Chip Kelly, UCLA agree to four-year contract extension through 2025
UCLA has signed head coach Chip Kelly to a new four-year contract extension that’ll keep him in Westwood through the 2025 season.
The program announced the news Friday in a release. The agreement with Kelly comes after more than a month of back-and-forth negotiation between UCLA and Kelly’s representation as the coach neared the final year of his contract. Interestingly, the two sides came to an agreement only two days before Kelly’s $9 million buyout would have dropped to zero and the Bruins could have pivoted to a new coach completely off the hook.
“This new contract represents the commitment, stability and investment needed to continue the upward trajectory of our football program,” UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “Since joining UCLA, our football team’s winning percentage has increased every year, including increased momentum in recruiting and strategic use of the transfer portal.”
Kelly’s new deal, according to the Los Angeles Times, will average $4.7 million a year with additional bonus opportunities. It’s an interesting sum for a coach who had experienced three straight losing seasons to begin his tenure, but Kelly was no doubt helped by a market short on can’t-miss coaches and flush with massive paydays for coaches at all levels.
Earlier during the coaching carousel madness, Kelly reportedly flirted with Oregon on a reunion. The Ducks sniffed around, but ultimately hired Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.
Kelly now gets reassurance and a longterm commitment from UCLA to continue building the Bruin program.
Despite an 18-25 record through his first four seasons, the 2021 campaign provided some real momentum. UCLA went 8-4 with wins in each of its last three games. The offense exploded, scoring 40 or more in each game, and UCLA put a historic beatdown on USC in the process.
The main drivers for that offensive renaissance, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and tailback Zach Charbonnet, have both committed to return for the 2022 season. Kelly has also reportedly parted ways with his much-maligned defensive coordinator.
“We are extremely appreciative of the entire UCLA administration for their support of our football program,” Kelly said in a statement. “We have a tremendous amount of gratitude for our players and staff. Their tireless work, and commitment to our vision has built a great foundation. We are excited to continue to build this program into something that makes the UCLA fanbase proud.”
UCLA led the Pac-12 in scoring after finishing No. 2 in 2020, up from No. 8 in 2019 and second-to-last in 2018, Kelly’s first year with the program. That first season featured a 3-9 record. UCLA went 4-8 in 2019 and then 3-4 in 2020.
The Bruins 2022 recruiting class ranks 47th nationally, fourth in the Pac-12, but Kelly has once again looked to the transfer portal to supplement the roster. 247Sports has begun ranking transfer classes as well, and the Bruins have the 14th-best crop of transfer players this cycle, likely with more additions to come.
The extension isn’t a slam-dunk, though. At least, not with so many questioning whether Kelly is, in fact, the man to lead UCLA to a Pac-12 title. The Bruins didn’t beat a team in 2021 that finished with a winning record, and they’ve only won two such games in four seasons under the head coach. They also finished the season tied for second place in the Pac-12 South with Arizona State and were essentially eliminated from division title contention by November.
But Kelly has seen his assistant coaching staff undergo significant change since the year ended.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro reportedly resigned earlier this week. Kelly has also hired new defensive assistants in Ikaika Malloe as outside linebackers coach and Chad Kauha’aha’a as defensive line coach after Johnny Nansen and Jason Kaufusi left for Arizona.
Kelly still has openings on the offensive line and at tight end to fill following the departures of Justin Frye (Ohio State) and Derek Sage (Nevada).
But throughout his entire coaching career, Kelly has been at his best with a high-flying offense. Strong hires made to fill out his coaching staff coupled with the returns of Thompson-Robinson and Charbonnet, and UCLA could see more of a breakthrough in 2022.
With an extended commitment to Kelly, it is certainly hoping for one.