starts off by asking about the handshake at the end of the Alamo Bowl. This time Mora goes into some more revealing detail about his feelings at the time about the final play that aligns with the tweets we saw from players in the aftermath. The discussion begins at 3:30. Thank to The Rich Eisen Show and to Jack Wang with Inside UCLA for making the video public and sharing.
It was a quick handshake. But it was an handshake and it was in no means meant to be disrespectful to Coach Snyder. I was a little bit bothered by the way that game happened.
I had an issue with the way the game ended and I felt like knowing myself as I do it was best for me to move in and move out before I got in some type of discussion that maybe turned the wrong way.
Eisen called it a Schiano-like moment, referring to the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano and his instructions to his Buc players to turn the usual end of game kneel down play into a scrum, a move that ruffled a lot of feathers in the NFL. Schiano, by the way, is no longer an NFL coach.
Player safety has always been a huge issue for me. You know when they cross that white line we all know it's a dangerous environment, but I think we have to do the best that we can as coaches to not put them in harm's way unnecessarily, and I just felt that there were times that you have to avoid organizing an event or a play that could harm a player. And I felt that maybe that had happened and I was a little upset.
I did shake his hand. It was quick. It did not look good, I'll acknowledge that. But I did shake it and there were reasons for the reasons that I did.
I think it helps to hear Mora acknowledge that, from a certain perspective, the post game wasn't a good look for him and U.C.L.A., even though I believe his motives were reasonable. We're all aware of Mora's edge and sometimes quick temper (just ask Chris Foster) and though his comments to Eisen are pretty measured, they clearly reinforce the sense about how mad Mora was at the end of the game. We can all agree that it's a good thing that Mora is so protective of our players, but I hope the coach will also consider this situation in the future when he is angry about something and think about the ideal way he can represent both himself and U.C.L.A. to the national eye. We can all avoid rehashing an incident next time and instead focus entirely on the coach's devotion to his players, which is a very good thing.
The other big topic was the rumor surrounding Mora and the NFL, and specifically that Mora flew to New York to meet with the Jets about their head coaching job. Mora quashed that right off by pointing out that he was on campus in Westwood Sunday, and in Eisen's studio in El Segundo yesterday
I've never wavered from saying that I'm very happy at U.C.L.A. I love college football and I love coaching the U.C.L.A. Bruins. I've not made any overtures towards any NFL teams. My agent hasn't. As a matter of fact I was in my office yesterday and one of the assistant coaches came in and he said, "I thought you were in New York. I just read that you were in New York."
"I love college football, I really do. I think that it fits me very, very well. I relate well to the players. I think they appreciate the emotion and the passion that I coach with. I love U.C.L.A. I think we've been able to do some good things. I love the young men that I coach. When you make a commitment in recruiting to the family of the players that you're recruiting, you say, "I'm going to be your coach" I take that seriously. I do. I take that very seriously. It's not something that I want to run out on. So I'm very very happy at U.C.L.A.
It looks like Mora has been using his now private twitter account to keep recruits updated and while being on the outside can lead to frustration and speculation by fans and media, if Mora is staying in touch with our top recruits and keeping them in the loop, then the message is getting to those who need to hear it the most. We'll see the results in less than 4 weeks.
NSD is February 4.
Of course, if the U.C.L.A. gig doesn't work out for Mora, he could be Marcus Mariota's agent. Eisen asked about the Oregon QB, and Mora had good things to say.
He is going to be a spectacular NFL quarterback. He's poised. He's big, he's fast, he's physical. There are people who question his arm strength. I've stood on the sidelines and watched him and watched him on films many times. He has zero flaws. This is as great a quarterback as I've ever seen at this point in his career. I love the kid and I love his personality.
They [Tampa Bay, with the first chock in the NFL draft] should, right now, put it in an envelope and mail it to Roger [NFL Commissioner Godell] and say, "We are taking Marcus Mariota". Absolutely.
And for those of you who think Bruins Nation is just too negative because we have the gall to look at all aspects of our teams, you should probably stay away from Coach Mora's dad, too.
I always love getting his feedback after a game. Well, sometimes I don't love getting it, I'll tell you that. I usually like getting it. My dad, as you know, is very…blunt. If we haven't played well and I'm excited about the win, he will bring me down real quick with, "Wait a minute, let's talk about some things here that didn't go quite right".
Hmm, who does that sound like? Maybe BN and the elder Mora should go catch a movie sometime.
Winter quarter has started on campus (which is especially cruel as I look outside at the snow falling here in exile and write of "Winter" Quarter in Westwood) and while the Bruins already had one high profile early enrollee start classes yesterday, Coach McClure reminds everyone that the Bruins had an even bigger (literally) new addition on Monday, too.
If you haven't heard this young man's story, it's really impressive. Bruin Sports Report has two really nice articles behind firewall about Bateman's difficult path to U.C.L.A. and what his addition will mean for the Bruins and they are both definitely worth the read. As a famous Alabama OC once said, you only need 15 seconds to know that someone is a U.C.L.A. kind of guy. This young man fits.
Meanwhile, in other college football happenings, there was some big news for the folks across town.
A Heisman Trophy O.J. Simpson won in 1968 has been recovered more than 20 years after it was stolen in a burglary at the University of Southern California, police said Tuesday night.
The trophy and a Simpson jersey were stolen in a burglary at Heritage Hall, home to USC's athletic department, during a July 28, 1994, burglary. At the time, Simpson was awaiting trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, who were killed the previous month.
Phew. I sure hate it when you lose something and can't find it.
Of course, we all know where we can find OJ these days.