Chip Kelly Back to Oregon?

Here’s a list of there candidates:

Story from ESPN Adam Rittenburg ESPN+ article.

Five years ago, Mark Helfrich became the first Oregon football coach to be fired since 1976.

Oregon hasn’t fired any coaches since, but for the third time in five years, the Ducks are searching for a new program leader. For the second time, a Ducks coach is leaving for a Power 5 job in Florida.

Coach Mario Cristobal is taking the same post at Miami, his alma mater, days after Oregon’s loss in the Pac-12 championship game. Despite two Pac-12 titles and having built the best roster on the West Coast – Oregon in 2022 likely will have its most talented team since the national runner-up squad of 2014 – Cristobal is headed home to Miami after going 35-13 in four seasons.

His departure is a significant blow to Oregon, which promoted Cristobal to replace Willie Taggart after Taggart left for Florida State. Oregon provided strong support and resources to elevate the program. Like many other schools, Oregon did not expect to be searching for a coach this year.

While Oregon’s search could go in several directions, there should be one deal breaker: No candidates from Florida or with strong ties to the state. Oregon needs to target those who view Eugene as a destination, and could prefer those with stronger Northwest roots/connections.

The job is very appealing for several reasons, especially with the recruiting momentum Cristobal generated. Oregon’s connection to Nike and co-founder Phil Knight, an alum, provide perks and support few programs enjoy. Athletic director Rob Mullens, hired in July 2010, is well-respected around the country.

While some Oregon fans are buzzing about Chris Petersen, I can’t see the former Washington coach – who largely led UW’s recent coaching search – moving across the rivalry to Oregon.

Here’s a look at who Oregon could pursue to replace Cristobal.

Baylor coach Dave Aranda: For now, all signs point to Aranda remaining at Baylor with a lucrative new contract. Aranda, 45, is very loyal to Baylor and athletic director Mack Rhoades for giving him his first FBS head-coaching opportunity. But Oregon needs to take big swings at candidates who have West Coast ties, and Aranda grew up in Southern California near Los Angeles. His breakthrough second season at Baylor, culminating with a Big 12 championship on Saturday, further boosts a surging profile. Aranda could instill a strong defensive mindset at Oregon, and he showed he can make smart choices on offense with his hiring of coordinator Jeff Grimes following the struggles in 2020. Oregon could make a strong push for Aranda, who would be a great fit in Eugene.

As the Oregon head coach, Chip Kelly went 46-7, won three Pac-12 titles and finished as a national runner-up in 2010. Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire

UCLA coach Chip Kelly: Dismiss nothing in this year’s carousel, even the potential of Kelly, 58, returning to Oregon from another Pac-12 job. Although UCLA showed improvement in Year 4 by going 8-4, Kelly hasn’t had the big breakthrough everyone expected by now, and he loses key players on both sides of the ball. Kelly has only one year left on his initial contract with UCLA and will get a new, long-term deal should he remain in Westwood. Of note: Bruins athletic director Martin Jarmond did not hire Kelly, and he would be able to pursue his own candidates if Kelly left. Kelly’s Oregon credentials remain remarkable: 46-7, three Pac-12 titles, a national runner-up finish in 2010 and three top four finishes. He could finish his career at the place where he had the most success.


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BYU coach Kalani Sitake: Other than Cristobal, Sitake has had the most recent success of any coach in the region, going 21-3 the past two seasons. He didn’t get much traction in the Washington search and very well could stay put at his alma mater, which will join the Big 12 in 2023. But the Oregon job could be tempting, especially for a coach who spent 2015 in the state as Oregon State’s defensive coordinator. Before that, he served as an assistant at Utah from 2005 to 2014. Oregon has a proud tradition of Polynesian players, including Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell, but has never had a coach of Polynesian descent. Sitake, 46, could make a lot of sense in Eugene.

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin: Timing is everything with coaching moves, and when Harsin took the Auburn job, he never could have envisioned jobs he long had targeted, Washington and Oregon, both opening the following year. Leaving Auburn after only one year is less than ideal, but there already are rumblings about Harsin being a shaky long-term fit on the Plains. Harsin, 45, did good work at Boise State, his alma mater, going 69-19 with four AP top 25 finishes. He has recruited all the key areas Oregon relies on for talent. Although his vaccination situation would need to be sorted out, I’m told it wouldn’t be an obstacle if Oregon chooses to pursue him.

Cal coach Justin Wilcox: Oregon would have to look past Wilcox’s record at Cal (26-28), but the program was on a good trajectory before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Wilcox is one of Oregon’s own, a former Ducks defensive back who earned second-team All-Pac 10 honors and grew up near Eugene. He would view Oregon as a destination job, and he has extensive experience in the Pac-12 with coordinator stops at Washington and USC in addition to his time at Cal. Wilcox, 45, could further elevate Oregon’s defense, but there would be some concern about his plans for the offense after middling results with the Bears.

Bill O’Brien would be a solid high-profile hire for the Ducks. Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien: He wants to be a head coach again, ideally at a program that can compete nationally. O’Brien, 52, brings a strong profile of offense and quarterback development, which could work as Oregon will pivot any way on offense after losing coordinator Joe Moorhead to Akron. The questions with O’Brien are how he would fit at a Pac-12 program and, more importantly, whom would he hire to maintain Oregon’s momentum in recruiting. But O’Brien is the type of high-profile hire who could help the Ducks maintain a strong trajectory in the Pac-12 and the College Football Playoff race.

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell: This one is admittedly a long shot, but the job Campbell likely targeted, Notre Dame, is now off the table. Campbell is happy at Iowa State, but Oregon offers so many more advantages from a resource perspective. There was some buzz about Campbell and Washington that never came to fruition, and the Ohio native ultimately might want to stay in the Midwest. He has recruited in spots in the Pac-12 footprint, especially in Arizona for quarterback Brock Purdy. Oregon still should make a push to gauge if Campbell, 42, wants to make a move before this wild and historic carousel stops spinning.

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