When Mike Gundy hired Mike Yurcich of Division II Shippensburg to be OSU's offensive coordinator, most of us — OK, all of us — had two questions.
“Who?” and “Where?”
Mike Bellotti knows the routine. In 2007, the Oregon head coach turned his offense over to a no-name who had spent the previous eight years as the coordinator at Division I-A New Hampshire. Now Chip Kelly is head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
But Bellotti was like Gundy. Both had built up enough cachet to fend off scrutiny. Too much success, too many quality hires to question too much a guy just because he came from an outpost.
Bellotti had hired Jeff Tedford, Gary Crowton and Dirk Koetter. Gundy had hired Larry Fedora, Dana Holgorsen and Todd Monken. Both Mikes had earned the trust of their constituents.
Unlike when Bellotti came to Oregon. When Rich Brooks hired Bellotti to run the Duck offense in 1989, Bellotti remembers the first column from one of the Oregon papers: “Who is this guy? What makes him capable of doing this job?”
Bellotti had been head coach at Division II Chico State for five years. So he comes by it honest, this idea of looking at a lower-division to fill such a vital staff role.
“I think I had developed enough credibility with the administration, the boosters, they trusted who I hired,” Bellotti said.
“Certainly, Chip was an untested commodity in some people's mind, but not in my mind. He really understood the offense I wanted to run.”
Sounds like the Gundy/Yurcich story.
Shippensburg — or Edinboro, Yurcich's previous stop — is no small-college power, and neither was New Hampshire. Kelly coached 13 straight years at New Hampshire, the final eight as offensive coordinator. The Wildcats were 53-42 in those eight seasons.
But the Gundy/Bellotti comparison is different in this way. Gundy discovered Yurcich. Kelly sought out Bellotti.
Bellotti said that when Oregon was transitioning to the spread offense in 2005, Kelly called and asked if he could come out and spend a week observing.
Bellotti was a fan of the lower levels. He coached 16 years in Division II. He hired a variety of D-II assistants, including Chris Petersen to coach Oregon wide receivers in 2000. A year later, Peterson was Boise State's offensive coordinator and rest is Cinderella history.
“I believe that those people who can do more with less will flourish in a bigger environment,” Bellotti said, “if they can handle the pressure.”
Bellotti, who left coaching in 2009 and now is an ESPN analyst, says there's pressure to win at every level. But the year-round trappings — recruiting, dealing with the media, schmoozing boosters — is a Division I phenomenon.
So Bellotti said that in addition to evaluating a coach's football acumen, he tried to gauge the personality. Their public-speaking and recruiting talents.
Bellotti said he interviewed seven candidates before hiring Kelly. NFL assistants, former Division I head coaches, current Division I coordinators.
The guy from New Hampshire was “by far” the best. “His knowledge and expertise of the system I wanted to run. We would have had to take two steps back (without Kelly). Chip knew it already. We made the commitment, we were going to stay with this offense.”
So Gundy's hiring of Yurcich didn't surprise Bellotti. “Surprises me it doesn't happen more often,” he said, “because there are some great coaches who annually turn out a great product.
“Mike (Gundy) knows what he wants and he knows what's going to be successful. He's had a heck of a run. I am surprised if there's any fallout.
“The football part comes easy. It comes back down to the lifestyle and the scrutiny involved.
“People are going to voice their opinion. Everybody's going to want to talk football … the entire state of Oklahoma. How plays are called, how the quarterback performed, that type of thing.”
Chip Kelly passed the test. Many years ago, so did Mike Bellotti. Now it's Mike Yurcich's turn.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.