Let me be clear: Jim Mora isn't leaving UCLA anytime soon. He recently signed a contract extension that will keep him with UCLA until at least the 2019 season.
The head coach turned down his alma mater Washington in favor of staying in Westwood. Amid rumors that Texas was interested in Mora, UCLA's leader clearly stated, "It's all rumors. It's flattering, and says a lot about the program and the direction we're heading, but I am very, very, very, extremely, delightfully happy to be the head coach at UCLA."
Of course Mora is happy in his current situation. The UCLA football program is on an upward swing at the moment. Mora has accrued more wins (18) in his first two seasons than any other UCLA coach has in program history.
Mora's success directly correlates with the dedication to the football program by the university. The plans for a modern football facility are presently in the cards. The increase in salary for his staff also lends credence to the notion.
If Mora continues to have success at UCLA, his name will be associated with high-profile jobs. It's the true nature of the beast in the current climate of the football world. It would not be a shock to see an NFL team attempt to fill its coaching vacancy with Mora.
For the sake of conversation, what if Mora did leave? Who would the hypothetical candidates be for the job?
Conventional wisdom would suggest a candidate having ties to the west coast, and preferably to the Pac-12 in some capacity.
Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason is a star in the making. The Phoenix native has been the architect of a strong Cardinal defense since 2011. He's a very respected coach with recruiting ties to both states of Arizona and California. Current Stanford head coach David Shaw has been very effusive of his defensive guru.
He's definitely in the mold of a young, hungry coach looking to make his first foray into a head coaching position. It won't be long until he's running his own program.
Another West Coast candidate could be Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter. DeRuyter is a Southern California native, born in Long Beach and graduate of St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower.
In his second season as Fresno State's head coach, DeRuyter has led the Bulldogs to an 11-1 overall record. The defensive-minded coach is said to be an energetic man with keen intellect.
He turned down overtures from both Cal and Colorado a season ago. However, the lure of UCLA's job could make him think twice about staying in Fresno (should the opportunity arise).
Two potential candidates reside in the Southeast portion of the country.
Golden has done a nice job resurrecting a dormant Miami program. Although he doesn't have ties to the region, the Hurricanes' record has improved in every season he's been in charge. He's a younger coach, placing an emphasis on discipline and character.
With the program facing scholarship reductions and probation, would Golden jump at the chance to leave for Los Angeles?
Another possible option could be Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin.
Franklin has done an astounding job with the Commodores, leading the program to three consecutive bowl appearances. Before Franklin, Vanderbilt had never been to consecutive bowl games.
Franklin would be an intriguing option for a number of reasons. He's generally known to be a very good recruiter. Franklin also has successfully recruited with academic restrictions. He'd face similar challenges at UCLA.
Much like Mora, Franklin's name has been bandied about in regards to job openings. He would be a "big fish" hire in the event Mora leaves. Franklin is easily one of the hottest names right now in all of college football.
Lastly, the potential candidates from the NFL would come into play. It's not known exactly who that might be, but UCLA would theoretically like to strike gold again like it did with Mora coming from the NFL.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the piece, there's no evidence to suggest that Mora would leave anytime soon. If he did for whatever reason, he would leave behind a program in much better shape than the one he inherited.
The existing talent on the roster, coupled with the location and the prestigious academic profile, would elicit plenty of interest.
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