LOS ANGELES - It was a page straight out of Lane Kiffin's University of Tennessee playbook — the one he since has rewritten.
Jim Mora made a controversial statement that, for better or worse, brought publicity to a football program in need of one. Then the UCLA coach dug himself an even deeper hole. Then he apologized.
It all began during an interview with Roger Lodge of KLAA/830 on Wednesday. The subject was recruiting, and Mora said one of UCLA's selling points is how safe the campus is.
"We don't have murders a block from our campus," Mora said.
Two Chinese graduate students were shot and killed near the USC campus in April. Mora denied his comments were about rival USC.
"I just said our campus is safe," Mora told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. "I didn't say anything about anyone else's campus. I just said it about our campus.
"If anybody, whether USC or Cal State San Bernardino, is offended by the statement, then that's their insecurity, not mine."
Asked about Mora's comments, Kiffin, now coaching at USC, said: "I don't really think that's something to joke about. That's all I've got to say on it."
Mora initially denied having heard about the murders of the students. But later Thursday, he issued an apology.
"After learning the details of the shootings 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 am sorry if my words caused anybody any pain at all. That was not my intention."
Who's No. 1? That's a complicated question when it comes to Kiffin.
On Tuesday, Kiffin declined to reveal whom he voted first in the USA Today coaches' poll. When a reporter mentioned that Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said he voted USC No. 1, Kiffin replied: "I would not vote USC No. 1, I can tell you that."
On Thursday, USA Today revealed that Kiffin did vote for the Trojans. The paper cited its "oversight role as administrator of the poll" as the reason it disclosed Kiffin's actual vote.
USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said there is no language in the packet the school received from USA Today indicating that the paper could reveal Kiffin's vote.
Kiffin explained his comment and vote as follows: "We have less players than everybody else. So looking at it from the outside, I wouldn't (vote USC No. 1). Did I? Yeah, I did. ... When everybody has the same record, I can't go into a meeting with our players and have them say, 'You put that team and that team ahead of us.' That's why I did that."
CFT: The University of Miami has come under scrutiny for alleged NCAA infractions, but one unnamed Hurricanes assistant coach says the SEC gets away with far more unreported violations.
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