This morning’s news threw my plans for today’s column into complete disarray.
I had planned to write about how the annual football game between the Bruins and the Golden Bears needs to be turned into a trophy game.
But, the morning announcement that UCLA has hired Chip Kelly to be its next football coach blew that out of the water. Those thoughts will need to wait.
Instead, I’m going to address the elephant in the room.
Blue (& Gold) Chip
Now, I’m certain that some of you are expecting me to write that this is a bad hire for UCLA or to write a scathing article calling this the wrong decision.
In fact, just last week, someone wrote a comment that said I would say the sky was green if the Athletic Department said it was blue. Well, he was wrong and I’m going to disappoint everyone who was expecting me to blast this.
The fact of the matter is that this is the first time that most, if not all, Bruin fans can say we hired our first choice as head coach in football. It is a monumental occasion and all Bruin fans should celebrate Chip Kelly’s hiring and his birthday today.
Side note: Am I the only one that thinks it’s strange and, perhaps a little creepy, that UCLA fired Mora on his birthday and hired Kelly on his?
Should there be concerns? Sure. I laid those out on Sunday. I expect Kelly to address the “show cause” order and how he is going to adhere to NCAA rules in his press conference on Monday.
You can count on me to say, “See? I told you so.” should Kelly and his staff commit NCAA violations in the future.
But, the fact is that UCLA has hired a coach with an impressive college coaching record and I expect that to continue in Westwood.
Kelly is the type of coach who is capable of turning around a program extremely quickly. I expect that UCLA will compete for the Pac-12 Championship next season and that he will have the Bruins in the College Football Playoff conversation next year as well, even if they don’t end up in the Top 4 right away.
Some of you may be thinking, “Oh, Joe, there you go again....”
But, you have to understand that that’s what a winning coach does. Why so quickly? Because the talent is already there.
One of Jim Mora’s strengths has been recruiting. UCLA’s recruiting has gone well, at least, until this current season. As a result, Kelly inherits a talented roster.
Mora’s problem was not recruiting. It was developing talent and deploying that talent.
Of course, UCLA’s 2018 recruiting class may not be in great shape right now considering the fact that there have been six decommits and there are an awful lot of 3-star recruits in the class, but look for Kelly and his staff to hit the ground running with respect to recruiting. The college football early signing period is less than a month away and, after that, they will need to keep working at it to finish off the class on National Signing Day in February. I expect that Kelly will improve the overall quality of this incoming class despite the short timeframes.
The bottom line here is simple: Dan Guerrero, Josh Rebholz, Troy Aikman and Casey Wasserman went out and got the guy they wanted and the Bruin football program will be much better for it.
Welcome to Westwood, Chip!