Jim Mora: 'In the interview, I told them the football team was soft'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday February 09, 2016


Jim Mora started to change the UCLA football culture before he even began coaching the team. It was something he promised in the job interview.

In December 2011, Mora blasted the team’s tradition of “jumping the wall” to ditch a late practice. That was before he officially started coaching the team. While on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on Tuesday, Mora explained where it started.

“(Athletic director) Dan Guerrero and I, in our first interview, he asked me, ‘When you think of UCLA, what do you think?’” Mora said. “I’m thinking, what do I say here? 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.’"

So when Mora made his changes, even if they went against UCLA traditions, he had the AD’s support.

“Having his blessing helped,” Mora said. “I didn’t go in there like the Gestapo. I’ve done this my whole life. Every meal I’ve eaten, even piece of clothing I’ve put on is because of football. I came out of the womb, and my dad was coaching football. This is my life. I think I have an understanding of how to manage it.

The over-the-wall thing, that was out. Walking between drills, that was out. Going to San Bernardino (for camp), there was an aspect of toughening them up, mentally. There’s a placebo effect. They start to think they’re tougher and act like it. We’re not there yet. And it’s not just about toughness. Toughness is physical, mental, emotional. You’re always trying to develop those things.

“It’s about being fundamentally sound. It’s about playing with great effort. It’s about being technically sound. It’s about having a mindset that when things aren’t going well, we can get through it. We’re still trying to develop those things, and all those things to me, when you mix them together, that’s toughness.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.