UCLA has gotten its first choice as football head coach as Chip Kelly and the Bruins have come to a contractual agreement, as first reported by Last Word on College Football Tuesday night. According to ESPN, the UCLA interim coaching staff has been told as of Saturday morning that Kelly has been hired as the new head coach.
Terms of the contract have yet to be completely divulged. But initial indications are that the contract is for 5 years at $23 million dollars. Last Word on College Football first reported on Tuesday night that Kelly had made his decision for UCLA but there were details left to deal with. By Friday night, it was confirmed that Florida no longer considered itself in the running for Kelly’s services and had moved on to other options.
UCLA Gets Chip Kelly
The courtship between UCLA and Kelly was amazingly short. The Bruins have no history in the last 40 years of swinging for the fences to get a big name hire when it comes to the football program. They have talked to the bigger names and been turned down before settling in on a safer hire.
Kelly will be the fourth football coach hired by athletic Dan Guerrero since he took over as AD in April of 2002, (Karl Dorell, Rick Neuheisel, Jim Mora, Chip Kelly). He also fired Bob Toledo at the end of the 2002 season.
The Chip Kelly Story
Kelly has been a studio analyst for ESPN in 2017. Prior to that he coached the San Francisco 49ers for one season, (2-14 record). He coached the Philadelphia Eagles for three years (26-21 record). Kelly is best known for his four-year stint with the Oregon Ducks. He went 10-3 in 2009, 12-1 in 2010, 12-2 in 2011, and 12-1 in 2012. The Ducks won three Pac 12 North titles during his tenure. They were 1-1 in the Rose Bowl, 1-0 in the Fiesta Bowl, and they lost the 2011 BCS title game by three points to Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers.
In 2013, Oregon was hit with NCAA sanctions that happened in 2001, during the Kelly era. An assistant coach was found to have been paying a Texas “street agent”, Willie Lyles, in exchange for helping steer highly recruited high school athletes to play for Oregon. The school received a two-year punishment that included the loss of one scholarship per year and the reducing of allowable recruiting visits by the staff.
Kelly was not implicated in any of the investigation. However, the NCAA determined that, as head coach, he should have been aware of what was happening with his staff. He was handed an 18-month “show-cause” tag. That meant that any school that wanted to hire him during that period needed to develop a plan, and have it approved it by the NCAA, as to how they would keep the coach in line with NCAA rules. Kelly, however, had already left for the NFL and his show-cause penalty has long since expired.
The Chip Kelly Offense
Kelly is known for running a high-speed offense at Oregon, although it is one that I greatly misunderstood. Fans seem to remember the Ducks chucking it downfield all game. But Marcus Mariotta, who would later win a Heisman at Oregon, averaged only 27 passes per game playing for Kelly. What the offense did do was spread the field, utilizing multiple formations and open the field in a quick tempo style.
UCLA got this agreement down in a very non-UCLA time frame. In recent hires the athletic department had relied on Guerrero and/or executive search firms to vet coaching candidates. This hire, however, comes less than a week after officially firing Jim Mora as head coach. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch served as interim head coach for the regular season against Cal.
Kelly had been wooed by Florida for several weeks. The Gators fired head coach Jim McElwain back in late October, and immediately reached out to Kelly for next season. The Gators had been working on Kelly for three weeks without being able to close the deal. Once UCLA fired Mora and a west coast job became available, it changed the scenario completely.
A Change Of Mentality In Westwood?
The Bruins, for the first time, put together a search committee that included a financial benefactor, the athletic department and a hall of fame face of the program. Guerrero, along with associate athletic director Josh Rebholz, booster and talent agency CEO Casey Wasserman, and hall of fame alum Troy Aikman spoke with Kelly’s agent David Dunn on Sunday, (Dunn is also a UCLA alum). That same day, the Florida representatives were meeting with Kelly at his New Hampshire home. They came away with no signed agreement. The UCLA committee met with Kelly in New Hampshire on Tuesday afternoon.
Rumors floated throughout the week that Kelly had signed a non-binding letter of agreement with Florida. It allowed talks to continue with other schools. Thus, if true, it had little weight over any of the proceedings.
Timing became an issue. It has been anticipated that the Arizona State job could also come open this weekend. While ASU does not have the same financial resources as Florida or UCLA, the lure of another west coast job option was thought to be a potential issue.
UCLA has had more money to work with than at any previous time. They are paying off Jim Mora’s $12 million contract buyout, although it is not a lump sum payment. Wasserman, and several prominent boosters, including some former players, have pledged to help with the buyout and/or contract for a new coach. UCLA also signed the biggest apparel deal in college sports history last year. The 15 year, $280 million deal with Under Armour gives them financial latitude they did not have with Adidas.