[Updated 11:50 a.m., 11-25] UCLA said this morning it has hired Chip Kelly as its football coach, bringing the former Oregon coach back to the Pac-12 after he tried his hand in the NFL.
“I am thrilled to welcome Chip Kelly to Westwood,” UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. “His success speaks for itself, but more than that, I firmly believe that his passion for the game and his innovative approach to coaching student-athletes make him the perfect fit for our program.”
The Bruins almost certainly fired Mora early — and ate more than $12 million remaining on his contract through 2021 — because they hoped to land Kelly, the most coveted coach on the college football landscape after his groundbreaking work at Oregon.
Florida also spoke to Kelly about its job opening. But after the Bruins’ presentation on Tuesday, which included input from former UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman and powerful booster Casey Wasserman, Kelly elected to return to the Pac-12 while staying on the West Coast, where he already has recruiting contacts after years of landing California talent for Oregon.
Kelly’s UCLA contract contains a $9 million reciprocal buyout, the Bruins said.
The search for a new Florida coach continues, as Kelly was out of the mix on Friday, according to published reports. UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said Friday night he would not address those reports.
“We’re going to end up in a good place,” he said. “The search is ongoing. There are a lot of agents putting a lot of information out there.”
Florida sent a team of six to Kelly’s home in New Hampshire on Sunday, but multiple sources told The Sun there was never a job offer. Sources also told The Sun that UF has been vetting several candidates and that assumptions it had settled on one person were not true.
Because Kelly was the only one of those candidates who was not dealing with an ongoing season, he was the only one Florida was able to talk to directly.
Gainesville Sun staff writer Pat Dooley contributed to this report.