I don’t know where he’ll end up, but it’s safe to sat that Chip Kelly will be well compensated once he gets there. The former Oregon/Eagles/49ers head coach may have become part of a bidding war when UCLA fired Jim Mora on Sunday.
That night, Kelly hosted a team of Florida big-wigs, including AD Scott Stricklin and president Ken Fuchs, at his home in New Hampshire. This wasn’t a rumored visit based on random FlightAware symmetry. Stricklin gave a few comments to a reporter after deplaning in Florida. It looked like the Gators were closing in.
But Richard Johnson of SB Nation reported, citing sources “close to the hiring process,” that Kelly doesn’t have an offer on the table from Florida. Whether that’s on schedule and part of the Gators’ plan or not, it seems to have opened the door for UCLA to enter the picture.
Or maybe the Bruins kicked the door in. UCLA announced Mora’s firing while the Florida contingent was en route to meet with Kelly. That’s either extremely fortunate timing or the reason for the timing. And it looks like Kelly is the Bruins’ top target, too.
Jon Wilner, who is incredibly plugged in to Pac-12 football, wrote this about Kelly and UCLA on Monday:
Based on the speculation, Chip Kelly will be introduced as head coach in the next week or two.
It all makes perfect sense, right? He’s considered the top available option; he has suitors (Florida); and the UCLA powerbrokers view Kelly as the man to maximize the massive investments in football, to lift UCLA to a level playing field with USC, to paint a glorious future by recreating the past.
At first I thought he was being sarcastic – the “next week or two”? – but, no, it seems as if Wilner is convinced the right people at UCLA are convinced it has to be Kelly. Seeing as how the Bruins have already agreed to eat a reported $12-million buyout to get rid of Mora, it doesn’t look as though money will be a factor.
Which brings me back to Florida, and a conversation I’ve had with a couple of colleagues: Is Kelly actually Florida’s first choice? His stature (and availability) is such that he’ll be mentioned on every coaching candidate list until he’s actually a coach again, and he does scratch one of Stricklin’s stated itches (offense), but there are also some questions about Kelly in Gainesville and the SEC as a whole.
Adam Rittenberg of ESPN reached out to some current college coaches and asked them to handicap the UCLA and Florida jobs. Both have great recruiting bases. Florida has a slightly better track record as a consistent national power and plays in the SEC, but with that comes the fishbowl. On the other side, Kelly knows the Pac-12 and could be a little more anonymous in Los Angeles than he would in Gainesville, something that is thought to appeal to Kelly.
But beyond those differences most of the coaches who spoke to Rittenberg were offering some variation of this answer:
"Florida obviously is the better job, but does it fit him?" a Pac-12 coordinator said. "He should take the job that fits him, regardless of perception. Without knowing him … UCLA probably would be a better fit."
If the west coast sources are right on this and Kelly ends up at UCLA, where does Florida turn? I would guess back to Scott Frost, if the Gators ever really turned away, that is. I also would guess that Oregon head coach Willie Taggart can’t be that far down the Gators’ list either, which would have other ramifications.
Point being, the Kelly domino looks like it could be the first one to fall during this coaching-change cycle, and it’s probably the biggest, too. And on that note, we’ll be tracking all of the head coaching changes around the country here, so bookmark that page if you want a handy resource.
The Grab Bag
- Interesting list compiled by Matt Fortuna of The All-American of just how few current coaches have never been fired. Some good stories from coaches in that article as well.
- The Tampa Bay Tribune looks at UCF's path from 0-12 to unbeaten ahead of this week's War on I-4. Good read.
- Heather Dinich breaks down the dream and disaster playoff scenarios for each conference.
- ICYMI: Here's last night's football practice report, as well as press conference updates for football, basketball and volleyball.
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