LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11 / CNS) - Jim Mora was fired as UCLA's football coach on Sunday because "the past two seasons have not met expectations," athletic director Dan Guerrero said.
The firing was announced just after 11 a.m., slightly more than 14 hours after the completion of a 28-23 loss to crosstown rival USC dropped the Bruins record to 5-6, remaining one victory short of the six necessary to be eligible for a bowl game. UCLA has not missed bowl games in back-to-back
seasons since 1989 and 1990.
UCLA will conclude its regular season Friday against California (5-6) at the Rose Bowl. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will be the interim coach for the remainder of the season.
"Making a coaching change is never easy, but it's an especially difficult decision when you know that a coach has given his all to our university," Guerrero said. "Jim helped re-establish our football program, and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward.
"While his first four seasons at UCLA were very successful, the past two seasons have not met expectations."
The Bruins were 4-8 last season when star quarterback Josh Rosen missed the final six games because of a shoulder injury, with UCLA losing five of the six.
The Bruins were 9-5 in 2012, winning the Pac-12 Conference's South Division title, 10-3 in both 2013 and 2014 and 8-5 in 2015.
The terms of Mora's contract will be honored, using "department generated money," Guerrero said. No state funds are used by UCLA Athletics, which receives the bulk of its funding through broadcasting, ticket and merchandise revenues and donations.
The firing came on Mora's 56th birthday.
Mora was the third football coach to be hired by Guerrero, the school's athletic director since 2002. He has fired all of them, along with Bob Toledo, who was hired by his predecessor, Peter Dalis.
Mora was 46-30 as the Bruins coach, including a 3-3 mark against the Trojans, winning the first three games and losing the last three.
Mora sent out a letter at midafternoon, through UCLA, thanking the school. "Coaching student-athletes at UCLA has been the most rewarding experience of my career and I know the future is bright for the program," the letter said.
Mora also thanked Guerrero and the UCLA administration "for giving me the chance to work at a great institution for six years," and praised his coaching staff and players.
"I want to wish continued success to UCLA and its football program," Mora wrote. "With the opening of the new facilities and a groundwork laid for excellence, I firmly believe there are great times ahead."
Former Bruin quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Troy Aikman will assist Guerrero in a national search for a new coach immediately, with input from Senior Associate Athletic Director Josh Rebholz and Bruin booster Casey Wasserman, chairman of the organizing committee for the 2028 Summer Olympics and chairman and CEO of Wasserman, a West Los Angeles-based
sports, entertainment and lifestyle marketing and management agency.
"We have no set timeline to make a hire, but will move as expediently and comprehensively as possible," Guerrero said. "We will not comment on the search or candidates until we announce a hire, and I would remind our passionate supporters that speculation, rumors and innuendo are just that."
The firing allows UCLA to immediately compete with such schools as Florida for the services of such coaches as former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who guided the Ducks to four consecutive Bowl Championship Series bowls, including the 2011 BCS championship game.
Mora was hired as the Bruins coach on Dec 10, 2011, despite his only college coaching experience being one season as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Washington.
In his introductory news conference, he said his top was "to make UCLA fans proud of their football team," win Pac-12 Conference championships and compete for national championships.
UCLA never won a conference championship under Mora, who spent 25 seasons coaching in the NFL, including three seasons as the Atlanta Falcons coach and one as the Seattle Seahawks coach with a 31-33 record.
The Bruins 19-season streak of failing to reach the Rose Bowl Game is the school's longest since World War II.
Starting UCLA defensive back Jaleel Wadood tweeted that "it was an honor to play for that man, he made all my dreams possible."
Starting receiver Theo Howard tweeted "I don't know too many coaches who have the kind of passion Coach Mora has for this game."
Punter Stefan Flintoft tweeted, "I owe everything to coach Mora. Without him, I wouldn't have been at UCLA. He gave me, a walk-on, the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream of playing football at UCLA and later on earn a scholarship. I'm extremely saddened, but I wish all the best to coach."