Chip Kelly has decided to return to college football and he will do so at UCLA.
We reported this was expected to be his choice yesterday and now the program has announced it. Kelly will be introduced in a press conference on Monday. He signed a 5-year contract worth $23.3 million with a $9 million reciprocal buyout.
— UCLA Athletics (@UCLAAthletics) November 25, 2017
Kelly fielded pitches from both UCLA and Florida, meeting with the Gators over last weekend and with the Bruins on Tuesday.
“It is an absolute honor to join the Bruin Family, and I am grateful to Chancellor Block and to Dan Guerrero for this incredible opportunity,” Kelly said in a statement. “UCLA is a world-class institution with a distinguished history in athletics, and we will do our part to uphold its tradition of excellence.”
Kelly returns to the college game after leaving Oregon in 2012 with a 46-7 record. After ascending from Mike Bellotti’s offensive coordinator, Kelly’s Ducks never went worse than 8-1 in Pac-12 play, and finished 11th, third, fourth and second in the AP poll in his four seasons. He led Oregon to three Pac-12 titles, four New Year’s Day bowl games and an appearance in the BCS National Championship. Along the way, Oregon never finished lower than sixth nationally in rushing offense and never lower than eighth in scoring. The Ducks led the nation with 47 points a game — while averaging 289 rushing yards per game — in their peak season of 2010. Kelly’s offense allowed running back LaMichael James to lead the nation in rushing in 2010 and helped turn quarterback Marcus Mariota into an eventual Heisman Trophy winner.
Picking UCLA puts him back in the Pac-12 at a program that has succeeded in every sport but football. The Bruins have not won the league since 1998; every traditional Pac-10 team except Arizona has at least shared for the league crown since then. UCLA has lost at least three Pac-12 games in every season but once since 1998.
The Bruins have invested in the program, though. The team moved into the $56 million Wasserman Football Center before this season, and count its namesake Casey Wasserman as one of its top supporters. (Wasserman and Troy Aikman led the search that landed Kelly.)
UCLA’s Los Angeles location also served in the Bruins’ favor, not because Kelly wants to be treated as a celebrity, but because he doesn’t. Rather than living as Gainesville’s most recognizable person, Kelly can coach ball all day and then disappear into a city where seeing the head ball coach at a traffic light isn’t cause for celebration.
Kelly left college football after the 2012 season to try the NFL waters, first with the Philadelphia Eagles (2013-15), and then with the San Francisco 49ers (2016). His success at the college level never translated to the professional ranks. With the Eagles Kelly went 26-21 overall with one playoff appearance, and then 2-14 in his one season in San Francisco.
And for those curious: Kelly will return to Eugene next season with a Nov. 3 visit to Autzen Stadium.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.