Jim Mora agreed to a six-year extension with UCLA, the school announced Tuesday, ending nearly two days of speculation that he would bolt for Washington.
Steve Sarkisian's departure for USC had left the Huskies' top spot open, giving Mora a chance to return to his alma mater and take what he had once called his “dream job.”
Practicality overwhelmed sentiment, however, and the 52-year-old opted to stay with the program he has touted as a national contender. The new agreement keeps him in Westwood through the 2019 season.
The school is also fundraising for a $50 million football building west of Spaulding Field, an effort to put the program's aging facilities on par with others across the conference.
“I want to thank (athletic director) Dan Guerrero and chancellor Gene Block for their tremendous support,” Mora said in a statement. “This further commitment the university has made is crucial as we continue in our pursuit of excellence. From day one our goal has been to win championships, and with our tremendous staff, our incredible student-athletes and our dedicated administration, UCLA will win championships.
“We've only just scratched the surface of our potential, and as a Bruin fan, I'd be champing at the bit just to see what UCLA football is going to do next.”
Mora originally signed a five-year, $11.2 million contract in December 2011. In January, he signed a one-year, $2.5 million extension through 2017 after receiving interest from Tennessee, Auburn and the San Diego Chargers. Had he terminated his contract before Jan. 16, 2014, he would have owed the Bruins a $2.5 million buyout.
Erroneous reports Monday night placed Mora in Seattle — perhaps stemming from the fact that his father, Jim E. Mora, was in town for the New Orleans Saints' visit to the Seahawks. The younger Mora was recruiting in Northern California.
Mora was a walk-on under legendary Washington coach Don James, for whom he also worked as a graduate assistant in 1984.
In 2006, then still the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Mora told Seattle's KJR-AM that if the Huskies job ever opened up, “you'll find me at the friggin' head of the line with my resume in my hand ready to take that job.”
Seven years can change a man, however. After being fired by the Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks, Mora found his calling at the collegiate level, and particularly at UCLA. Boasting a fiery temperament that worked well with 18- and 20-year olds, he found himself more comfortable than he ever was in more than 20 years in the NFL.
Last December, he said his first season with the Bruins was “the best year of coaching I've ever had.”
“You're able to have an impact on their lives,” he said then. “The concrete hasn't hardened on who they are as individuals. They still need you. That's a good thing. We all want to be needed. I like it when a kid comes into my office and is able to share either something great that's happened in his life or needs my help with something.”
Washington offered a similar opportunity in that respect, but would have forced Mora away from a two-year foundation he often declared was growing into something “special.” This season, UCLA played 18 true freshmen — more than any other major conference team — on its way to a second straight nine-win regular season.
His players never seemed to doubt him, taking to Twitter on Monday to dismiss the idea he would abandon them.
Redshirt sophomore receiver Devin Lucien: “If you are even questioning Coach Mora's mindset right now, you clearly don't know or trust the kind of man he is. #HesABruinForLife”
Freshman defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes: “If you guys think Mora Would EVER ditch us for Washington your crazy... You might as well wipe him from the board cuz he's staying.. #Bruin”