Chip Kelly is staying at Oregon.
Two people with knowledge of the decision confirmed Sunday night that Kelly is passing up a chance to coach in the NFL to remain with the Ducks. One person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Oregon and Kelly haven’t formally announced the decision, while the other person wasn’t authorized to reveal Kelly’s plans. The decision was first reported by ESPN.
Kelly had lengthy interviews this weekend with the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, and also talked to the Buffalo Bills. Last year, he had talks with Tampa Bay.
The 49-year-old coach earned a base salary of $2.8 million this past season last at Oregon and has five years left on his contract. The No. 5 Ducks, known for the innovative offense that Kelly devised, beat Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night to finish the season 12-1.
Kelly is 46-7 in four years at Oregon and the Ducks have been to four straight BCS bowl games — including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago — and won three Pac-12 championships. He originally came to the Ducks in 2007 as offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. Before that, he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire.
Earlier Sunday, a person familiar with Cleveland’s coaching search said the team passed on Kelly after he was indecisive about making the leap to the NFL. The Browns nearly had a deal with Kelly two days ago, but they’ve moved on to other candidates, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the search.
The buyout for Kelly’s contract with Oregon is $3.5 million.
Kelly’s decision to stay at Oregon came as a surprise after months of speculation that this season was his last with the Ducks. It appeared that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was the leading candidate to replace him.
Ducks fans at the Fiesta Bowl made their feelings clear by chanting “We want Chip!” during the victory celebration. Nike co-founder and Oregon mega-booster Phil Knight proclaimed to a reporter following the game: “I was one of ’em.”
Kelly himself said about the NFL interest: “I’ll listen and we’ll see.”
But at the same time, he acknowledged a love for Oregon.
“It’s a special place with special people. They accepted me six years ago when I was at New Hampshire. Not many people knew about me,” Kelly said. “Gave me an opportunity to come here. It really means a lot.”
In staying at Oregon, Kelly will have to deal with fallout from an NCAA investigation into the school’s use of recruiting services.
The inquiry is the result of reports that surfaced in 2011 concerning payments Oregon made to two such services, including a $25,000 check sent to Willie Lyles and Houston-based Complete Scouting Services in 2010. Lyles had a relationship with a player who committed to Oregon.
Last month, Yahoo Sports reported that Oregon is headed toward a hearing with the NCAA committee on infractions because the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on appropriate sanctions. Yahoo cited two unidentified sources.
Earlier this year, Oregon requested a summary disposition in the case. The school presented a report to the infractions committee outlining violations the school believed occurred and appropriate sanctions. But that request was apparently turned down.
The NCAA does not comment on ongoing investigations.
“We’ve cooperated fully with them. If they want to talk to us again, we’ll continue to cooperate fully,” Kelly said following the Fiesta Bowl. “I feel confident in the situation.”
Kelly explained that he stayed at Oregon following the interest from Tampa Back because he had “unfinished business” with the Ducks. The team was ranked No. 1 and appeared headed for another shot at the national championship until a 17-14 loss to Stanford on Nov. 17.
AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland and Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.