UCLA’s decision to not fire Chip Kelly pays off to the tune of 10 million dollars

Chip Kelly was on the hot seat in 2023, but UCLA was unwilling to pay his $8.5 million buyout. Instead, Kelly was forced to pay $1.5 million just to get out of his contract and become the offensive coordinator at Ohio State.

UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly
UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As his sixth season at UCLA came to its end, Chip Kelly’s seat got hotter and hotter. Despite improving the program from 3-9 in 2018 to 9-4 in 2022, the Bruins had plateaued and recruiting became a concern for the 60-year-old 2x Pac-10 Coach of the Year from his time at Oregon. 

UCLA could have cut ties at the end of the season, but by letting their head coach leave on his own accord, the program saved about $10 million. 

After the year, Dante Moore, the former five-star quarterback, transferred to a fellow Big Ten team, Oregon. Still, UCLA stuck with Kelly even as it became clear he was hatching an escape plan. Kelly interviewed for NFL offensive coordinator jobs, but once his former assistant, Ryan Day, had an opening Kelly jumped at it. 

Life as a college football head coach is becoming more and more strenuous with NIL and the transfer portal, that’s what led to former Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley leaving for the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator position. BC promptly poached Bill O’Brien off Ohio State’s staff and Kelly was a perfect fit for the Buckeyes. 

Kelly’s recent contract extension, which UCLA rewarded him with after a Sun Bowl appearance in 2022, went through 2027 and carried an $8.5 million buyout which the school would have been forced to pay him if he was dismissed before December 2023. Instead of paying that steep buyout to fire Kelly, he was forced to pay $1.5 million to get out of his contract. 

Essentially UCLA stayed in an unhappy marriage just to win the divorce. 

There’s a fine line between cheap and savvy. In December, UCLA looked like the former, but now the school deserves praise for netting about $10 million, as long as that goes towards a quality hire.

The only drawback is that the Bruins are well behind the curve on the coaching carousel, and are relegated to second and third-tier candidates. UCLA will need to act quickly to find a replacement with spring practices approaching. That new coach will need to scramble to keep the roster together as a 30-day transfer portal window will open for the Bruins roster.

Who will be UCLA's next head coach?. dark. Next. UCLA winning