If Chip Kelly, as expected, hightails it to the NFL in the midst of looming NCAA sanctions, there won’t be an extended national or even regional search conducted by Oregon for a replacement.
And, that sound you hear? It’s the entire state of Idaho doing a simultaneous fist pump.
According to USA Today‘s George Schroeder, and citing a source with direct knowledge of the school’s plan, Oregon plans to promote offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich if/when Kelly takes his leave of Eugene, which could be as early as the day after the Ducks’ Fiesta Bowl appearance against Kansas State tonight.
As previously reported, Kelly has interviews lined up with the Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills. It’s believed the Browns will get the first crack at speaking to Kelly, who is reportedly at the top of both their and the the Eagles’ coaching to-do- lists.
In the case of Helfrich, it appears “continuity” is the key to UO’s apparent decision to stay in-house for a Kelly successor, if that’s indeed what it comes down to. When Kelly had all but taken the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job the same month last year, it was Helfrich who had essentially been promoted from within before his boss had a change of heart and returned to the Ducks.
“He can finish Chip’s sentence,” the source told Schroeder of Helfrich, who has reportedly received the endorsement of the father of a current Ducks player/former NFL head coach Tony Dungy. “I don’t think anybody wants to see this change happen. But, if it’s gonna happen, I don’t think anybody has concern with (promoting Helfrich).”
Schroeder also points out that the state of Oregon’s answer to the Rooney Rule, in which a minority candidate must be interviewed head-coaching openings, could be a complication to the plan to elevate Helfrich. However, as there is actually no specific penalty for being in violation of the state law, the school does not appear concerned about that part of the process.
While Kelly has continued to brush aside the weeks-long speculation regarding his coaching future, most observers at both the collegiate and NFL levels would view it as a monumental upset if the coach remained with the Ducks.
The succession plan, were it to be needed and if it were to come to fruition, would be a boon for the Boise State football program. While Chris Petersen has consistently rebuffed overtures from multiple big-time programs, it was thought that Oregon, where he was once an assistant, was one of just a couple of realistic possibilities to pry the successful coach away from the Broncos.