Washington's search for a new football coach appears to be reaching a serious stage with an intriguing name apparently back in the picture — Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora...

Share story

Washington’s search for a new football coach appears to be reaching a serious stage with an intriguing name apparently back in the picture — Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora Jr.

Mora, a UW alumnus who lettered as a linebacker from 1981-83, is in his first season as coach of the Falcons, who are 9-3.

Mora Jr. had indicated earlier that his preference is to stay with the Falcons. However, he is believed to be intrigued by the prospect of returning to what he considers his home — he is a graduate of Interlake High — and reviving his alma mater.

Mora’s wife is a UW alumna as well. He is the son of longtime NFL coach Jim Mora.

UW athletic director Todd Turner and president Mark Emmert are out of town and were thought to be meeting with prospective candidates and may have met with Mora yesterday.

It is thought that they also may have met yesterday with Boston College coach Tom O’Brien and are planning to meet, or have met with, former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham. Turner and Emmert are due back tomorrow night.

Jim Mora Jr. bio

Head coach: Atlanta Falcons (first year)

Age 43.

Noteworthy: Before being named Atlanta’s coach, he spent seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, the last five as defensive coordinator … Has taken an Atlanta team that was 5-11 last season and has led them to a NFL South-leading 9-3 record. … Lettered at linebacker for the University of Washington from 1981-83.

Turner, reached by phone last night, said he wouldn’t comment on specifics of the search and would not comment on where he was or he planned to interview.

“I will say that we are aggressively pursuing a more limited number of candidates,” Turner said.

Mora is in the first year of a five-year, $7.5 million contract.

Reached by the Boston Globe Wednesday, O’Brien would neither confirm nor deny he was meeting with UW officials.

O’Brien was reached en route from New York, where he had attended the annual College Football Hall of Fame Dinner on Tuesday.

Tom O’Brien, right, led Boston College to an 8-3 record this season and a berth in the Continental Tire Bowl.

O’Brien bio

Head coach: Boston College

Hometown: Cincinnati.

Age 56.

Head-coaching record: 56-39.

Year College W-L
1997 Boston College 4-7
1998 Boston College 4-7
1999 Boston College 8-4
2000 Boston College 7-5
2001 Boston College 8-4
2002 Boston College 9-4
2003 Boston College 8-5
2004 Boston College 8-3

It’s possible that Emmert and Turner — who would not say where he was — were meeting with candidates in New York as many coaches attended the dinner.

O’Brien and Turner have known each other since the two were each employed at Virginia for about five years in the 1980s. O’Brien has a 56-39 record in eight years at Boston College, including an 8-3 mark this season. The Eagles were headed for a possible Bowl Championship Series berth before losing their season finale to Syracuse. They will instead play in the Continental Tire Bowl on Dec. 30 against North Carolina.

O’Brien, who got his coaching start at Navy from 1975-81, has a reputation as a disciplinarian and an offensive innovator. He was offensive coordinator at Virginia from 1991-96 before taking over at Boston College and was an offensive-line coach earlier in his career.

During O’Brien’s first season at Boston College, in 1997, his starting quarterback was Matt Hasselbeck, now of the Seahawks. After going 4-7 in each of his first two years — Boston College had had two losing seasons before he took over as well — O’Brien turned the program around in 1999, when the Eagles went 8-4. They have averaged exactly eight wins a year the last six seasons and defeated Notre Dame five of the past six seasons. Boston College has also won four consecutive bowls.

Boston College, rocked by a gambling scandal under previous coach Dan Henning, has had a sterling image under O’Brien, leading the nation with a 95 percent graduation rate in 2003.

O’Brien, 56, reportedly makes a base salary of about $600,000 a year with incentives that could push it close to $1 million. UW would surely offer more than that, though how much more is uncertain. There have been rumblings that the rumors of UW offering $2 million a year or more to Jeff Tedford might have been a little overstated.

Willingham, fired at Notre Dame last week, also remains in the picture and thought by some to still be the front-runner.

Like O’Brien, Willingham has a prior relationship with Turner. As AD at Vanderbilt, Turner tried to hire Willingham in 2001 shortly before Willingham got the Notre Dame job instead.

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice, who had been rumored interested in the job, confirmed that speculation yesterday during a conference call with reporters who cover the Seahawks. The teams play Sunday.

Tice, a former Seahawk who still owns a home in the area, said “it would be a lifelong dream to be able to work in the city where my two children were born. But I have a job here and I’m under contract until Jan. 31 and I want to finish the job I started here.”

Tice indicated he had had no conversations with UW officials and there have been no reports that UW officials have tried to contact him.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Staff writer José Miguel Romero contributed to this report.