UCLA coach Chip Kelly is departing the program after six seasons, the school announced Friday, with the expectation that he will become the next offensive coordinator at Ohio State, according to multiple reports. The Buckeyes hired Bill O’Brien in January to lead the offense, but O’Brien is nowto become the next coach at Boston College, an unexpected vacancy itself after coach Jeff Hafley left to become the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator.
“I want to sincerely thank Chip for his service to UCLA Football and our student-athletes across the past six seasons and wish the best to him and his wife Jill moving forward,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement.
Kelly, who has a reported buyout of $1.5 million, leaves Los Angeles with a 35-34 overall record just as the Bruins prepare to join Ohio State in the Big Ten in time for the 2024 season. UCLA peaked with nine wins under Kelly in 2022. He previously had a run as the coach at Oregon — also Big Ten bound this offseason — from 2009-12 that included a BCS National Championship appearance in 2010.
In heading to Ohio State, Kelly would reunite with Buckeyes coach Ryan Day, who played at New Hampshire during Kelly’s lengthy run there as an assistant. The two have also coached together on multiple occasions, most recently in 2016 during Kelly’s lone season guiding the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Day served as San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach that year.
If hired by the Buckeyes, Kelly — once seen as arguably the most innovative offensive mind in the sport — will be tasked with turning around an offense that took a step back (by recent standards) in 2023. The Buckeyes averaged fewer than 40 points per game for the first time since 2016, and while they still won 11 games, they fell to rival Michigan for the third straight year and watched the Wolverines go on to win the Big Ten title and, this time, the national title. Mounting pressure and scrutiny led to Day taking actions that included handing off play-calling duties and adding a handful of key players via the transfer portal in hopes of a bounce-back 2024 campaign.
UCLA latest to face unexpected coaching search
With Kelly exiting Westwood, another sitting power-conference coach has left on his own terms. It’s a theme that’s become more prevalent since the start of the new year. UCLA becomes the sixth power-conference school since early January to see its coach either step away from the game or leave for another opportunity, a streak that began with Nick Saban’s retirement from Alabama. The Crimson Tide subsequently hired Washington’s Kalen DeBoer as Saban’s replacement, prompting Arizona coach Jedd Fisch to leave for the Huskies.
Outside of the Saban domino effect, Michigan saw Jim Harbaugh leave to become the new coach of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers, that on the heels of guiding the Wolverines for their first national title since 1997. Then came Hafley’s unexpected departure from Boston College for the Packers staff.
Kelly and Hafley aren’t the only sitting FBS coaches to leave for assistant jobs this winter, either. Alabama, after hiring DeBoer, poached Kane Wommack from South Alabama and Maurice Linguist from Buffalo to fill roles on DeBoer’s new defensive staff.
What was already set to be an offseason of transition for UCLA is now even more complex. The Bruins are one of four schools leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten this summer, joined by Oregon, Washington and crosstown rival USC. Not only does UCLA now have to find a new coach, but there are also questions surrounding what it could mean for the Bruins roster. UCLA players will be afforded a special 30-day window to enter the transfer portal without penalty due to a coaching change. (The university’s quarter doesn’t end until March 22.) The school said Friday that a national search for Kelly’s replacement is already underway.
“It is imperative that we support our student-athletes and put them in the best position to succeed,” Jarmond said. “UCLA is a special place, and we are confident we will find a leader for our football program who develops young men on and off the field and embodies our True Bruin Values.”
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