UCLA has announced it has relieved head coach Jim Mora of his coaching duties effective immediately. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will take over as the team’s interim coach for the remainder of the season.
“Making a coaching change is never easy, but it’s an especially difficult decision when you know that a coach has given his all to our University,” UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero in a released statement. “Jim helped reestablish our football program, and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward. While his first four seasons at UCLA were very successful, the past two seasons have not met expectations. We thank Jim and his family for his service to our school and his unquestionable commitment to our student-athletes.”
Mora was in his sixth season as the head coach of the Bruins and it was largely a run that had some promise at times but never fully took advantage of a division that included a USC program held back by NCAA sanctions. Mora coached UCLA to two 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 and has seen his win totals hit 8, 4 and 5 wins in the three seasons since. What makes the Mora legacy so frustrating is he had talent to work with. Among solid recruiting classes during his time at UCLA, Mora coached two NFL quarterbacks in Brett Hundley and Josh Rosen as well as one of the top defensive players in recent years (Myles Jack) still failed to deliver a Pac-12 championship. Mora was 46-30 as UCLA’s head coach, but the trends were heading in the wrong direction at a time when crosstown rival USC continues to be rising, thus increasing the pressure for UCLA to keep up.
UCLA’s loss on Saturday night to the Trojans dropped UCLA to 5-6 on the season, leaving the Bruins in need of a win this week against Cal in order to become bowl eligible (without hoping for vacancies needing to be filled by 5-win teams). USC will play for the Pac-12 championship a year after going winning the Rose Bowl in the stadium UCLA calls home.
The UCLA job is one that should be expected to draw some interesting names to the rumor mill. Among them could end up being Chip Kelly, who doesn’t feel like a great fit in the SEC and has past success in the Pac-12 while at Oregon. UCLA’s release confirms the school will begin a national search for a new head coach.
UCLA head coach Jim Mora appears to be safe for at least one more year, because he is busy making staff changes in preparation for the 2017 season. Offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu has been let go from his position on the staff after a dismal season with the Bruins offense.
UCLA finished its season ranked 92nd in total offense, 127th in rushing offense and 96th in scoring offense. The lone bright spot for the Bruins was the passing game, with Josh Rosen leading the way through the air when he was healthy. Unfortunately for UCLA, Rosen was banged up this season and only played in six games. Senior Mike Fafaul took over and ended his season with 12 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. UCLA also ranked 99th in the nation in red zone scoring percentage and 96th in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage.
Polamalu took over as the offensive coordinator for UCLA last year to replace Noel Mazzone. Mazzone left UCLA for Texas A&M last offseason, leaving UCLA to promote Polamalu (a former USC offensive coordinator) from running backs coach to take on the role. The lack of focus or improvement in the running game was a surprising development for the Bruins, who relied too heavily on the pass to get things done.
Whoever takes over as offensive coordinator will be the third in three seasons for Rosen, with next season likely being his final year at UCLA before a possible departure for the NFL. Given the instability on the staff and possible uncertainty about what happens beyond 2017 if things go sour once more, Rosen leaving a year early for the NFL feels like a near-given. And who could blame him?
The next 24 hours will be worth paying attention to as the NFL season concludes and head coaches get the ax at their respective franchises. Black Monday may be getting off to an early start this Sunday with reports suggesting there could be a coaching change at Cleveland, San Francisco, New York, and New Orleans in addition to already open spots like Philadelphia (Chip Kelly is welcome back in college football). The college coaching carousel has already come to a stop, but that will not prevent some trendy names from the college ranks from being tied to various NFL rumors.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and UCLA head coach Jim Mora continue to be buzzworthy names floated by some NFL reporters, and Stanford’s David Shaw will continue to be thrown into the mix as well.
Mora and Sumlin may have seen their stock as a head coach take a blemish this season with the way the Bruins went down in flames in big spots once again this season and the way Sumlin cannot seem to keep quarterbacks in town for very long. Shaw has been the most successful coach of the three on a steady basis, but he appears to be comfortable at Stanford, where he has taken over for Jim Harbaugh and cemented Stanford as the top college football program in the state of California and won multiple Pac-12 titles.
So hang in there, college football fans. The coaching carousel is never fully closed until the NFL says it is. And as always, remember that much of this will be generated and fueled by agents looking for new contracts.
When the door was left open for 5-7 teams to play in a postseason bowl game, the possibility a team could end the year with a win and a losing record become real. On Saturday night, Nebraska (6-7) took advantage of their rare bowl opportunity by running over, around and through UCLA (8-5) in the Foster Farms Bowl in a 37-29 victory. Nebraska ran for 326 yards as a team to wear down UCLA’s defense.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong completed 12 of his 19 selective pass attempts for 174 yards and a touchdown, and he also took off running for 76 hard-earned yards and a touchdown on 10 carries to earn game MVP honors. Devine Ozigbo carried the football 20 times for the Huskers, leading the team with 80 rushing yards. Every time it seemed as though UCLA had taken control of the game, including going up 21-7 midway through the second quarter, Nebraska’s running game found a way to battle back. Mike Riley‘s previous experience in the Pac-12 with Oregon State may have helped prepare a game plan to battle what UCLA does. Riley is now 2-0 against Bruins head coach Jim Mora. Nebraska ripped off 30 straight points before UCLA got back on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Armstrong’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan in the third quarter gave Nebraska its first lead of the game and they never looked back.
Young star quarterback Josh Rosen passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns for UCLA and showed some brilliant touch on his passes at times, but he was also intercepted twice, including one late in the game to help Nebraska seal the game in their favor. Bruins running back Paul Perkins rushed for 68 yards and a score. UCLA managed just 17 first downs and held the football for just under 22 minutes.
For UCLA, this is another disappointing effort for a team that once again failed to live up to any sort of preseason or inseasin hype it seemed to generate. Injuries hurt UCLA at times, but this was a Nebraska team that gave up 55 points to Purdue and lost to Illinois. Nebraska had its share of close calls this season go against them, and one big one go their way against Michigan State, so perhaps a bowl victory was a justified reward for those Husker fans who sat through and took punches to gut on multiple occasions this season.
Nebraska is the second 5-7 team to win a bowl game this season. San Jose State was the first with a win in the Cure Bowl against Georgia State.
With Louisiana-Monroe getting their new head coach all settled, this year’s FBS college football coaching carousel appears to be slowing down and coming to a close. There are just two more spots to fill, for now.BYU and Georgia Southern are the last two schools with vacancies currently open at this moment.
BYU and Georgia Southern are the last two schools with vacancies currently open at this moment. BYU is reportedly meeting with Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, who has explained why he might be interested in at least hearing what the school has to say about the job. Bronco Mendenhall is leaving BYU for Virginia but will remain in charge of the program through BYU’s bowl game matchup against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Perhaps Mendenhall will give Niumatalolo his endorsement of the job on his way out, although it should be noted Niumatalolo has a pretty good situation already with the Navy program.
At Georgia Southern, the search is on to replace Willie Fritz, who has accepted a position as head coach at Tulane. For now, Dell McGee is taking on the role of interim head coach as Georgia Southern prepares for its first bowl game in program history, the GoDaddy Bowl against Bowling Green (who, coincidently is also undergoing a coaching change). Which direction the school goes from here remains unknown, whether it promotes from within from anyone who sticks around, finds an FCS coach ready to take the next step or finds an assistant coach from somewhere else ready to try their hand at head coaching.
These two spots are still left unfilled, but it remains to be seen just what could happen to open up another position or two. With the NFL season coming down its home stretch, the NFL coaching carousel figures to once again keep some college coaches in the discussion, whether legitimate or not. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and UCLA’s Jim Mora have been names mentioned before, and could very well be thrown around once more. Keep an eye on the NFL coaching changes, because until that is filled, the coaching carousel will continue to be in motion, just in case.