- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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While the specifics of UCLA coach Jim Mora’s new contract agreement through the 2019 season aren’t yet known, he could be getting more money for his assistant coaches and football facility upgrades.
And does anyone else find it just a tad coincidental that the news broke just as Steve Sarkisian was being introduced as USC’s new coach?
This is a huge step forward for the Bruins, who are recognizing the progress the program has made under Mora. It’s a declaration that they are ready to be more than just a basketball school.
As the Pac-12 blog mentioned this morning, there was a strong possibility that if the Bruins brass didn’t make a commitment to Mora and the football program, he could pursue the Washington job that was vacated by Sarkisian’s move to USC.
Mora made sense for the Huskies given his roots in Seattle, where he played and owns a home. And it’s not the first time his name has been floated for the job. The extent to which he has been pursued in the past 24 hours probably won’t ever come to light. But no doubt, phone calls were made and interests were gauged.
This was the smart play by Mora and the Bruins. They won the Pac-12 South championship in Mora’s first season and were in the thick of the South hunt up until the final two weeks of the 2013 regular season. Through two seasons, the Bruins are 18-8 with Mora at the helm and 9-1 against South Division teams.
More importantly, they are 2-0 against USC. And that gave Mora leverage to push for the things he needed to keep the program moving in the right direction. Wisely, UCLA’s decision-makers concurred.
From a conference perspective, Mora staying put means a hyper-competitive Pac-12 South for years to come. Todd Graham has the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 title game in his second year. Rich Rodriguez has the Wildcats bowling for two straight seasons and they’ll be getting a boost next year from multiple transfers. USC figures to be a player again with Sarkisian at the helm. And let’s not forget that Kyle Whittingham’s Utah team beat Stanford and seems to be on the edge of breaking through, while Colorado got to four wins in its first season under Mike MacIntyre.
While we’ll never know for sure if Washington was going to offer Mora the job (or if it did), the fact that he’s no longer in the running leaves a void. ESPN’s Joe Schad has reported that Boise State coach Chris Petersen could be in the mix. Petersen was also linked to the USC job. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has been rumored to go with Sarkisian to USC, but that could change if he’s offered the position at Washington.
Other reported names include Alabama assistant Doug Nussmeier and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.
All Huskies fans can do is sit and wait. And watch next year’s USC-UCLA game feature their former coach on one side and a former player on the other.