UCLA coach Jim Mora got an emphatic introduction to the crosstown rivalry with USC when he created a stir with a controversial comment about campus safety during a radio interview Wednesday morning.
Mora was talking about recruiting with Roger Lodge on KLAA 830-AM when Lodge asked how he sold UCLA to recruits, and Mora responded with an answer perceived to be a shot at USC.
"When you're talking about UCLA, it's one of the great schools in the world -- not just America, but in the world," Mora said. "It's a safe, beautiful campus in a great area of town. I mean, we don't have murders one block off our campus."
In April, two USC students were killed near the USC campus.
Mora explained his comments before practice Thursday but did not take questions.
"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 I'm sorry if my words caused any pain. That was not my intention."
Earlier, Mora told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that his comment had nothing to do with USC nor any other school.
"I just said our campus is safe," Mora told The Times. "I didn't say 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."
USC coach Lane Kiffin, however, seemed to believe Mora targeted the Trojans with his comments.
"I don't really think that's something to joke about," Kiffin said Thursday, when asked how he felt about what Mora said. "That's all I got to say about that."
Asked if campus safety is a common topic of conversation with the families of recruits, Kiffin said it only comes up "when opposing coaches bring it up."
When that happens, Kiffin and his staff members tell recruits that the USC campus is, in fact, very safe.
"And we have stats to show the facts, not opinions," Kiffin said. "It's very expensive to go here and a lot of people send their kids here from around the world."
Kiffin continued to say the Trojans do not negatively recruit against other schools under any circumstances.
"I would like to say that our staff does not negative recruit," Kiffin said. "There's so many good things to talk about here, as far as the school and the history of the program.
"It's the greatest place in the world, so there's no need to talk about other places."
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Pedro Moura contributed to this report.