Who could replace Jim Mora at UCLA?
UCLA fired coach Jim Mora following Saturday night’s loss to USC. The Bruins went 46-30 in Mora’s six seasons with the program and struggled to take the next step after winning 29 games in his first three years as head coach. After an 8-5 season in 2015, UCLA is just 11-14 over the last two years and needs to win the finale against California to get bowl eligible.
UCLA is one of college football’s top 25 jobs and is located in a fertile recruiting area. Additionally, this program is working to upgrade its facilities.
Who could replace Mora in Los Angeles? Here are eight candidates.
8 Coaching Candidates to Replace Jim Mora at UCLA
Craig Bohl, head coach, Wyoming
Bohl is a name likely to come up in for Power 5 openings this offseason. After a 6-18 start to his tenure at Wyoming, Bohl is 15-10 over the last two years and guided this program to an appearance in the Mountain West title game in 2016. Prior to his stint in Laramie, Bohl went 104-32 at North Dakota State from 2003-13. During that time, the Bison won three consecutive FCS titles from 2011-13 and won 43 games in that span.
Dino Babers, head coach, Syracuse
Babers is a former UCLA assistant, so there are some ties to the program. The Hawaii native worked in Los Angeles from 2004-07 and also has previous stints as an assistant at Baylor, Pitt, Texas A&M, Arizona and San Diego State. Babers was hired as Eastern Illinois’ head coach in 2012 and went 19-7 in two years with the Panthers. He was hired at Bowling Green in 2014 and proceeded to go 18-9 in two seasons, including a MAC Championship in 2015. Babers has Syracuse trending in the right direction, posting an 8-15 record over the last two years. After going 4-8 last season, the Orange could finish 5-7 with a win over Boston College in the regular season finale. In addition to his previous ties to the program and successful stints as a head coach, Babers is one of college football’s top minds on offense.
Jedd Fisch, offensive coordinator/interim coach, UCLA
It’s a longshot for Fisch to claim the full-time job, but he deserves a mention in this space. In his first year calling the plays for the Bruins, the offense is averaging 33.7 points a game – up from 24.9 last season. Of course, a healthy season from quarterback Josh Rosen has provided a significant boost, but UCLA’s offense is clearly better under Fisch’s watch. He’s never been a head coach in college but has stops on his resume from stints as an assistant at Miami, Michigan and Minnesota, along with NFL stints with the Jaguars, Seahawks and Broncos.
Bryan Harsin, head coach, Boise State
Harsin is coaching at his alma mater, so it would take an enticing job for him to leave Boise State. After working as an assistant at Boise State from 2005-10, Harsin was hired as Texas’ offensive coordinator for two years (2011-12) before landing the top spot at Arkansas State. The former Boise State quarterback went 7-5 with the Red Wolves in 2013 but left Jonesboro for the blue turf after Chris Petersen left to be the head coach at Washington. In four seasons at the helm in Boise, Harsin is 40-11 and has two years of double-digit victories. The Broncos also have two division titles and a Mountain West championship (2014) under Harsin’s watch.
Chip Kelly, ESPN analyst, former Oregon/NFL coach
Kelly’s name has been mentioned for Power 5 openings this offseason, and UCLA seems like the prime candidate to lure the former Oregon coach back to the sidelines. In addition to being an offensive innovator, Kelly went 46-7 as Oregon’s head coach from 2009-12. The Ducks won at least 10 games in every year in that span and played for the national championship in the 2010 season. Kelly left Eugene for the NFL in 2013 and spent three seasons with the Eagles, accumulating a 26-21 record. He was dismissed from Philadelphia just before the 2015 season ended and was hired as San Francisco’s head coach for 2016, where he finished 2-14. Life as a head coach in the SEC isn’t easy. Would Kelly prefer to stay in the studio with ESPN for another year? UCLA needs to find out.
Mike Norvell, head coach, Memphis
Norvell picked up where Justin Fuente left off and has Memphis poised to finish in the top 25 this season. The Tigers went 8-5 in Norvell’s debut and are off to a 9-1 start in 2017. Overall, Memphis is 17-6 under Norvell and clinched the AAC West title after beating SMU in Week 12. Prior to taking over as the head coach at Memphis, Norvell worked under Todd Graham at Arizona State as the offensive coordinator from 2012-15 and also at Pitt (2011) and Tulsa (2007-10). Norvell is one of college football’s youngest coaches at age 36. And he’s also one of the nation’s top minds on offense.
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Texas A&M
It seems Sumlin and Texas A&M are headed for a split at the end of the season. Since taking over at Texas A&M in 2012, Sumlin is 51-25 as the program’s head coach and has won at least seven games every year. Prior to his stint in College Station, Sumlin went 35-17 at Houston over four seasons. Sumlin also has stops on his resume at Oklahoma, Purdue and Minnesota as an assistant coach. The Alabama native is a good recruiter and his style of play on offense would be a good fit in the Pac-12.
Kyle Whittingham, head coach, Utah
Whittingham is a longshot, but UCLA would be wise to inquire about his interest. Since taking over as Utah’s head coach at the end of the 2004 season, Whittingham is 109-56 overall and has finished in the top 25 for three consecutive years. Adding to that impressive record is the fact Utah had to transition into a tougher league in 2011 (Mountain West to the Pac-12). Whittingham has led Utah to bowl games in 10 out of his 12 full-time seasons in Salt Lake City.