Written by Bruce Feldman, Cameron Teague Robinson, and Stuart Mandel
UCLA coach Chip Kelly is expected to become Ohio State's new offensive coordinator, program sources said Friday. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day played with Kelly at UNH and later coached with him on three separate occasions.
The news comes after Ohio State's Bill O'Brien became the top target for Boston College's vacant coaching job, a source involved in those discussions said. The athlete. O'Brien took the OC job at Ohio State in January.
Since returning to the college ranks, Kelly has gone 35-34 in six seasons with UCLA, leading the team to three consecutive winning streaks.
“His experience as a head coach at Oregon, UCLA and in the NFL will bring immediate value to our entire team,” Day said in a statement. “I'm really looking forward to reconnecting with Chip, introducing him to our staff and team and chasing a championship together.”
When Kelly coached the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, Day was the quarterbacks coach. Day joined Ohio State in 2017 as co-offensive coordinator, and will now bring his mentor back to his staff after seven years.
After going 9-4 and finishing ranked No. 21 in 2022, Kelly signed a two-year extension with UCLA, extending his contract with the Bruins through 2027.
“Earlier this morning, coach Chip Kelly informed me of his decision to leave UCLA,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement Friday. “I would like to sincerely thank Chip for his service to UCLA football and our student-athletes over the past six seasons and wish him and Jill the best moving forward.
“The national search for the next head coach for UCLA football has already begun. As we continue to prepare for our move to the Big Ten Conference later this year, it is imperative that we have the right leader to position the program to compete at the highest level for student-athletes, fans and collegians.”
Day and Kelly's close relationship
Day and Kelly have been close long before either of them entered major college football. They're from the same hometown, Manchester, and NH Day was Kelly's quarterback at UNH, later getting his first head coaching job when Kelly was the offensive coordinator. Kelly later brought Day with him to the NFL with the Eagles and then to the 49ers. Their families are still very close.
It was no secret that Kelly was open to leaving UCLA, as the Bruins program was struggling to compete on the NIL front, as well as financially on recruiting issues. Kelly is tired of not having money to compete for recruits because the conversation often comes back to money. Furthermore, he lost his defensive coordinator to crosstown rival USC when Danton Laine was hired away. The Bruins were paying $1 million a year to a first-time defensive coordinator. USC easily doubles that. -Bruce Feldman, national college football reporter
What will Kelly bring to Columbus?
Day moved quickly to fill the offensive coordinator position at Ohio State and went to one of the people he trusted the most, Kelly.
Day has been vocal about his appreciation for his mentor. Now, Day is able to bring in an experienced offensive mind and play caller and someone who already has a handle on the way he thinks.
Before leaving for the NFL, Kelly called up to play for an Oregon State team that ranked in the top five in total offense and scoring from 2010 to 2012.
In his most recent stint, at UCLA, he led an offense that was among the top 15 in scoring offense and was fourth nationally in total offense in 2022 before falling to 32nd in 2023.
He will join an offensive staff that also includes offensive line coach Justin Frye, who was Kelly's offensive coordinator before leaving for Ohio State in 2022.
Although O'Brien's loss was not ideal, Day made the best move he could and did it quickly. With spring football a month away, he hired someone with experience playing at the highest levels and a coach who is familiar with the way he wants to do things. It's a powerful combination for Day, who can now finally move on from the offensive coaching hunt and finalize the No. 10 coaching position. -Cameron Teague Robinson, Ohio State beat writer
What does this say about the UC website?
Although it may seem unusual for a soon-to-be Big Ten coach to voluntarily leave to be his former assistant's offensive coordinator, Kelly's move is not surprising under the circumstances.
Kelly, an offensive tackle by trade, was on shaky ground at UCLA, where he was just 26-26 in Pac-12 play over six seasons. Many were surprised Jarmond wasn't let go after last season, when the Bruins endured a disappointing 7-5 regular season that was marred by a 33-7 loss to 5-6 Cal in the finale. Attendance at the Rose Bowl dropped to record lows at times during his tenure.
UCLA is not in a good position right now to make the jump to the Big Ten. The athletic department has been running a large deficit for years ($36.6 million in 2022-23), and as part of an agreement with the UC Board of Trustees, it will have to share a portion of Big Ten revenue with Cal. It is known that football receives limited support from donors. Kelly signed to small high school recruiting classes the past three years and relied heavily on transfers. The Bruins will likely start out with a losing season this fall, which Kelly wouldn't survive.
Jarmond must succeed in this next appointment, and may not be able to afford a high salary. His best hope is that one of the Big 12's top coaches (Kansas's Lance Leipold, Kansas State's Chris Klieman, Iowa State's Matt Campbell) is intrigued enough by the talent-rich Big Ten job in Los Angeles to make a deal. . — Stuart Mandel, college football editor
(Photo: Kirby Lee/USA Today)
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