The UCLA football program was left in quite a bind when Chip Kelly unexpectedly stepped down as head coach to become the offensive coordinator at Ohio State under his former assistant in the NFL, Ryan Day. The cash-strapped program saved about $10 million by not firing Kelly but was forced to make a hire well after all the seats on the coaching carousel had already been filled.
So, athletic director Martin Jarmond trusted in a familiar face and a UCLA alum. Jarmond hired Deshaun Foster, who rushed for 1,000 yards in 2001 as a senior at UCLA and returned to the program as an assistant coach from 2013-15 and again from 2017-23, as UCLA’s next head coach.
Foster had recently left Kelly’s staff to become the running backs coach for the Las Vegas Raiders under Antonio Pierce but is back at his alma mater to shepherd through a transition to the Big Ten.
In a statement, Foster said, “This is a dream come true. I always envisioned myself being a Bruin ever since I was young, and now being the head coach at my alma mater is such a surreal feeling, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
The first-time head coach continued, “The foundation of this program will be built on discipline, respect, and enthusiasm. These are phenomenal young men and I’m excited to hit the ground running.”
Reports about the coaching search say that Foster was hired not just for his ability to command a room, which impressed the UCLA leadership, but also for the belief that he will emphasize recruiting and fundraising in the Los Angeles area.
Recruiting and fundraising always appeared to be Kelly’s biggest weaknesses as a head coach and likely played a role in his willingness to leave for a demotion. As someone who was on staff last season, Foster was likely UCLA’s best chance to keep what remains of the roster and coaching staff intact.