UCLA coach Chip Kelly leaves to be OC for Ohio State — not Seahawks

Feb 9, 2024, 1:25 PM | Updated: 6:19 pm

UCLA Chip Kelly Seattle Seahawks...

UCLA coach Chip Kelly during a game against Fresno State on Sept. 18, 2021,. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

UCLA coach Chip Kelly stepped down after six seasons leading the Bruins on Friday to become offensive coordinator for soon-to-be Big Ten rival Ohio State.

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The move leaves UCLA scrambling to fill a vacancy at the top of a program preparing to join the Big Ten with spring practice about a month away from cranking up around the country.

Kelly was reported to be a candidate for the Seattle Seahawks’ open offensive coordinator position earlier this week.

“Earlier this morning, Coach Chip Kelly informed me of his decision to depart UCLA,” Bruins athletic director Martin Jarmond said. “I want to sincerely thank Chip for his service to UCLA football and our student-athletes across the past six seasons and wish the best to him and Jill moving forward.”

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For Ohio State, Kelly received a three-year contract to step into a role that opened up when Bill O’Brien left to become Boston College coach earlier Friday. Last month, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day hired the former Texans and Penn State coach as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“His experience as a head coach at Oregon, UCLA and in the NFL will bring immediate value to our entire team. I am really looking forward to reconnecting with Chip, introducing him to our staff and team and chasing a championship together,” said Day, who played quarterback in college for Kelly when he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire.

Kelly had a 35-34 record in with the Bruins, but the program was showing signs of stagnating ahead of a move to the Big Ten from the Pac-12 next season. There was speculation late in the 2023 season UCLA might move on from Kelly, but the school stood pat after an 8-5 season.

Instead, it was Kelly who started looking for other options. He interviewed for multiple NFL offensive coordinator positions and then Ohio State emerged as a potential landing spot. Day played quarterback for Kelly when he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire.

Kelly signed a two-year extension in March that kept him under contract through 2027. He made $6.1 million this past season. He would have been due $8.5 million as part of the buyout of his contract had UCLA fired him.

Kelly is one of the godfathers of the up-tempo, spread offense that dominated college football in the early 2010s. He became Oregon’s coach in 2009 and went 46-7 over four years before jumping to the NFL. He went 26-21 a little less than three full seasons (2013-15) as the Philadelphia Eagles coach and then spent one season as coach of the San Francisco 49ers, going 2-14.

Kelly took over at UCLA after Jim Mora Jr. was fired in 2017 and had a roster predominantly filled with underclassmen his first two seasons.

It was a slow build with the Bruins. Kelly started with three straight losing seasons before finally turning it around in 2021 and going 8-4. UCLA went 25-13 over the past three seasons, but could never crack nine wins and tended to fade late in the season

They were expected to contend for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game last season, especially since they didn’t have to face Washington and Oregon. Under coordinator D’Anton Lynn, UCLA put together one of the best defensive seasons in school history as it led the nation in stopping the run. But Lynn was in Westwood for only one season before jumping to rival USC.

The offense, which was the Bruins’ strength the past two seasons, struggled in 2023 due to inconsistency at quarterback. The most promising passer on the roster, five-star recruit Dante Moore, ended up transferring after the season.

The transfer portal will open again for UCLA players for 30 days following Kelly’s departure but with the timing of the opening both the school and the players could be faced with limited options for moving forward.

AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy in Los Angeles contributed to this post, and Seattle Sports staff made an addition.

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