Chip Kelly resigns as UCLA’s head coach to replace Bill O’Brien as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator

AP photo by Scott Tucker / UCLA football coach Chip Kelly stands on the sideline during the Bruins' game at Stanford on Oct. 21. Kelly resigned Friday after six seasons as UCLA's head coach to become the offensive coordinator at Ohio State. He replaces Bill O'Brien, who was on the job for less than a month before leaving the Buckeyes to take over as head coach at Boston College.
AP photo by Scott Tucker / UCLA football coach Chip Kelly stands on the sideline during the Bruins' game at Stanford on Oct. 21. Kelly resigned Friday after six seasons as UCLA's head coach to become the offensive coordinator at Ohio State. He replaces Bill O'Brien, who was on the job for less than a month before leaving the Buckeyes to take over as head coach at Boston College.

Chip Kelly has resigned after six seasons as UCLA's football coach to work under a former pupil, joining Ryan Day's Ohio State staff Friday as offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes.

Day played quarterback in college for Kelly when he was New Hampshire's offensive coordinator.

The move leaves the Bruins scrambling to fill a vacancy at the top with spring practices about a month away from cranking up around the country — and UCLA just months away from leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. Kelly got there a little bit sooner with his move to Ohio State.

Day hired Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator last month, but the former head coach for the NFL's Houston Texans is already on the move, heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference and his hometown as Boston College's head coach. O'Brien, who was back in the NFL this past season as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots, accepted a job on Jan. 19 for those same positions at Ohio State after the Patriots fired Bill Belichick.

In between his time leading the Texans (2014-20) and working with the Patriots, O'Brien spent two seasons on Nick Saban's staff at Alabama.

Now the 54-year-old O'Brien replaces Jeff Hafley in Chestnut Hill. The Eagles were 22-26 in four seasons under Hafley, who was Ohio State's defensive coordinator when he was hired at Boston College as the Buckeyes were taking part in the College Football Playoff for the 2019 season.

Hafley left Boston College to be the defensive coordinator for the NFL's Green Bay Packers — a move that set off a chain of events that rippled from from Boston to Los Angeles, and from the NFL to the Big Ten.

"Timing is a challenge," UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said of Kelly's departure, adding he told the team the plan was to have a new coach in place within four days.

Jarmond said he was not caught off guard when Kelly called him earlier Friday to inform him he was leaving. Kelly had interviewed for multiple NFL offensive coordinator jobs over the past two weeks.

Kelly was under contract until 2027, and Jarmond said UCLA will enforce a $1.5 million buyout. Kelly signed a two-year contract extension in March and 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.

The AD said he met with the team to inform them of the change but wasn't sure if Kelly met with or personally informed the players.

"This is something as an athletic director and program, you have to be ready for in case you're in a middle of a search," Jarmond said. "We were ready and we're prepared."

Kelly went 35-34 with the Bruins, but the program was showing signs of stagnating at a critical juncture with the move to the Big Ten ahead. There was speculation late in the 2023 season UCLA might move on from Kelly, but the school stood pat after finishing 8-5.

Instead, it was Kelly who started looking for other options, finally making the unorthodox move of giving up a head coaching job at one power conference program to become a coordinator at another.

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 before jumping to the NFL after four seasons with the Ducks. He went 26-21 in a little less than three full seasons (2013-15) as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, then spent one season leading 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. Kelly started with three straight losing seasons at UCLA before finally turning things around in 2021 and going 8-4. The Bruins went 25-13 over the past three seasons, but they could never crack nine wins and tended to fade late in the schedule.

They were expected to contend for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game last year, when didn't have to face Oregon and Washington, two teams that wound up being among the best in the nation. UCLA put together one of the best defensive seasons in school history as it led the nation in stopping the run, but defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn was in Westwood for only one season before jumping to the rival University of Southern California.

The offense, which had been the Bruins' strength in 2021 and 2022, struggled 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 due to Kelly's departure, but with the timing of the opening, both the school and the players could be faced with limited options.

All this comes with UCLA preparing for its big move to the Big Ten, which is adding four schools currently in the Pac-12. The Bruins, along with Oregon, USC and Washington, can expect to face an uptick in competition next season. UCLA is not scheduled to play Ohio State in 2024.

"We're looking for a leader, permanently for our program," Jarmond said. "I told the team to give us 96 hours. Could be earlier, could be later. But we're going to move fast. That's the priority."

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