“Player safety is at a premium,” UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora said regarding the Breland Brandt incident at his weekly Monday press conference. Brandt was called a “quitter” by an unnamed UCLA Football staffer, whom Mora said was “not a coach,” after the Bruin linebacker made the decision to medically retire from football. Unsurprisingly, Mora took an apologetic tone towards the incident. But, because the employee still appears to be employed by UCLA, it may simply be too little, too late for many Bruin fans.
Mora’s full statement on the Brandt incident:
Yeah I had heard that there was an exchange, an unfortunate exchange, between one of our staff members that was not a coach and Breland that took place...a three am text. It's been addressed with the staff member...not appropriate...and our record here shows that we are...as I said, player safety is at a premium. I've gone back and looked at my exchanges with Breland and they've all been very, very positive since the day he retired. And, we just hope and pray that he can have a productive career here as a student at UCLA and reach his passions and dreams off the football field. But, we certainly want to make sure that we are always offering support, but it was an exchange that took place at, I guess, three in the morning...a poor choice of words and it's been addressed. That's not really a part of what we do or how we talk around here. It never has been and it really shouldn't be.
Mora, who has led UCLA to an 8-13 record in the past 21 games, could be in danger of losing his job. One can only speculate that Mora’s reaction to the incident won’t do much to change the minds of Bruin fans who want to see him gone.
This is not to say that Mora has a history of taking sides against his players. On the contrary, this is seen as one of Mora’s most positive qualities. He’s been quick to defend injured players this season and in past seasons and he is not hesitant to note the stoicism of players like Caleb Wilson who have dealt with injury this season.
That being said, many expected Mora to do more than he did. “It has been addressed,” is all he stated in regards to discipline for the particular employee, leading most to believe that the employee responsible is remains employed by UCLA. This was a time for Mora to take a stand and, for many fans, he had too many words and too few actions.
When asked about UCLA’s decreased offensive production, Mora was cautious to pin too much of the blame on star quarterback Josh Rosen’s injury instead of focusing more on role player injuries on both sides of the ball. Rosen remains the face of UCLA football. It’s an interesting relationship as Rosen is talented, bold, and looking forward to a bright future; he is, in short, everything the 2017 UCLA football program is not. Mora took a semi-positive note on Rosen’s injuries and stated that a return to the team was possible during the week and that he hoped Rosen would be able to play on Saturday against Arizona State.
When addressing the team’s bowl chances, Mora replied “We talk about trying to win the game we’re playing...the end result has not been determined.” Mora did not indicate that he was eyeing a Bowl game for his team but he did seem confident in his team’s ability to finish with a winning season. In a season where everything that could go wrong has, Mora noted that he has had only one losing season (4-8 in 2016) and that team tries to stay focused on the game at hand.