Bruce Feldman quite sincerely, and with the air of a man in-the-know, told Scott Van Pelt that the University of Southern California's best options to replace fired head football coach Steve Sarkisian were gainfully employed by their two biggest rivals, Notre Dame and UCLA. Maybe Feldman was being a clown—they don't mind when writers get on TV and clown and troll, just consider the amazing career of one Paul Finebaum if you have any doubts—but Feldman presents himself as the rare "serious" sportswriter.
I'm not going to go into Notre Dame, as ludicrous as Feldman's assertion was, because the Jim-Mora-at-UCLA example will more than suffice. Feldman's sources, and his judgement, would appear to be bad. That doesn't leave him with much to fall back on. The misjudgment about Jim Mora's personality, and his relationship with both his family and UCLA, would appear to put him in Pat Haden's class in terms of struggling to grasp what is reasonably plausible.
What Feldman told Van Pelt is as ridiculous as if he had claimed, in a hypothetical scenario, that Michigan's best candidate to replace Brady Hoke was either Mark Dantonio from Michigan State, or Urban Meyer at Ohio State. In what world does Feldman see Mora being bought out at UCLA and heading 13 miles south-east to set up shop at USC, all while still retaining a capacity to look anyone in the eye, including himself? Feldman went so far as to make some "I've thought about this," comment to the effect of, "Jim Mora's family could stay in Los Angeles, where he likes living."
Great stuff, Bruce. That's why you get the big bucks and the bully pulpit. What would we do without the establishment sports writers sorting things out for us?
Feldman may have hedged his position by stating that this is what he'd heard, or were, in the opinion of his sources, the best coaches to fill the job without any consideration of reality. One of those, "If you could get anybody" scenarios. But if that's the case, why not just claim a rejuvenated Chuck Knoll had clawed his way out of the grave and was headed west wearing dolphin shorts, and carrying a whistle and clipboard even as he spoke? At least that would have been believable.
Where Feldman definitely can't get off the hook is for his vague, ill-considered comments about facilities at UCLA and commitment from the administration in Westwood. I guess he's been following things pretty closely. UCLA has broken ground on the $65 million dollar Wasserman Football Center in the heart of campus. More than that, coach Mora made the largest single donation ever by a sitting football coach at UCLA to help build it.
Feldman certainly thought this all through. The coach, whose donation wasn't explicitly disclosed but appeared to be in the millions, is going to help pay to build a state-of-the-art facility, and then take the job across town and compete against it. Further, as I grow more astonished typing this, Mora is going to put blood and sweat into building up a premier football program to the point it's ready to go on a solid run, and then pull a Benedict Arnold, jump across town to try again, leaving everything he built for someone else to cash in on? What manner of human psychology is Feldman tapping into? Maybe he likes the distilled product of the agave as much as Sark and was crying out for help.
Some pieces are hard to bring to a conclusion, but this is not one of them. Don't just accept any of this from me, as I appear to be acting in the capacity of sportswriter, a role I've denigrated some in the course of this piece. Take it from Mora himself, who spoke with Bruin Sports Report during training camp on this exact topic. After making his donation to the football program, Mora was asked what it meant in terms of his relationship to the university.
I’ve stated from day one that I’m completely committed to this place, and I’ve never said otherwise. Other people might speculate, but I never have. We just felt as a family that it was important—I’m always asking people for stuff, always asking the administration for stuff, the donors, the student athletes, the student body, and I just thought, we thought, it was important we were really firm in showing our commitment to UCLA and what we’re trying to do. So I would hope it would put out any of those silly rumors that our opponents are using against us that I’m leaving. I don’t know what more I can do to prove that I'm not leaving. I didn’t go to my alma mater, I didn’t go to Texas, I didn’t take an NFL job, and i just gave a little bit of cash to build this building . . . I don’t know what else I can do to prove this is where I want to be.
If you ask Bruce Feldman, that sounds an awful lot like the coach might be headed across town, where he can get some real commitment to what he's trying to do.