On Tuesday, Jim Mora decided to explain the genesis of how he turned around the UCLA football program.
Appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on FOX Sports 1, the Bruins’ current head coach described his first interview with athletic director Dan Guerrero back in December 2011.
“I’m thinking, ‘What do I say here?'” Mora said. “Do I tell him the truth or something like it’s a great school and we can be great? I said, ‘I think you’re soft. I think the football team is soft.’ Dan said, ‘That’s what I think, and we need to toughen it up.'”
This is not an entirely new story. Both Mora, who just completed his fourth season with the Bruins, and several players have told some version of it in the past — usually by describing the program’s culture in broader strokes rather than recalling a specific exchange. This iteration, however, was enough to set off former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.
On Wednesday, the 55-year-old lashed out at Mora during his own radio show on SiriusXM.
“All he did was go and paint the walls black and wear black on the sideline, and thinks that that’s tough,” Neuheisel said. “I’ve been in the locker room. There’s all sorts of stuff about Sun Tzu, and The Art of War, and pain and all that kind of stuff. He takes the team to Navy SEAL training. Congratulations. I’m glad you had the money to do it. But don’t talk about toughness with my football team. I’ll go to war with anyone.”
Neuheisel argued that the perception of UCLA as “soft” is rooted in the team’s baby blue colors, adding that the criticism was something he heard often when he was coaching at Washington, Mora’s alma mater. He also pointed out that the Bruins struggled against the run this past season, and have been among the nation’s worst offenders in penalties every year under Mora, who has a 37-16 record over four seasons.
Neuheisel was also upset that Guerrero agreed with Mora’s characterization of the program during that interview, claiming that he did not receive the same institutional support that Mora has at UCLA. The former coach also implied that he might have had much of the same success had he been given a chance to coach Brett Hundley, a quarterback he recruited.
“The facts are, we didn’t have good enough players,” Neuheisel said. “We were 21-29, and I’m man enough to own that record. That’s the facts. That’s what we were and I own it. Jim Mora has done a nice job at UCLA.
“But to hear Dan Guerrero say that we were soft? That makes me bristle. Because Dan Guerrero never came to practice. He never came to my office in four years. Not one time. Not one time did he ever come and be a part of what was going on out there.”