LOS ANGELES — It wasn’t long after Jim Mora got a chance to lift his head from the daily grind that he was able to soak in the reality of what he had walked into as football coach at UCLA.
It was one of those perfect Southern California days on the pristine Westwood campus, a square mile of real estate tucked between the glitz and glam of Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Brentwood. Sun shining, mid-70s, not a cloud in the sky.
There, on the track at Drake Stadium, were two world record holders, two Olympic gold medalists and eight NFL players running stadium steps. Over there at the tennis complex were Venus and Serena Williams, pounding that yellow ball back and forth.
At the football facility, just outside legendary Pauley Pavilion, Tim Tebow, Christian Ponder and Philip Rivers were throwing. And to tie it all together, that was Dr. Dre strolling down the walkway between the facilities.
“There’s greatness all around you; it’s humbling,” Mora says now. “We need to do something. We need to pull our weight.”
UCLA football, in a nutshell, is the program no one has believed in for years. As awful as that sounds, there’s really no easy way to explain how bad it has become—and apparently, no easy way to fix it.