The college football coaching market is about to have a bunch of new openings in the next week or so. UCLA, like Tennessee before it, decided to get a head start, firing Jim Mora on Sunday. It also happened to be his 56th birthday.
The Bruins dropped to 5-6 following a 28-23 loss to USC on Saturday. Mora had a 46-30 record over nearly six seasons at UCLA, but he was 17-19 since 2015. The Bruins haven’t won a division title since Mora’s first season, so the trajectory is that of a coach on his way out. But Mora’s buyout, a reported $12 million, was rumored to be a sticking point. Until it wasn’t.
Here’s one of the many UCLA candidate lists, but this one stood out for one of the names on it.
Mike Riley, Nebraska: He won’t be considered an attractive candidate if he is fired soon but Riley was courted by UCLA before and is a Pac-12 institution after two stints at Oregon State. UCLA could do worse.
UCLA could do worse in terms of stewardship of a program, but the timing couldn’t be any worse for that hire. UCLA pays $12 million just to get a chance at the plate, and comes back with a coach would would’ve been fired after three seasons at Nebraska? Not going to happen. Bruin fans will be hoping for a bigger splash than that. They’ll probably be hoping for Chip Kelly, which seems like at least part of the reason UCLA made the change yesterday.
Florida’s courtship of Kelly appears to be heating up. According to multiple reports, Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and five staffers flew to New Hampshire (Kelly’s home state) on Sunday. They didn't come back with Kelly, but it looks like things are getting clse. So if UCLA is also hoping to the be in the market for Kelly, the Bruins will have to move quickly.
One other coaching-rumor note from Sunday that jumped out to me. SB Nation pulled together a lot of rumors from staff reports into one post, and after a mention of Scott Frost as "Nebraska's top choice" there was also this note:
Nebraska is also considering coaches who run the triple-option, flexbone offense, specifically Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo. Sources indicate that if Nebraska approached Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, he would recommend Niumatalolo or Army’s Jeff Monken, both his former assistants.
No idea as to the validity of that – the SB Nation reporters on this report are typically pretty solid – but it’s a fun idea to kick around. Niumatalolo has won 64.3 percent of his games (83-46) over 11 seasons at Navy and has gone bowling in 10 of those seasons.
Monken is 60-42 (.588), which includes four seasons at Georgia Southern (38-16) and nearly four full seasons at Army (22-26). Monken had a pretty sizable challenge ahead of him when he arrived at West Point. Army had won three or fewer games in the three season before his arrival, and the Black Knights went 6-18 over Monken’s first two seasons. Since then, however, Army is 16-8. With a win over Nimumatalolo’s Navy team on Dec. 9, Army would win its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 1996.
Assuming Nebraska’s in the market following the season, Frost has to be Nebraska’s top pick. But if that weren’t to work out, consider me intrigued by both of these other coaches.
The Grab Bag
- UCF AD Danny White says "It's been a little insane to get this good this quickly."
- With Wisconsin and Ohio State slated to play in the Big Ten championship game, the conference is poised to create some CFP controversy this year.
- Nobody really knows what to expect from college football's early-signing period.
- ICYMI: Isaac Copeland put up 30 points yesterday as Nebraska basketball got back on the winning track. Notable quotes from the game here.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.