Fiesta Bowl could be Kelly's last with the Ducks

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 4, 2013 at 4:11 pm •  Published: January 4, 2013
Advertisement
;

The Oregon Ducks enter the offseason with uncertainty over coach Chip Kelly's continued tenure and possible NCAA sanctions.

But at the same time the team faces a future with a strong foundation that includes redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota and speedy sophomore running back De'Anthony Thomas.

Fifth-ranked Oregon finished this season 12-1 with a 35-17 victory over No. 7 Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. It was the Ducks' fourth straight trip to a BCS bowl game and second straight win.

It is also the third season that Oregon has finished with 12 wins. The team's lone loss this season came to Stanford on Nov. 17.

But since a 48-24 victory over Oregon State in the Civil War, much of the focus has been on Kelly and whether he'll make the jump to the NFL.

At least three pro teams appear to have interest in Kelly, who devised Oregon's quick-strike spread offense, including the Cleveland Browns, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills. And the Ducks would no doubt love to keep him, too.

It seems inevitable that Kelly will leave. Last year in the offseason he entertained interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but decided to stay at Oregon because of "unfinished business."

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."

The buyout for Kelly's contract with Oregon is $3.5 million.

"I'll listen and we'll see," Kelly said about his NFL courters. He also said he hopes to wrap up a decision quickly.

A person close to the team who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Kelly's future had not yet been decided told The Associated Press that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is considered the frontrunner to succeed Kelly as head coach, but Oregon state law says that the Ducks must interview at least one qualified minority candidate for the job.

Whoever the new coach might be will likely have to deal with the 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.