Enter Jim Mora. He arrived in Westwood without nearly as much hype of his predecessor, mostly because few of the interested parties – fans, alumni, boosters and most anyone not named Dan Guerrero – were actually happy with the the hiring process or its end result.
Despite the general ennui surrounding Mora's hire, he made an immediate splash with a recruiting class that has been almost universally ranked in the top 15 nationally. Of course, the vagaries of recruiting and the uncertainty that follows means that ranking should be taken with a handful of salt. After all, a couple of Neuheisel's recruiting classes were pretty well regarded. Just because the athletes are there doesn't guarantee success.
But Mora seems to have added an element that Neuheisel didn't – buzz.
What else do you call the hoopla surrounding the addition of Justin “Son of Diddy” Combs to the roster? If you buy the idea that all press is good press, then the ensuing hurt feelings over the scholarship offered him was merely a national media release for a program in need of a little shine.
Then days ago, word broke that the Bruins made an offer to Diamond Bar (CA) HS sophomore Cordell Broadus. You've probably heard of his dad,
And, oh yeah, it wasn't that long ago that headlines were written about Jerry Rice Jr's arrival on campus. All of it is adding a little extra intrigue around the UCLA program – which is just as effective a recruiting tool as any locker room, practice field or training table. It's a lesson the Bruins learned by just looking across town.
For all of the success USC had on the field during Pete Carroll's tenure, a large part of what made them such a draw was the feeling that the L.A. Coliseum on Saturdays was the place to be. Much like the Lakers, TV cameras were often as much drawn to the star power roaming the sidelines as they were to the stars on the field. Be it Will Ferrell, Nick Lachey or even Snoop Dogg himself, the possibility of meeting a major celebrity was an undeniable draw for young prospects. Just offering rapper Li'l Romeo a scholly helped 'SC land the coveted DeMar DeRozan.
The double-edged sword is that the lax enforcement of who could and should hang around the program is a large part of what got the Trojans in trouble, something UCLA is very aware of. But if it's something they can keep under control, they could take a big step toward closing the gap on their crosstown tormentors.