Say it ain’t so Joe…err, Chip! That was the response of many University of Oregon football fans today upon hearing that Chip Kelly, who guided the Ducks to national prominence during his tenure as Oregon head coach, will take over the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly had turned down the Eagles to return to the college ranks only a few weeks ago.
“I want to thank Chip for his leadership and commitment to building on the Oregon Football foundation of excellence,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said in a statement. “We have enjoyed incredible success…I have great respect for Chip, consider him a friend and wish him the best of luck in the NFL.”
Kelly’s achievements in Eugene were many. The 49-year-old coach posted a 46-7 record in four years at Oregon and boosted the school’s national profile with a high-powered offense capable of turning any game into a track meet. Most importantly, Kelly — with plenty of financial assistance from mega-donor Phil Knight of Nike — remade Oregon into Shangri-La for many of the nation’s most talented football recruits.
So what does Kelly’s unexpected departure for the NFL mean to Arizona State University?
Obviously, the Sun Devils hope that some of Oregon’s prized football recruits will rethink their commitments and consider other college enrollment options (hint: the weather is fine in Tempe!). Look for the Ducks’ staff to work on shoring up the ranks with LOI Day just weeks away.
In addition, ASU and other rising Pac-12 programs like UCLA and Washington can now eye their upcoming schedules with greater optimism. Without Kelly in charge, it remains to be seen whether the Ducks will continue as the dominant power in the Pac-12 North — much less the entire conference. Don’t think for one moment that David Shaw and his Stanford Cardinal aren’t celebrating today!
Finally, Kelly’s absence might suck some of the oxygen out of the storied Autzen Stadium environment. Lacking his confidence and swagger, the Ducks could have trouble retaining their winning mojo. And will Oregon still be the fashion leader of college football without Kelly and his oh-so-stylish visor on the sidelines? The program certainly will continue to benefit from Nike’s marketing prowess and ability to supply flashy uniforms, but a change of this magnitude could destroy the “cool factor” that resulted from more than just success on the field.
Look for seismic repercussions from Kelly’s decision to be felt in Tempe, and throughout the Pac-12 region.