By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The Washington Huskies’ football coaching search will apparently move on without Jim Mora.
Mora, who is finishing his second season at UCLA, agreed Tuesday to a six-year contract extension through the 2019 season. UCLA announced the extension just as Steve Sarkisian was being formally introduced as USC’s new head coach. Sarkisian left UW on Monday after compiling a 34-29 record in nearly five seasons as the Huskies coach.
“This is an exciting time for UCLA football, and the continued commitment our administration has provided gives us every chance to reach our goals,” Mora said in a statement issued by the university. “This staff came here with a commitment to win a national championship. That commitment stands.”
Mora has been an immediate success at UCLA, his first significant college football job after 25 years in the NFL. The Bruins are 18-8 in his two seasons, returning to national prominence.
A report on Monday night by Football Scoop — an outlet specializing in coaching news — indicated that Washington athletic director Scott Woodward had spoken with Mora about the job. That leverage is likely what provided the impetus for UCLA to put together a new deal for Mora, who, according to the Los Angeles Times, was also promised that his assistant coaches will receive pay raises.
Mora was a walk-on defensive back at UW in the 1980s, and has spoken openly in the past about his desire to coach at UW.
With Mora seemingly out of the picture, the Huskies have a few obvious options, although neither Woodward nor any UW official will comment publicly about whom the school is considering.
Justin Wilcox, UW’s current defensive coordinator, could be a candidate if the Huskies choose not to pursue a sitting head coach. Reports suggest Sarkisian wants to take Wilcox with him to USC, but logic seems to dictate that if Wilcox were contacted by UW about the head coaching position, he would have to engage.
Another intriguing coordinator candidate is Doug Nussmeier, who is currently the offensive coordinator at Alabama. He coached under Sarkisian for three seasons at UW and is considered one of the nation’s top assistant coaches.
ESPN.com’s Joe Schad reported Monday that Boise State coach Chris Petersen is still expected to be a part of the process. Petersen, who is in his eighth season as BSU’s coach, was reportedly in the running for the USC job before he withdrew.
The name of Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was bound to surface as a candidate from the most optimistic of Huskies fans — he played for former UW coach Don James at Kent State in the early 1970s, then coached under James as an assistant at UW from 1979-90.
Pinkel was a finalist for the vacant UW job in 1998, when the Huskies instead settled on Rick Neuheisel. But any Pinkel-to-UW talk this time around seems more like a pipe dream; Pinkel has the Tigers sitting 11-1 heading into this week’s SEC championship game, and at age 61 seems unlikely to leave what he’s built at Missouri.
Pinkel reportedly declined comment when asked Tuesday by CBS Sports.
Sarkisian introduced at USC
The scene in Los Angeles on Tuesday mimicked, in some ways, the scene inside the Don James Center on Dec. 8, 2008, the day Sarkisian was introduced as UW’s coach.
Reporters. Athletic department big-wigs. Smiles and talk of championships. Except this time, Sarkisian and his family were dressed in USC colors as he was introduced as the Trojans’ new coach.
During his introductory press conference, Sarkisian was asked about an interview he gave Sports Radio KJR on Monday morning, when said he’d spoken with USC, but had not formally interviewed for the job.
As it turns out, Sarkisian had met with USC athletic director Pat Haden on Sunday afternoon, and Haden decided to hire Sarkisian when he returned home to Los Angeles that night. Contract negotiations took place Monday morning.
But during his radio appearance, Sarkisian didn’t characterize that Sunday meeting as an interview, saying: “I didn’t interview for the job. They reached out to me. I talked to them. I’m not anywhere near on the course of taking that job or not.”
A few hours later, reports surfaced that he had taken the job, and USC officially announced it after Sarkisian met with UW players at 2 p.m.
In retrospect, Sarkisian says he wishes he had been more forthcoming.
“Hindsight’s 20-20. I probably should have said it was an interview,” he said, adding that he withheld that information in an attempt to protect his players. “Semantics are semantics. I probably shouldn’t have referred to it as ‘talked to.’ If I could do it all over again, I probably would have just said exactly what the conversation was that Pat and I had.
“I’m sorry if my message got misconstrued, but it really was in the interest of the young men.”
Associated Press contributed to the Jim Mora portion of this report.