Oregon faces a future without Chip Kelly after all.
After dramatically opting to stay with the No. 2 Ducks a little more than a week ago, the enigmatic Kelly changed his mind and decided to take an NFL job as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kelly informed Oregon of his plans on Wednesday morning, shortly before the Eagles made it official.
Following Oregon’s victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, Kelly flirted with three NFL teams: Philadelphia, Cleveland and Buffalo. But after a wild weekend of interviews amid rumors and speculation, Kelly told the Ducks he was staying put.
Ducks athletic director Rob Mullens told reporters at the time that he was obviously “ecstatic” about Kelly’s decision, but Kelly himself never said anything publicly.
Mullens was not available for immediate comment but scheduled a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss Kelly’s decision and plans for the future. The school issued a statement from him on its website.
“I have great respect for Chip, consider him a friend and wish him the best of luck in the NFL. Oregon Athletics has executed two successful head coach transitions in the past eighteen years and each time we continued our ascent. We are focused on identifying a leader who is the right fit to guide Oregon Football,” the statement said.
A person close to the team who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Oregon had not yet formally announced Kelly’s departure told The Associated Press early Wednesday that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was still considered the “frontrunner.” Under Oregon state law, the school must also interview at least one qualified minority candidate for the job.
Kelly is 46-7 in four years as head coach at Oregon. The Ducks have been to four straight BCS bowl games — including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago — and have won three Pac-12 championships.
He originally came to the Ducks in 2007 as offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. Before that, he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, where he started devising the innovative hurry-up offense the Ducks are known for today.
Oregon finished last season 12-1. The team was ranked No. 1 and appeared headed for another shot at the national championship until a 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford on Nov. 17. The Ducks wound up No. 2 in the final AP poll after the Fiesta Bowl victory.
The Ducks will likely move forward with hiring a coach quickly, because signing day for football recruits is on Feb. 6.
Shortly after the move was announced, several potential recruits went to Twitter to express their surprise, including Nico Falah, an offensive tackle from Bellflower, Calif., who wrote: “Chip Kelly left?!?! He was at my house 2 days ago.”