[Updated on 11/19 at 4:45 PM]: More names added.
[Updated on 11/20 at 12:00 PM]: New names added. Dino Babers removed for now.
[Updated on 11/21 at 4:45 PM]: Updates have been provided for a few of the names, and have been noted. Les Miles and Dan Mullen have been removed for now.
[Updated on 11/21 at 7:10 PM]: Updated with new Chip Kelly news.
[Updated on 11/25 at 1:40 PM]: New Chip stuff.
With the removal of Jim Mora as head coach of the UCLA football program, the focus, inevitably, turns towards who the next hire will be. There are a lot of names flying around, and we’ll try to keep this post updated as much as possible to give you as much information as possible.
Also, the names are not listed in any preferred order, so I wouldn’t read too much into that.
Pros: Any observer of the Dan Guerrero era of UCLA sports knows that each coaching search begins with the courting of a big name, and this year’s big-name coach is Chip Kelly. To be absolutely fair, Chip Kelly is the type of home-run hire that would take UCLA to the next level. He’s a proven winner at the college level, with a dynamic offense that could really take advantage of incoming recruit Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s skillset (to say nothing of current backup and former 4-star recruit Devon Modster). Kelly is THE hot coaching name at the moment, with Florida also being considered as a potential landing spot for the former Oregon head man, but UCLA does apparently have some advantages here that we’ll talk about in a different section. As an additional plus, Kelly is still being paid a truckload of money by the San Francisco 49ers, so salary may not be as big of an issue in this case as in other options.
Cons: There are reasons to be wary of Chip Kelly, as with any coach. Kelly’s stint in the NFL was not the best, as he struggled to adapt his system to the NFL. It has been 5 years since Kelly coached in college, which is certainly another factor to consider. The biggest factor against Kelly is the show-cause penalty he received after leaving Oregon. The report is that the Oregon program paid a 7-on-7 coach $25,000 to help guide players to their program. Kelly’s personal show-cause penalty has expired, but this is something to consider, especially in light of the FBI investigations into college basketball corruption revealed last month.
The latest: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and with Chip Kelly and UCLA, there has been a lot of smoke. In fact, there had been smoke regarding this move since before the season started, with sources indicating that Los Angeles was a top landing spot in the mind of Kelly. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports has been beating the Chip Kelly to UCLA drum since October, and most national sportswriters have joined him in making that prediction in the aftermath of Jim Mora’s firing.
As pointed out, thanks to the 49er buyout, the amount of money teams can throw at Chip Kelly is not as big of an issue. Florida was apparently in the driver’s seat for Kelly’s services, but rumors that Kelly had agreed to a contract with the Gators already ran dry late last week, which is a mighty-fine coincidence for the Bruins. Rumors are already flying around that UCLA will be meeting with Kelly’s agent David Dunn this week, possibly as early as Sunday evening. Oh, and it probably doesn’t hurt that Dunn is a UCLA alum.
If I had to throw an educated guess out here, there’s enough smoke to believe that Chip Kelly really is the top target, and that UCLA made the decision to let Mora go now instead of next week in part to give them the best chance of landing Kelly. And, if i’m throwing out speculation, the fact that the decision was made so quickly even with the buyout means that UCLA believes they have enough money on-hand to go get a top tier coach.
Update 11/21: Whole lot to talk about, specifically that Florida had sent their entire envoy up to New Hampshire and were in the air as the news of Jim Mora’s firing broke. Rumors are that Florida brass left that game with, at the very least, a verbal agreement, and while reports are that Chip Kelly will want to hear UCLA out, no meeting has yet to be scheduled. As of right now, we’d guess that UCLA entered this race too late, but never say never.
Update 11/21 P2: While we were all watching UCLA come back against Wisconsin, some new nuggets of info dropped. First, Pat Forde of Yahoo reported that Florida was preparing to widen their search beyond Chip Kelly. Then, Football Scoop reported that UCLA officials had indeed met with Chip Kelly at some point today, though this has yet to be confirmed by others. Seems the plot has indeed thickened.
Update 11/24: So of course a bunch of news breaks while I’m driving down to the Rose Bowl. Going to do this by phone so bear with me.
So a few reports all came out at similar times this morning. First, FootballScoop.com stated their opinion that Chip Kelly was coming to UCLA. Then, Pat Forde came out with a report that Florida was moving on from Chip Kelly, which was complimented by a Mark Schlabach report that Florida was focusing on Scott Frost. Oh, and there are more than a few rumblings from Twitter that the BRO article proclaiming Kelly as the next UCLA coach was pulled down due to the UCLA admin wanting to control the information leak. This still doesn’t mean anything until the name is on the dotted line, but that is a LOT of smoke.
Pros: There’s not a lot to hate when it comes to Scott Frost. He’s this year’s Tom Hermann - a young, dynamic head coach who has a non-power in UCF as a dark-horse CFP candidate. Frost has a pedigree, having coached under Chip Kelly at Oregon, and played under such names as Bill Walsh, Tom Osborne, Bill Belicheck and Bill Parcells. If UCLA were to hire Scott Frost, it would be an absolute coup.
Cons: Frost only has 2 years of coaching under his belt, so you always have to question whether this breakout is legitimate or not. Still, Frost at the very least has the pedigree to be a fantastic coach.
The latest: As the hot coaching name, Frost has already been linked to openings at Florida (which would keep him in the same area that he’s in now) and Tennessee, while a potential opening at his alma-mater in Nebraska looms large over the entire process. There isn’t any word if Frost is interested in the UCLA job, and I’d put his chance of taking the job as a longshot at best.
Pros: The bright spot for UCLA this past year has been the offense, and all the credit in the world needs to go to Jedd Fisch for designing an offense to best take advantage of UCLA’s available talent. In addition, Fisch has experience with how things work at UCLA, which has to be considered. And there is a possibility, on some level, of possibly getting Josh Rosen back for another year if Fisch is retained.
Cons: Fisch has no head coaching experience, which is a definite negative point against him. Fisch has a pedigree, thanks to coaching under guys like Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll (no matter your feelings on him, he’s still a great coach to learn things under), but he has even less experience than Scott Frost.
The latest: Jedd Fisch would very-clearly want the job, and the fact that he has been named interim head coach in the wake of Jim Mora’s firing would indicate that UCLA wants to get a better look at Fisch as a possible long-term option. If Chip Kelly falls through, I would expect Jedd Fisch to get serious consideration for the job, but he probably will not remain in Westwood if UCLA goes in a different direction.
Update 11/21: Reports are that Oregon State has requested the ability to interview Jedd Fisch for their head coaching position. With the appearance that Fisch is in the second tier of guys after Chip Kelly, this may push UCLA to speed up their process.
Pros: The current Utah head coach has plenty of experience, and is known for an ability to get positive results despite working with a lower talent level. Plus, he has a reputation for being squeaky-clean, something that would definitely appeal to UCLA administrators.
Cons: Entering the season, Kyle Whittingham was the only coach in the Pac 12 South that had yet to win the division, something even Mike Macintyre was able to accomplish in a few years on the job. In addition, Whittingham in recent years has had some issues with staff continuity, especially on the offensive end.
The latest: There’s a feeling amongst the media that Kyle Whittingham may be looking for a way out of Utah - rumors have swirled for years that the Utah administration has been less-than supportive during his run with the program. A move to a division rival isn’t out of the question, though he would take a decided pay cut to do so.
Pros: Mike Norvell not only sustained the building that Justin Fuente did at Memphis, he improved on it, getting Memphis major wins the past few years and looking like a potential dark horse for the Group of 5 New Years Six games. Norvell also has experience in the Pac 12, being a former offensive coordinator under Todd Graham at Arizona State.
Cons: Norvell falls into the Scott Frost category of not having a ton of experience as a head coach. He also doesn’t possess the same crazy high’s that Scott Frost is currently experiencing at UCF.
The latest: Mike Norvell is still a hot coaching name, I’d expect him to be among the candidates UCLA looks at if their first option falls through.
Pros: This is a joke and I wanted to have a laugh. But Gruden won a Super Bowl once and his name is attached to every single coaching search, so might as well add it here.
Cons: Gruden is, in my opinion, a bad coach that was lucky that Oakland didn’t bother to change anything after he left, which gave him an easy Super Bowl win.
The latest: This isn’t happening, but it’s important to have levity sometimes.
Pros: Umm......well, he definitely has experience running a Power 5 program. Also, his teams have been consistently decent in the SEC West. He is one of a few coaches to have beaten Alabama and Nick Saban during this current dynasty run. His run at Houston was very impressive.
Cons: You guys did see the Texas A&M game, right? Sumlin’s greatest successes at College Station required the aid of Johnny Football, and the Aggies haven’t been nearly as good since he left. Sumlin has had the same issues as Jim Mora in the later stages of his tenure: good recruiting classes left to rot by a revolving door of coordinators who weren’t able to maximize the talent available.
The latest: With Sumlin potentially gone from Texas A&M after this season, the coach has apparently been looking for a landing spot, and word from multiple sources is that he would be interested in the UCLA job. I think he would get a look if plans for other guys fall through, but he’s not on the top tier of coaches just yet.
Update 11/21: Reports are out that Sumlin will be relieved of duties at Texas A&M regardless of the results of their game against LSU this weekend. Expect noise about Sumlin coming to Westwood to intensify in the aftermath, as this seems to be an idea pushed by more than a few outlets.
Pros: I can’t believe I have to write this. Jeff Fisher has NFL Experience (tm). Also he kept his promise by not going 7-9 in his last season with the Rams. Did go to a Super Bowl once.
Cons: Did you watch the Rams during his tenure? And also the whole “former USC player” thing.
The latest: “Inside sources” stated that UCLA is interested in Fisher. The riots that would occur should he be hired would be impressive, though.