UCLA Coach Jim Mora watches over a team practice in San Bernardino on Saturday. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
UCLA Coach Jim Mora had his own two-a-day Thursday. It began with a morning defense of controversial comments and ended in the afternoon with an apology.
Mora, in discussing recruiting, said Wednesday that he makes a point to tell parents how safe it is at UCLA, adding, "We don't have murders a block from our campus." He stood by those comments Thursday morning.
The killings of two Chinese graduate students near the USC campus in April became international news.
By afternoon Thursday, Mora had reconsidered his words.
"After learning the details of the shooting downtown earlier this year, I can understand how my comments on the radio yesterday could be interpreted as insensitive to the victims and their families," Mora said. "The interviewer and myself were talking about UCLA football and the tremendous attributes of the UCLA campus and I truly regret and I'm sorry if my words caused any pain. That was not my intention."
That may fall on deaf ears around USC.
After practice, USC Coach Lane Kiffin said, "I don't really think that's something to joke about, so that's all I've got to say on it."
But it wasn't.
When asked whether the subject of safety around the USC campus is brought up by recruits or their parents, Kiffin said, "it only comes up when opposing coaches bring it up." He added that "we have stats that show the facts, not the opinions."
Kiffin said, "I would like to say our staff, we don't negative-recruit."
Kiffin cited the Clery Report on campus safety, which showed no incidents of homicide or manslaughter on or near the USC campus in 2011. But in April, the killing of the two USC students shocked the campus and community.
Mora's "murder" comment, which initially went mostly unnoticed, was made on a sports talk-radio show Wednesday. When asked about it Thursday morning, after UCLA's practice at Cal State San Bernardino, Mora did not back down.
"I just said our campus is safe," Mora said. "I didn't same anything about anyone else's campus. I just said it about our campus. I didn't mention another campus. We don't have anybody getting murdered a block off of our campus.
"If anybody, whether USC or Cal State San Bernardino, is offended by the statement, then that's their insecurity, not mine."
When told that two students had been killed near USC in April, Mora said: "They were? I don't read the paper, I don't watch the news. So I don't know that stuff."
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said, "I've heard Coach Mora refer to his campus being extremely safe with the insinuation it's not safe at USC. I strongly disagree."
Mora said that he had talked about UCLA being a safe campus at a banquet attended by Haden and Kiffin but added that he had not insinuated USC was unsafe.
Said Mora: "I don't spend the day thinking about what USC thinks. Just like they don't spend the day thinking about what we think. My concern has to be with this football team."
UCLA finished the day with only eight offensive linemen. Most were out because of heat-related issues, but guards Jeff Baca and Alberto Cid will return to UCLA on Friday for concussion tests. ... UCLA will take Friday off for team bonding events. The Bruins will practice at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday. … Mora tossed defensive end Datone Jones from practice Thursday morning after he fought with a teammate. Jones returned for the afternoon practice.
Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.