Before Mora was fired as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2006, he said during an interview with Seattle radio station KJR that he wouldn’t hesitate taking the head coaching position at the University of Washington, if it were available. At the time, Ty Willingham was the Huskies’ head coach.
“Well, I really have a lot of respect for Ty, and I know he’ll do a great job,” Mora said in the interview with KJR. “But if he ever decides to move on, and get in the NFL, or, you know, go back to Notre Dame or whatever, if that job’s open, you’ll find me at the friggin’ head of the line, with my résumé in hand, ready to take that job.”
Mora, a UW alum, later said he was joking, but the damage was done. He recently said that that comment cost him his job with the Falcons. Saying he would ditch the Falcons job even if he were in a playoff run probably didn’t help his image in Atlanta.
“Now, I want to see Ty succeed, and I want to see that program succeed,” Mora told hosts Softy Mahler and Hugh Millen. “But if he decides at some point that he’s ready to move on and they want me, I will be there. I don’t care if we’re in the middle of a playoff run, I’m packing my stuff and coming back to Seattle.”
That’s how Mora felt about the Washington job in 2006. As you can tell, it was his dream job.
Mora was a walk-on player at Washington, and his father was a coach under legendary Huskies coach Don James. He grew up in the Pacific Northwest and has long expressed his affinity for the area. The Washington program has nicer and newer facilities than UCLA — they just completed $280 million worth of renovations to Husky Stadium — and it has a winning tradition. They also don’t have quite as difficult of a rival to compete with as UCLA, so there is a lot of appeal to that job, particularly for Mora.
Mora has done some impressive work at UCLA in his two seasons. He has turned around the program, beaten USC twice, and commanded respect within the conference. He also is flipping the town in terms of recruiting. But he has expressed dissatisfaction with UCLA’s facilities, particularly the practice field on campus that isn’t even 100 yards in length. It wasn’t until September that UCLA announced plans for a $50 million new practice facility. With that project possibly years away from completion, Mora may not want to wait.
With things heating up for him in Westwood, would he want to move to the job that many thought was his dream position? The timing of the job opening is poor for him; why leave when he just got UCLA rolling? Then again, if he wants his ideal position in his hometown, there might not be a better chance to take it.
Also, keep in mind the way Mora was talking after beating USC on Saturday: