T.J. Simers is a reporter for the LA Times that has been known to stir the pot in route to writing his columns. After what he considered a blatant tanking by UCLA in their 35-17 loss to Stanford Saturday, he let UCLA coach Jim Mora have it during the team's press conference.
The claim: that Jim Mora had his team lose to Stanford on purpose so that they would have to play them again in the Pac-12 championship -- essentially an easier route to the Rose Bowl than it would have been if they were to have defeated Stanford the first time, forcing a matchup with No. 5 Oregon.
As you'll see in the video, Mora countered with "I've never, in my life, stepped on the field to compete and not given my best. Nor will I ever."
It really gets awkward later in the video when Mora declares in response to more verbal punches from Simers, "Is that a question or a statement? If you're asking me a question, I'd be happy to answer it. If you're going to make statements, then make them… What I thought about was Stanford, playing and beating Stanford. That was all we thought about. That was it. That was the end of the world for us. The universe dropped off after the Stanford game. That's all we wanted to do."
While I'm incredibly impressed with Mora's ability to stay cool while also delivering an earnest counter-punch, I must admit that Simers makes a decent argument in his LA Times article:
He spent 25 years in the NFL, so he knows how to assemble a game plan to make it appear as if his team is going all out when the goal is really to show the other team nothing.
I understand his genius and why his NFL career has prepared him like no other college coach for this chance to play a team two straight weeks.
It was routine in the NFL to play a team twice in the same season, and knowing this one meant nothing but disaster if UCLA won, I wanted to give him credit for tanking without making it obvious.
If the Bruins weren't tanking it, then one can only conclude they don't belong on the same field with Stanford.
I figure after the first quarter, the score tied, 7-7, Mora realizes UCLA can beat Stanford so he holds the Bruins back.
I'm giving him credit for UCLA running 13 plays and gaining 13 yards in the second quarter and falling behind, 21-10, and then 35-17 after three quarters.
What if Simers is right? It's not like Mora can come out and say that he actually threw the game. The repercussions of such an act would be endless -- from the NCAA and his University, not to mention his players.
Not sure if Simers is really on to something here or not, but he definitely has more guts than I in going after a story. And Mora can keep is cool way better than almost all of us.