Did Bellotti want to leave coaching?

March, 22, 2010
3/22/10
9:00
AM ET
The most interesting secondary news item from Mike Bellotti's decision to leave Oregon for ESPN is be best explained in this column Saturday from George Schroeder of the Eugene Register-Guard.

Not only will Bellotti get a $2.3 million golden parachute from Oregon, there's also reason to retroactively wonder if he was "encouraged" a year ago to hand off the Ducks head football coaching job to Chip Kelly and move into the athletic director's office.

Here's Schroeder:

It’s evident that a year ago, the school desperately wanted him to change jobs.

It’s time we recognized that becoming athletic director wasn’t Bellotti’s idea.

He took one for the team.

Pat Kilkenny was ready to go, and the higher powers worried Chip Kelly might be, too. And so it was convenient to, uh, ask Bellotti if he’d like to change gigs and try something else.

They found 2.3 million reasons to convince him it was a good idea, but it was a disservice to Bellotti, who deserved better.

It's likely Bellotti's situation was nuanced. At the time he stepped aside for Kelly, recall that he said it was for family reasons, but he rejected the idea that he was burned out and he refused to say he was done with coaching.

And then-athletic director Pat Kilkenny made no secret of his enthusiasm for Kelly.

It's not unreasonable to speculate that Bellotti might have planted a seed for the end of his tenure coaching the Ducks with higher-ups, and that seed sprouted into reality perhaps faster than he wanted it to.

It's critical to understand, however, that at no point during the process did Bellotti intimate he felt mistreated or portray any bitterness about how things went down. I had multiple conversations with him about the transition and felt only the ambivalence of a highly successful, driven guy knowing he was heading toward a major life transition.

And Bellotti, as honest and articulate a guy as you'll find in college coaching, is going to be a great college football analyst.

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