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Chip Kelly chooses UCLA

Daily News, Los Angeles

November 26. 2017 1:43AM
Manchester native Chip Kelly who was the offensive coordinator for the Wildcats before moving on to coaching jobs for the Oregon Ducks, Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, takes in the UNH football Blue and White scrimmage in Durham on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Chip Kelly revolutionized college football at Oregon and now UCLA is expecting him to do the same with a program searching for a fresh start.

The former Oregon head coach, who was the hottest coaching prospect on the market this year, agreed to a five-year, $23.3 million deal with a $9 million reciprocal buyout with UCLA, the school announced Saturday. He will be formally introduced as the program's 17th head coach in a press conference Monday.

"I am thrilled to welcome Chip Kelly to Westwood," athletics director Dan Guerrero said in a statement. "His success speaks for itself, but more than that, I firmly believe that his passion for the game and his innovative approach to coaching student-athletes make him the perfect fit for our program. 'Champions Made Here' is more than just a mantra at UCLA, and I'm confident that Chip will lead UCLA Football back to competing for championships."

Kelly's innovative offense led Oregon to a 46-7 record during his four-year tenure that ended in 2012 when he jumped to the NFL in the midst of a recruiting scandal. After two failed stunts in the NFL, Kelly spent the past year as an analyst for ESPN.

"It is an absolute honor to join the Bruin Family, and I am grateful to Chancellor (Gene) 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 played football at Manchester Central and the University of New Hampshire, where he served as an assistant coach for four years before leaving for Oregon in 2007.

His former head coach, UNH mentor Sean McDonnell, said he after Saturday's game that he was excited to see Kelly back in the coaching ranks.

"To be honest with you I have not talked to him one iota about it," McDonnell said after the Wildcats' 14-0 victory over Central Connecticut State in the FCS playoffs. "The only thing that I'm happy for is that he's back in coaching because that's his passion and that's what he loves to do. The other thing, selfishly, I'm happy that he's back at the college level. Now we can talk about a lot of things that we can do together as programs that can help us out one way or the other. When he was in the pros it was a little bit of a different thing. He made a choice to go to UCLA. He did it for a reason. Can't wait to see well he does. Gonna do a great job there."

Kelly was said to have been considering an offer from Florida, but after one month of trying to fill their vacant head coaching post, the Gators could not secure a deal. UCLA officials fired Jim Mora on Sunday, met with Kelly on Tuesday and inked the deal within one week.

Luring Kelly away from a powerhouse SEC school may signal a major shift in the trajectory of the UCLA football program that hasn't won a conference championship since 1998.

The Bruins have never won 12 games in a season. Kelly did it three times in four years at Oregon from 2010-2012 and won three conference titles.

Despite setting a record for wins during his first three seasons, Mora lost 17 of his last 27 games, including three straight to rival USC. He was fired on his 56th birthday, one day after losing to the Trojans. Kelly, who turned 54 on Saturday, was 3-1 against the Trojans at Oregon.

Former UCLA quarterback, Troy Aikman, who was part of the search committee to secure Kelly, posted Sunday on Instagram "A great day for UCLA!" along with UCLA's official announcement video that proclaimed "the new era is here."

Kelly's $4.66 million annual salary easily eclipses Mora's $3.57 million paycheck last year that made him the highest-paid public employee in California. Kelly's sum would have made him the third highest-paid Pac-12 coach last year, according to USA Today's coaches salary database. Rich Rodriguez was the conference's highest-paid coach last year with a $6.03 million salary, followed by Stanford's David Shaw, who made $5.68 million.

For his success at Oregon, Kelly was also ensnared in a recruiting scandal that resulted in an 18-month show-cause penalty for the coach in 2013 - after he had already left for the NFL - and three years' probation for the university, a loss of one scholarship per year for two years and restrictions on phone calls and official visits while recruiting. The penalties were relatively minimal after the school was accused of paying Willie Lyles, who ran a high-school recruiting service, $25,000 to steer recruits to Oregon.

Kelly, who was penalized for a "failure to monitor" the situation, served out his show-cause order that expired in 2014 while coaching in the NFL.

The Bruins secured bowl eligibility Friday with interim head coach Jedd Fisch leading the team to a 30-27 win over Cal at the Rose Bowl.

Fisch and the current staff are expected to coach the Bruins through their bowl game next month.

"Coach Fisch is a great coach, people have a lot of respect for him," running back Brandon Stephens said Saturday after the game. "He just took everybody under his wing and said, 'This is it, this is what we got now and so let's just go out here and get a win,' and we did just that."

While the current staff finishes out the season, Kelly will have a little less than a month to get a handle on a recruiting class before the early signing period on Dec. 20 and hire a staff.

Some current players are already advocating for their positions coaches to remain at UCLA with sophomore defensive lineman Boss Tagaloa tweeting "#KeepAngusMcClure," referring to the longest-tenured assistant coach the current staff. McClure, the team's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, is in his 11th year in Westwood, having coaches tight ends, offensive line and special teams before taking over the defensive line six years ago.

Freshman linebacker Rahyme Johnson posted "#KeepScottWhite" for the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator who was's Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year in 2016.

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