Chip Kelly walked away from being a Head Coach at UCLA for being an offensive coordinator at Ohio State. Both teams are in the Big 10, and both are considered very high-profile jobs. By definition, this seems like a downgrade job for Chip Kelly. Yes, there may be very specific reasons for this move that are at a personal level, but this isn’t a new trend. There are Head Coaches all over college who are either resigning or taking a coordinator role at another school or the NFL.
Why is this happening?
There are only 68 P4 schools in the country, meaning only 68 people get to claim the title of Head Coach. That is a prestigious role, yet so many are walking away from the role. Here are a few of the reasons.
NIL is Too Much of a Headache
Say what you want about the legalities of coaches not talking NIL with players, we all know that isn’t true. There are multiple reports of players being recruited by coaches before they even enter the transfer portal if that gives any kind of indication of what is going on.
The issue is that NIL has become such a big part of the game that many coaches don’t want to deal with it. They got into coaching to coach, not to recruit, deal with NIL (directly or indirectly), and then re-recruit every player at the end of every season. Team loyalty is only as deep as the highest bidder for a lot of players now. The amount of opt-outs in bowl games is an indication of this.
For some coaches, it is worth the pay cut not to have to deal with NIL, or at least at the same level as a head coach.
Travel and Recruiting Tough for Chip Kelly and UCLA, Other Schools
This is totally speculative, but maybe Chip Kelly and other coaches aren’t as excited to play in a league where travel will become a part-time job. Just look at the 2024 away schedule for UCLA. The Bruins are scheduled to travel to Hawaii, Louisiana, Pennslyvania, New Jersey, Nebraska, Washington, and Indiana. That’s not a very fun travel schedule (you have to really feel for the baseball/softball teams).
It also makes recruiting difficult. How effective is recruiting in Indiana or New Jersey going to be for UCLA? Definetly not as simple as recruiting in neighboring states Arizona or Nevada. Sure, recruiting can absolutely still happen there, but a big part of recruiting is having recruits come to games, which will be difficult thousands of miles away from the home stadium.
This applies to every head coach at all levels, not just Chip Kelly, but the patience and ability to have a bad season and be okay is long gone. There was a time when a coach was given a few years to build up a program to win. Additionally, a team could have a few good seasons and one bad season and still be okay. Now, it’s win now, or leave.
There is very little doubt that Chip Kelly was looking at next year’s schedule and thinking, “If we go 7-6 or worse, I’m going to be fired”. Again, with all the travel, getting to seven wins is not an automatic simple task. Every time the team travels across the country, they lose a practice day, a day that their opponent will get.
This past season, there were three coaches fired at the P5 level who had a .500 record or better. Some of these coaches had great careers and were having one bad season. Dozens of other coaches are on the hot seat season going into next year because their team only won seven or eight games.