The Chip Kelly sweepstakes are over and UCLA has won. This morning, Chip Kelly was named as UCLA’s next football coach. It’s been a long time since college football has watched a head coaching search play out the way this one did. Fans of both UCLA and Florida were taken on a literal roller coaster ride of emotions that pretty much started last weekend with this report that a contingent of Florida’s top officials flew to New Hampshire to meet with Chip Kelly.
NEWS BULLETIN— Buddy Martin (@buddyshow) November 19, 2017
The Buddy Martin Show has learned from anonymous sources that Florida’s top officials have flown to New Hampshire and are on the ground meeting with Chip Kelly, presenting him with a contract to sign and become Gator football coach. @thebuddymartinshow #chipkelly
Then Tyler Fawbush, son of Andy Fawbush, who helped lead the search committee that hired Florida’s athletic director, put out on Twitter that Kelly agreed to be the Gators’ next coach the very night of the Florida officials’ trip to New Hampshire.
As of Sunday, Chip Kelly has agreed to be the 27th head coach for the University of Florida football team. Welcome to #GatorNation Chip.— Tyler Fawbush (@fawbusht) November 19, 2017
The rest is history: retracted stories, mystery teams, credibility of sources and all of this in the name of Chip Kelly. So is Chip Kelly worth all of this drama? Some in the LA sports scene did not think he was.
Chip Kelly to UCLA?— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) November 20, 2017
"I don't see it happening by any stretch of the imagination...he's got that show cause baggage & that's the last thing UCLA needs in the wake of this China incident" - @BillPlaschke pic.twitter.com/oIfibhKiH3
There was even some disagreement in certain circles of the UCLA fan base whether Kelly’s slightly checkered past would be a match with UCLA. Then there was the widely held belief by many that UCLA football is just not a place where a top level coach would want to come.
Well, the tide has changed, and in my opinion, it started after Rick Neuheisel was fired and the strong words that he shared about UCLA’s lack of commitment to football. Neuheisel had the famous quote that UCLA "takes a knife to a gunfight" in college football's arms race.
UCLA began the process to answer that criticism with the $65 million Wasserman Football Center on campus. The biggest answer to that criticism came as Jim Mora was fired after the USC game and the huge stumbling block that was the Jim Mora $12 million buyout was just that, bought out with the use of department generated funds. That single move, the buyout of that $12 million contract started the change in the college football landscape. And, the last part of that change occurred this morning with UCLA hiring Chip Kelly to become UCLA’s 17th head coach.
For LA sports fans, this hire reminds me of when the LA Lakers hired Phil Jackson as their head coach in 1999. The Lakers knew that Del Harris could not take the team to the next level and they made a big splash by hiring the best coach they could get in Phil Jackson. In no way am I saying that Chip Kelly is at the level of Phil Jackson, what I am saying is the mindset of UCLA has changed and they have committed to no longer settling for the leftover coaches. They hired the best coach that was available, Chip Kelly.
UCLA also needed a win and, not just a win on the football field, they needed this win in the coaching search battle. To beat a powerhouse SEC school like Florida for a top coach shows that UCLA is no longer the place that Doug Gottlieb talks about.
If UCLA lost out on Chip Kelly, that narrative could have continued and possibly damaged the UCLA Football program in the short-term and maybe even the long-term.
I truly believe that this Bruins Nation tweet sums it up pretty well.
I will be ONE at Bruins Nation that will be extremely excited. It will go down as one of the biggest moments in UCLA Football history...A change in football philosophy.— Bruins Nation (@BruinNation) November 24, 2017
UCLA Football philosophy has been transformed and I am glad that all of us are here to witness it. Thank you to the UCLA Athletic Department for finally validating that UCLA Football is an important part of UCLA.