Did The Texas A&M Athletic Director Save UCLA Football?

Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In a story that perhaps flew under the UCLA Football radar a few weeks ago, Ross Bjork accepted the Ohio State Athletic Director position after being in the same role at Texas A&M. Why is this at all pertinent to UCLA Football?

Well, the outgoing Ohio State Athletic Director, Gene Smith, was Martin Jarmond’s professional mentor. After all, Jarmond’s career education was under the tutelage of Smith as Deputy AD at Ohio State from 2009-2017 and was presumably thought to be the Buckeyes’ heir apparent. 

There had been growing sentiment around individuals close to the university and athletic department that Jarmond was on the hunt for his next job close to the Midwest given family desires, for the better part of a year, with the Ohio State job being his ultimate dream destination.

It is human nature to avoid invoking widespread institutional change or infusing grander visions at scale in a job you feel is short-term and transient. Given that contextual backdrop, it isn’t a coincidence that the theme from Jarmond’s year-end interview with Bill Paschke centered around “continuity.”

Is Martin Jarmond “All-In” For UCLA Football And Athletics As A Whole?

NCAA Football: UCLA Football Head Coach DeShaun Foster Introductory Press Conference
Feb 13, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins athletic director Martin Jarmond introduces DeShaun Foster as the new head football coach during a press conference at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jarmond’s “one foot in the pool” approach has left those around the program desiring much more from this young administrative star with enormous fundraising and operational potential. But now that his dream job is off the table for the foreseeable future, is Jarmond starting to dive in with both feet, arms, and body in the pool and treat his UCLA job as a more permanent, longer-term destination?

Early indications seem to think so. After all, Jarmond hired renowned Director of Recruiting, Darren Uscher, who has had significant success with Auburn, Boise State, and Oregon. Uscher’s arrival signals that Jarmond is most certainly “reading the room” by directly and boldly addressing one of the key criticisms and shortcomings of the program, namely, a recurring talent acquisition machine. 

Furthermore, Chip Kelly’s recent departure after a frantic flurry of NFL interest from the Raiders, Seahawks, and Commanders was in stark contrast to his seemingly content confidence in being at UCLA long-term, even amidst fan uproar in early December. It appears the highly pragmatic Kelly realized his job was safe beyond 2024 if there was an ominous sense of Athletic Director turnover, but his exit stage right to Ohio State (ironically enough) now indicates a new sense of stability in the AD’s office.

All this on the heels of DeShaun Foster’s emotionally galvanizing hire, one of a prodigal son returning home that has rejuvenated fans and alums – not to mention a renewed faith in Jarmond’s decisive leadership and clarity of thought.  

A fresh recommitment from Jarmond is music to Bruin fans’ ears as the sleeping giants from Westwood have the campus, city, facilities, and alumni base to dominate college athletics. All they needed was a visionary leader who wanted to anchor in Westwood to see it through. They had the visionary leader when Jarmond arrived, and now perhaps they finally have him anchored, along with his immensely likable running mate, Foster. 

If UCLA puts all its transformational puzzle pieces together, 10 years from now, they might need to put up a statue of Ross Bjork in appreciation.