Sarkisian Hire, UCLA Implications

USC hired Washington coach Steve Sarkisian as its head coach today, and we analyze the ramifications for UCLA, like: Will Washington pursue Jim Mora? How will it impact UCLA recruiting? -- and more...

Is there a chance Washington gets Jim Mora?

There's always a chance, but what we're hearing from sources very close to the situation, it's unlikely. Washington will almost certainly take a shot at Mora, and come at him with a good chunk of money. Mora, however, has indicated to many close to him that he wants to stay at UCLA, for a number of reasons. First, for a guy who hasn't always had his family in the same area, he now does and he values that highly. He has become very attached to UCLA and what he's building in the UCLA football program. He has bonded with his team and players, and is the kind of coach that doesn't abandon that so easily. He has become enamored with UCLA and Los Angeles, particularly the weather, and the local ties he's created with his charity. Washington is his alma mater and he considers himself from Seattle, but he has indicated he's over his one-time aspirations of being the Washington head coach. We've heard he feels he can build a better and more elite program at UCLA with its potential resources and recruiting base. Now, could Mora potentially use Washington interest to leverage UCLA into more money, for him and his assistant coaches, and for the football facility? More than likely. In fact, we've heard that Mora has already made it pretty clear to the UCLA administration he wants upward of another $1 million just to enhance his assistants' salaries. The facility is a key to keeping Mora, now or anytime. Washington has superior facilities, but if Mora is confident he'll get first-class facilities at UCLA that's a big factor for him to stay.

As of now, this morning, Mora has privately indicated that he's staying at UCLA.

Coaching Staff Implications

Steve Sarkisian coming to USC creates a number of very interesting scenarios in terms of assistant coaches. You'd have to think he'd want to take a good portion of his staff with him, particularly defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach and recruiter Tosh Lupoi. There are a few things to consider, however. Washington sources believe that Wilcox, who transformed Washington's defense in the last two years, would be a major contender for the Washington head coaching position himself. In fact, many among the Husky faithful were hoping Sarkisian would get fired so they could hire Wilcox, who has earned a rep as a very good coach. Wilcox and Lupoi have pretty sizeable buyouts, according to sources; Washington made Lupoi agree to one after he left Cal pretty abruptly and that could be an impediment to coming with Sarkisian to USC.

Would Sarkisian try to steal some of UCLA's coaches? The most obvious would be UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin, who coached under Sarkisian at Washington before coming to UCLA. The word, however, is that Martin and Sarkisian don't have the best relationship and that Martin wouldn't coach for him again. The other obvious potential target would be UCLA offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, but Klemm and Martin are extremely close, and we would think that Martin wouldn't suggest to Klemm that he work for Sarkisian. Now, again, it's not out of the question that any assistant uses interest from other programs as a way to leverage UCLA for more money, and they deservedly should do so.

Is Sarkisian a good hire by USC in terms of pure coaching?

That jury is out. There was enough sentiment in Seattle that Sarkisian was another 7-win season away from being fired at Washington (He went 7-6 three years in a row before going 8-4 this season). He's always had a good amount of talent, but has gone 34-29 in five seasons at UDub. Bringing in Wilcox and offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau a year ago salvaged both his offense and defense. He's generally not considered a top-flight coach in coaching circles. This season Sarkisian had perhaps his most talented team and could only muster an 8-win regular season, and couldn't beat an injury-depleted UCLA, with Mora just in his second season. Getting hired at USC, in fact, could be viewed as Sarkisian getting out of town before the situation potentially goes south in the next couple of years. He'd be losing a considerable amount of talent at Washington next season.

Going by Sarkisian's coaching record and history, you'd have to think that, long-term, it's not a great hire for USC in terms of pure coaching, especially compared to some of the names that were being bandied about as potential USC head coaching hires – like Kevin Sumlin or Chris Petersen.

It's a bit of a controversial hire, too, already. Two days after USC lost its final regular season game to UCLA, it hired Sarkisian. The story goes that Sarkisian was interviewed yesterday, so it wasn't as if this was the plan for a while. It's well known that USC seriously pursued Sumlin, Petersen (who reports have USC AD Pat Haden going to see earlier Sunday), Jon Gruden, Jack Del Rio and Vanderbilt's James Franklin, but the word is that none of them were serious about taking the job. USC will probably say that it opted for its "first choice" in Sarkisian, and knew the guy it wanted, but it's highly unlikely that's anything more than spin. After getting turned down by a number of candidates, Haden looks like he opted for a quick hire rather than risking the bad publicity of a protracted process. Some already in the USC community are asking why Sarkisian is any different than Lane Kiffin. We've heard, however, that the school's familiarity with Sarkisian, having been an assistant under Pete Carroll, and support from a good number of boosters and donors, was a key factor.

Recruiting Implications

Sarkisian will bring some very good competition to the recruiting war between UCLA and USC. He is a good and dogged recruiter, and demands his assistants be, with deep ties to the Southern California area. He recruited SoCal heavily and effectively as the Washington head coach, and you'd have to assume that he'll be that much more effective as USC's head coach.

There are a number of SoCal recruits that were considering UCLA and USC, and had been recruited at one time or another by Washington. Those recruits will now have the familiarity with Sarkisian and any other Washington assistants that were recruiting them, but now the attraction of playing for them at USC. That should prove to be a pretty potent recruiting pitch for Sarkisian between now and Signing Day in February. For a recruit like Long Beach Poly's Juju Smith, hiring Sarkisian could seal the deal. Smith was a USC lean anyway, and Sarkisian's current running back's coach, Johnny Nansen, is Smith's uncle. Nansen is Polynesian and has connections through Smith and other means to the highly-sought Polynesian contingent of recruits, like Damien Mama and Ainuu Taua.

It could get interesting for a recruit like Budda Baker, whose two leaders were hometown Washington and UCLA, because of his connection to Mora and Myles Jack. Perhaps if Washington hires Wilcox as its head coach, Baker will still feel ties with Washington, but if not, having to start over with a new coaching staff at Washington would certainly set back the Huskies' chances, and UCLA could take advantage.

For Washington, this should really set back their recruiting in SoCal, where they've had a great deal of success under Sarkisian, especially with UCLA targets (John Ross, Damore'ea Stringfellow, Troy Williams). For UCLA, it's one less recruiting competitor, or at least a severely diminished one, because USC will get theirs and now UCLA won't have such a formidable competitior in Washington for SoCal recruits.

Mora is actually casual friends with Sarkisian, and he has gotten very competitive with Sarkisian in recruiting. Sarkisian to USC could only heighten that recruiting competitiveness.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories