It looks like the Bruins are zeroing in on their next leading man on defense.
UCLA football is set to hire Bill McGovern as its next defensive coordinator, according to a report from 247Sports’ Bruin Report Online on Wednesday that was later confirmed by Football Scoop and Last Word on College Football. Bruin Report Online had confirmed earlier in the week that McGovern was coming in for an interview, but it seems the hiring process has accelerated since then.
UCLA has yet to officially announce Jerry Azzinaro’s resignation as defensive coordinator, but that decision became widely reported in mid-January. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times also reported earlier Wednesday that the Bruins were expected to hire their next defensive coordinator within the week, and this latest development seems to fit that timeline as well.
McGovern is coming off a one-year stint as inside linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears, and he was a defensive assistant for Nebraska in 2020 and inside linebackers coach for the New York Giants in 2019 before that. The Giants had McGovern has their linebackers coach from 2016 to 2018.
Prior to his time in New York, McGovern overlapped with coach Chip Kelly at the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was Kelly’s outside linebackers coach from 2013 to 2015. Azzinaro was also on the staff in Philadelphia as defensive line coach and assistant head coach.
That wasn’t the first time Azzinaro and McGovern worked together, however. The two held different roles at Boston College for a few years in the mid-1990s, with McGovern standing in as defensive backs coach and Azzinaro as defensive line coach. McGovern was also defensive coordinator at UMass in 1993, employing Azzinaro as his defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator before leaving for Chestnut Hill and passing the torch to Azzinaro in Amherst.
Following his time spent alongside Azzinaro, McGovern was Pittsburgh’s defensive backs coach for a few years before going back to Boston College for what turned out to be a 13-year stint. McGovern was linebackers coach for the Eagles from 2000 to 2008, then he added on the defensive coordinator title from 2009 to 2012.
McGovern helped develop All-American linebackers Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly while at Boston College. Kelly poached him from that role to add to his staff in Philadelphia in 2013, and McGovern has had one season in the college game ever since.
The four years at Boston College mark McGovern’s only seasons as a Power Five defensive coordinator, and the Eagles ranked No. 19, no. 19 and no. 43 in the country in scoring defense across those first three campaigns. In his last season at Boston College, McGovern’s defense ranked No. 76 and his team went 2-10.
Azzinaro had four years in charge of UCLA’s defense, and the Bruins ranked No. 104, no. 117, no. 73 and no. 73 in those seasons.
With McGovern joining Kelly’s staff, the holes that riddled the sideline earlier in the offseason have largely been filled. McGovern currently has Ikaika Malloe as his outside linebackers coach, Chad Kauha’aha’a as his defensive line coach, Brian Norwood as his defensive backs coach and Don Pellum as his inside linebackers coach.
Malloe and Kauha’aha’a are brand new hires from December, while Norwood came on in 2020 and Pellum is the lone holdover from Kelly’s original defensive staff in 2018. Pellum signed a two-year extension in 2020 which is set to expire, though , and with McGovern’s experience as a linebackers coach, he could wind up taking hold of that title as well should Pellum retire.
According to Bruin Report Online, McGovern will be signing a two-year contract worth $900,000 per season. Azzinaro was making $750,000.
McGovern, who is 61 years old, will be entering his 38th year of coaching since graduating from Holy Cross in 1985.
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