NCF Nation: Belotti resigns
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Pac-10 defensive coordinators might want to rethink that sigh of relief they collectively exhaled Friday upon learning that Mike Bellotti was stepping aside at Oregon so offensive coordinator Chip Kelly could become head coach.
Kelly will change a few things in his new position, but he probably won't change something that produced 40 points per game over the past two seasons.
"I wouldn't be surprised if I'm calling plays on Opening Day," Kelly said.
Kelly wouldn't be pinned down Saturday on how he would go about replacing himself as coordinator and quarterbacks coach, other than to say he'd like to have someone aboard before spring practices begin March 30.
"I could be the offensive coordinator, but I don't have to make that decision today," he said. "The only thing that will change [offensively] from this year to next year is hopefully we'll score more points."
That would be more than the 42 points per game the Ducks hung up in 2008.
Kelly said there will be some changes, which he and Bellotti told the players during a team meeting on Friday. He said some things in recruiting might be different. Practice periods might be shorter.
But he also said that one of the benefits of this transition will be the continuity and familiarity for all parties -- players, coaches, administrators and boosters.
"I'm really cognizant of not making sweeping changes in a program that finished ranked ninth in the country last year," he said.
For his part, Bellotti said that one of the reasons he feels comfortable transitioning from football coach to athletic director is his faith in Kelly.
He pointed out that Kelly is not just an Xs and Os, spread-option quarterbacks guru. Kelly has coached the offensive line. He's been a defensive coordinator.
"He understands football from the ground up," Bellotti said.
In recent weeks, the general feeling was that Bellotti, 58, was leaning toward coaching the Ducks in 2009.
Kelly, 45, who was briefly courted by Syracuse and Mississippi State this winter, went out of his way to insist he was in no hurry to take over since the decision to name him head-coach-in-waiting in December.
"I was willing to wait as long as Mike wanted to wait," he said.
His waiting is over. Kelly said he'd been contacting the Ducks' incoming players, explaining the situation, and he said the reaction has been enthusiastic.
While not mentioning any specific names, it also was acknowledged by both Kelly and Bellotti that the Ducks are awaiting word from one 2009 recruit, who everyone well knows is running back Bryce Brown, the No. 8 player in the nation, according to the ESPNU 150, who is expected to choose between Oregon, Tennessee, LSU and Kansas State on Monday.
While he admitted that he'll be learning as he goes as a first-time head coach, Kelly said he's confident he can make a smooth transition with few growing pains.
"I wouldn't have accepted [the job] if I didn't think I could do it," he said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
|Donald Miralle/Getty Images|
|After spending time mentoring offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, Oregon's Mike Bellotti is turning over the head coaching duties to Kelly.|
Mike Bellotti gathered his Oregon players for a 10 a.m. meeting Friday. He talked to them about their upcoming exams. He talked about their off-season workouts. He talked about spring practice starting on March 30.
Then he said, "Now's the time for me."
And Bellotti, the most successful coach in Oregon history, proceeded to tell them that he would not return for a 15th season and that he was yielding the job to offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.
There was no planned speech. He spoke to his players spontaneously and from the heart.
"I sort of broke down a little bit," he said.
A day after a transition from Bellotti to Kelly that was first described in theory on Dec. 2 was made concrete, Bellotti said he was "at peace and calm in my soul about this decision."
Bellotti said there was no pressure from anywhere for him to step aside, adding that he felt more pressure to stay. He said he had no pressing health issues. He said the timing of the announcement was based on the exigencies of his players upcoming school and football schedules and that Oregon didn't hold a press conference Friday because it was concurrently announcing the hiring of a new university president.
"My timing was really guided by my instincts for football," he said.
He said he first thought about giving up the job after the 2006 season when the Ducks, after a 7-2 start, lost their final four games, including a humiliating 38-8 defeat to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The word he chose to describe how he felt about his program at that time? "Disgusted."
"I felt like walking away, but walking away was not the answer," he said.
Instead, he hired Kelly to run his offense.
In the 26 games since that decision, the Ducks averaged 40 points per game.
So, in just two years, Bellotti, who will replace Pat Kilkenny as the Ducks athletic director this summer, realized that Kelly was the guy who could make it easy to walk away.
Well, not easy.
"When you've done something for 36 years, it's pretty daunting to think about doing anything else," Bellotti said.
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