After a promising 2012 campaign and continued progress in the recruiting world, the UCLA athletic department has done everything it can to keep things rolling in the revamped Bruins' football program.
The ultimate show of support came last week when head coach Jim Mora signed a one-year contract extension to stick with UCLA through the 2017 season (as reported by ESPN). The deal effectively silenced any speculation that the first-year skipper would jump ship for the NFL or a more lucrative college offer.
The timing of the contract negotiation makes sense, as it comes in the wake of news that the Chargers were in contact with Mora about the head coaching vacancy in San Diego. But the whole thing is still sort of strange.
Prior to the renegotiation, Mora was entering the second year of a five-year, $11.235 million contract, which makes a one-year extension look ridiculous. The move seems especially unnecessary since Mora has frequently expressed his satisfaction working with college athletes, according to a report from the Pasadena Star-News.
So besides some chatter about one NFL job offer, why would UCLA re-sign a coach with four years remaining on his contract and a desire to stay put?
Perhaps it was to reassure worried parents and recruits by squashing the uncertainty surrounding his job status. Or maybe it was to prevent more assistant coaches from ditching the dream team, a very relevant fear after Marques Tuiasosopo bolted for Washington shortly after this season's Holiday Bowl.
Or it could have been simply to keep Mora from testing the waters elsewhere, even though that would seem a bit excessive. Truthfully, the answer is unclear, and details of the new deal have not been made public.
But whatever the reason for the extension, its message comes through crystal clear: UCLA is committed to Mora, his vision for UCLA football and the idea that the Bruins can contend for championships.
In a statement released after the additional year was announced, Mora was adamant that athletic director Dan Guerrero, and the University at large, is on board with the current direction of the program. The full release, via uclabruins.com, is included below.
First and foremost, I want to thank Dan Guerrero for his commitment to me and my staff, and our shared belief that we are on the road to creating something very special. I believe UCLA will win championships. The 2012 team established a foundation which will launch us forward. Our staff, our returning players, our administration, and the entire Bruin community are pulling together in an effort to win championships. I am proud of our players for what they are doing in the classroom and on the field, and I am grateful for UCLA's commitment to achieve excellence.
Clearly, Mora and the athletic department are intent on establishing a long-standing culture of winning in Westwood, a reality that should have the Bruin faithful excited for the road ahead.
But the commitment wasn't limited to Mora's extension, as the UCLA administration has also taken steps to improve on-campus facilities, raise assistant coaching salaries across the board and build a brand-new football training complex.
All of these changes will carry massive weight on the recruiting trail, an area where Mora and Co. have already shown an aptitude for success.
After landing the No. 13 class in the country amid a tumultuous regime change last year, Mora and the Bruins are on pace for another highly ranked class as the 2013 national signing day is rapidly approaching.
If the coaching staff has been able to work that kind of magic already, it's scary to think how monstrous UCLA recruiting could become in a talent-laden state like California.
By extending Mora's contract, the UCLA football program was gifted much more than meets the eye. The Bruins not only have the pleasure of Mora commanding the X's and O's for years to come, but they also have the comfort of knowing that the UCLA administration is behind them all the way.
Getting that kind of solid commitment from a traditional basketball school and a highly sought-after head coach like Mora has UCLA football set for great things in the future.
With Mora at the helm, the Bruins have the potential to become a mainstay among the nation's elite, both on the field and in recruiting.
UCLA is a young team, so the squad's progress this spring and into the 2013 season will ultimately tell the tale. But as of now, it looks like a sleeping giant has been awoken in Westwood...all thanks to a measly one-year contract extension.
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