Chip Kelly is the quintessential college football head coach. His charisma, personal and personnel intangibles, the sort of brilliance with game management and strategy that attacks even the highest level defenses relentlessly and effortlessly, the passion for his kids to do well in all aspects of their life. It all fits so perfectly for football at the college level.
There are only a few of these coaches that can be tied to a singular program (or two for long stints) and considered college football innovators around the nation. Spurrier (Florida/South Carolina), Meyer (Florida/Ohio State), Miles (LSU), Brown (Texas), Saban (Bama), Ault (retiring/Nevada), Leach (T. Tech/WSU), Bielema (Wisky/Arky) and Patterson (TCU) come to mind. None are currently more sought after at the NFL level than Chip Kelly and thus, none are more important for the college game. As important, absolutely, but not more. The reason being that Kelly is one of these coaches that just exemplifies the spirit of what it is to be a coach and an innovator in the college game.
Oregon has a style and evolving legacy that’s all Chip’s and it’s somewhat rare when that happens. He’s Oregon’s Bear Bryant, Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and Lou Holtz. No name will be remembered and adored more than his at his school for his college team, and now rightfully so.
Carroll and Harbaugh were the same way, but as far as moving up the ladder they had a long NFL pedigree and background. Not to say that Kelly wouldn’t succeed at the next level, I believe that he could in the right situation. But to thrive I think it would need to be the perfect situation and honestly, that doesn’t really exist for him in the NFL, at least not from any team that would want his services coming directly from college. Even with the right personnel on the field for potential suitors, the situation just screams “CONTINUE YOUR LEGACY, STAY WHERE YOU ARE!”
Sanctions or no sanctions, Kelly’s decision to stay in Eugene puts a national emphasis on loyalty and pride in the NCAA game. Coaches bolt all the time when they get bored or get a better paying opportunity or when the bad stuff hits down. Heck, it was “that close” to happening here, but it’s great to see that Oregon won’t go anywhere based on what they’re about to face, whatever that becomes. Their leader will still be there to see them through it and keep them rolling.
As far as the Pac-12’s concerned, over the past few seasons we’ve lost the two most intriguing and successful coaches of the last 2 decades (maybe ever at their respective schools) in the aforementioned Carroll and Harbaugh and ever since it has been a revolving door. Maybe as much as with any conference in the NCAA, the Pac-12 is stuck in a “win now or bust” mindset. New coaching staffs over the past 3 seasons are in place at Washington State, both Arizona’s, all four of the California’s and Colorado (exactly 2/3 of the conference). Losing the next one would have been devastating to the continued success of the conference on a national championship level, particularly because it’s at Oregon.
In all fairness, Chip Kelly can’t take all the credit for building Oregon to prominence, that tribute goes to former Head Coach and then A.D. Mike Belloti (who put Kelly in place). But Kelly has built them to dominance. That stupid Duck and his crazy amount of push-ups, the crazy-hot cheerleaders, the Oregon motor-bike, Autzen, the “O”. It’s all in a place to be recognized daily because of this guy, Chip.
Kelly has earned that reputation and respect nationally that promises championship level football against every opponent to line up against the green, chrome and yellow wings on any given Saturday. Regardless of accomplishment, that’s a respect not easily acquired in the Pacific Northwest and (as we’ve seen at USC) one not easily replaced.
It’s to the point where a lot of kids don’t go to Oregon because it’s Oregon, they go because it’s coached by Chip Kelly. Just like kids are coming to Wazzu because it’s coached by Mike Leach or heading to Washington for Sark and somehow… still, Oregon State because of Riley.
It’s great for the conference but it’s even more important for the Ducks to keep their man. It’s why they went after him so aggressively to retain him. Remember, Oregon was anywhere from a 7-9 win team, with the occasional break out year behind a really good qb before Chip took it over. It could easily go back. But right now it’s as close-to-guaranteed-as-you-can-be 11 win, top 5 program, year in and year out, with NFL potential all over the field. Point being, all schools have their attractions, their perks. But not all schools can boast the quality of a coach that the next level wants desperately but only a guy like Phil Knight can convince to stay. That’s Oregon, for now.