Chip Kelly was introduced as UCLA’s new football coach Monday, with the former Oregon coach saying he was honored to work at a university with a history of championship athletics and amid the legacy of John Wooden.
John Wooden’s Legacy
“I had the opportunity when I was at Oregon to compete with this school and with all the schools in the Pac-12, and the fact I get a chance to go back the conference where I kind of learned how to be a head coach, so to speak — there’s so many great coaches in this league, there’s so many great institutions in this conference, to be a part of it again is really truly special,” Kelly told reporters gathered at Pauley Pavilion for an introductory news conference.
“… If you’re a coach, the unofficial mentor of probably all coaches is the great John Wooden,” he said. “I don’t care if you coach basketball, you coach volleyball, you coach tennis, you coach football, I think every coach that’s ever put on some shoes and grabbed a whistle and … tried to educate young men and women have learned from his Pyramid of Success. And to be at the same campus where he affected so many people and still affects so many people is really an honor.”
Bruins 19-Season Failing Streak
UCLA announced Saturday that Kelly had agreed to a five-year, $23.3 million contract, with a $9 million reciprocal buyout, to replace Jim Mora, who was fired Nov. 19, hours after UCLA lost to USC.
The Bruins 19-season streak of failing to reach the Rose Bowl Game is the school’s longest since World War II. UCLA was first in the initial Bowl Championship Series weekly rankings in 1998 and would have played in the inaugural BCS championship game, but were upset by Miami, 49-45, in the final regular-season game in 1998.
Since then, UCLA has finished in the Top 10 in the final Associated Press poll once, in 2014, when it was ranked 10th.
“A Great Day For UCLA!”
Former Bruin quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Troy Aikman, who assisted Athletic Director Dan Guerrero in the coaching search, tweeted that the hiring of Kelly was “A great day for UCLA!”
Former UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones tweeted, “All the alumni is over excited to welcome Chip Kelly home. Very excited about this hire.”
Yogi Roth, a Pac-12 Networks college football analyst and former USC assistant coach tweeted, “Chip Kelly develops HS players as well as anyone in last decade of CFB.”
Kelly Praises Jim Mora
In his remarks Monday, Kelly praised Mora.
“I have great respect for Jim Mora,” he said. “I coached for one year in the league with Jim, and I think the ultimate compliment a coach can make is: Jim Mora is a football guy. And I have great respect for Jim. If someone called me a football guy I would take that as a compliment, and to come here after Jim and continue this journey for UCLA football is a huge honor for me.”
Building Team Trust
Kelly said he believes football is about “relationships, friendships and championships,” with relationships building a foundation of trust among teammates.
“High-trusting teams are teams that win, and when your team trusts each other and they go out there and lay it on the line for each other … that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “And that’s my job is to turn this team into a trusting team that understands what it’s all about. And through that trust and relationships it goes into friendships, and lifelong friendships. Those players are going to find their best friends in that locker room. People that are going to be there for them for the rest of their lives. And hopefully through that process of relationships and friendships, that leads to championships, and that’s what this place is all about.”
Kelly was 46-7 in four seasons as Oregon’s coach, leading the Ducks to an appearance in the 2011 BCS title game, which they lost to Auburn. His Oregon teams were famous for their high-octane, high-paced offense, running a record number of plays and averaging nearly 50 points per game in 2012.
Kelly left Oregon following the 2012 season to become the Philadelphia Eagles coach, five months before Oregon was placed on NCAA probation for its use of football scouting services.
Kelly guided the Eagles to NFC Eastern Division championship in his first season. Philadelphia was again 10-6 in 2014, but missed the playoffs. Kelly was fired with one game left in the 2015 season when the Eagles record was 6-9.
Kelly was then hired as coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 but fired after the team went 2-14. He spent the 2017 season as an studio analyst for ESPN, discussing college and NFL games.
Coincidentally, Kelly was hired on his 54th birthday and Mora was fired on his 56th birthday.
“He Has A Clear Vision”
Guerrero said Kelly understands the university’s goal not just of winning, but molding young men and women “so they can have productive lives after their time here at UCLA.”
“He’s sharp. He’s meticulous. He’s observant, laser-focused. He does not miss a thing. Our student athletes will certainly find that out in time,” Guerrero said. “He recognizes that it’s a privilege to coach here at UCLA. He has a clear vision as to how to get our program to a winning championship program, something we all desire.”
Interim coach Jedd Fisch will continue to coach the Bruins in their bowl game. The bowl UCLA will play in will be announced Sunday.