For the first time since the late-1940s, someone might need to show the new UCLA head coach around Westwood.
Athletic director Dan Guerrero announced the hiring of former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim L. Mora on Saturday morning, concluding a 12-day head coaching search.
Guerrero said the contract was a five-year deal worth approximately $12 million plus bonuses and perks, a substantial bump from former head coach Rick Neuheisel’s $1.25 million per year. The new deal puts UCLA in the upper-tier of the conference’s coaching salaries.
“I am extremely excited that Jim Mora Jr. has accepted the position of head football coach here at UCLA,” Guerrero said in a conference call with reporters on Saturday morning. “He brings with him tremendous football acumen, of course having coached in the NFL for over 20 years. He is high-energy, hard-nosed, disciplined and organized. He’s coached defense his whole life, and that bodes well for us with the kind of offensive firepower we see in our conference.”
Mora’s defensive expertise, sharpened through six different stints as a defensive assistant in the NFL, should provide a stark contrast to the offensive-minded nature of two of the Pac-12 conference’s newest members, Washington State’s Mike Leach and Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez. Mora spent more than 25 years in the NFL, including 18 years as an assistant coach before becoming head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2004. Mora led Atlanta to an 11-5 record and an appearance in the NFC championship game in his first season, but he went just 15-17 in his next two years before being fired. After a two-year stint as an assistant with Seattle, Mora assumed the head coaching position in 2009 and went 5-11 before being replaced by Pete Carroll.
Mora is set to arrive in Los Angeles early next week as he concludes his broadcasting duties, but he is unsure of his role for the team’s Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl preparation. Interim head coach Mike Johnson, who is reportedly set to interview for the vacant Akron coaching job sometime during the week, will maintain control in the meantime. Johnson coached for Mora in Atlanta from 2004-05.
“I’ve only been on the job for an hour here, so there are a lot of things we certainly have to solidify,” Mora said on Saturday morning. “We need to decide the best way to go forward. We want to make is this: We want to make sure players and coaches who have worked so hard to win the Pac-12 South, to earn a bowl bid, can enjoy that experience.”