Florida reportedly flies out to meet Chip Kelly as UCLA enters mix for his services

By Adam Silverstein
November 20, 2017
Florida reportedly flies out to meet Chip Kelly as UCLA enters mix for his services

Image Credit: ESPN Images

A whirlwind Sunday ended simply enough as the Florida Gators enter another week without a new head coach. Amid reports that Florida’s administration had hopped a plane to New Hampshire, it was assumed that the night would come to a conclusion with it being leaked that Chip Kelly had signed on the line which is dotted to lead the Gators in 2018 and beyond.

That is not what happened. Instead, six Florida representatives — including president Kent Fuchs and athletic director Scott Stricklin — reportedly left the Granite State without pen to paper or an agreement in principle. In fact, Kelly is reportedly looking to at least speak with UCLA — and possibly meet with the Bruins — before making a decision about the Gators job.

With so much misinformation out there on the Florida coaching search and what has transpired to this point, we felt it best to divert from our ongoing coaching ticker and lay out where things stand entering Day 22 following the parting of ways with Jim McElwain.

Citations for all reports referenced below can be found on our coaching ticker.

What we know to be true: The Gators have not only made Kelly a legitimate candidate for their head coaching job but likely their No. 1 option. Florida has presumably had multiple conversations with Kelly and his agent, and the program appears to have officially expressed its interest in his services by flying 1,300 miles on a Sunday with a contingent including all of UF’s top brass.

While it is plausible Kelly has verbally agreed to be the Gators’ coach, he has not done so formally. And if he had done so privately, Florida likely would find some way for it to get out and be announced by Monday as not continue being under the guise that he might push past it for another opportunity. UCLA decided to pay a massive $12 million buyout after firing its former head coach, Jim Mora, on Sunday just to be in the mix for Kelly’s services. Kelly is reportedly willing to give them that opportunity, perhaps as early as Monday, whether over the phone or face-to-face. Whether that comes to fruition remains to be seen.

Florida leaving New Hampshire without an agreement from Kelly — or Kelly on the plane with the Gators — is not a problem. That happened previously with Urban Meyer, and the Jim McElwain deal was not completely done due to continued conversations with Colorado State. Would the Gators preferred to have pen to paper on Sunday night? Absolutely. But that part is not the end of the world.

What we know to be false: Florida has not signed Kelly to a coaching contract. It has not yet set plans to announce him at a press conference at a certain day or time. Reports otherwise are at best erroneous — particularly reports from late last week. Athletic director Scott Stricklin did not “slow play” this situation — unless you consider an administration official doing his due diligence before making a career-defining hire not doing one’s job.

Furthermore, Nebraska has not agreed to a contract with UCF head coach Scott Frost, who is waiting until the end of his season to discuss opportunities. (Frost also remains a candidate for the UF job, though we’ll find out how serious of one depending how things progress with Kelly.)

What you should know going forward: A lot.

» If Kelly is actually interested in UCLA, which is an unknown, there stands an explanation for him potentially picking it over Florida. You probably don’t want to believe that because you have been reading a deal with the Gators is “done” (see below), but it is a plausible outcome. Kelly is comfortable with the Pac-12, UCLA is a lower-pressure program in a fertile recruiting area, and the Bruins are clearly prepared to stop their long nightmare and actually field a competent football team with a strong program behind it. Despite Florida’s strong brand identity and the cache it has in college football — yes, it is a top five job nationally — everyone has their own personal preferences. Chris Petersen could have taken “better” jobs than Washington, but that’s the one that fit him. Kelly may simply prefer to coach out West at UCLA as opposed to in the bubble of Gainesville, Florida.

» Yes, losing Kelly this publicly would be another black eye for the Gators, but other programs (Notre Dame) have been on the bad end of similar decisions before, and it dissipates rather quickly. The question is where Florida would move if it did offer and gets turned down by Kelly. Frost is a much less experienced option and would have a similar internal tug-of-war with Nebraska. Tennessee is apparently ready to make a play for Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, and considering his history with Florida, that may be a more ideal landing spot for him. The talk about Oregon coach Willie Taggart may be just that as Jimmy Sexton hopes to get him a raise.

» At the same time, this could happen quickly. A meeting or conversation with UCLA could make it clear to Kelly that UF is where he wants to be. He could also just be looking to put some pressure on Florida for one thing or another. Or this could all be a ruse to delay an announcement. If that’s the case, the Gators could act fast and get this announced on Monday or Tuesday. There’s just too many moving parts at this point to be sure one way or another.

» Fans and news consumers cannot have it both ways: You cannot demand media members report accurately and properly source their work only to turn around and criticize them for not jumping to conclusions and considering false reports from random Twitter users as fact just because “there’s a lot of smoke” and a variety of uninformed people are repeating the same thing in an echo chamber. Florida fans have driven themselves into a frenzy being “sure” that a Kelly deal is done just because they have seen it mentioned in innumerable places. “Sources” and “reports” are not people with Twitter handles whom you had never heard of or trusted before prior to 48 hours ago. Yes, there is good information to be found on message boards and the like. They are great resources for fans. Many of the people that post on them do know administrators, boosters, coaches and players. And many others do not but claim to have such connections.

In this situation, you’ll be doing your heart and head a favor to just relax and let the coaching search play out. Rely on reporters that have proven to be trustworthy. Consume the rest but take it with a grain of salt. I promise, you’ll find out who agrees to be Florida’s next coach one way or another.


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