It was all a dream.
Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens addresses the media Wednesday after Chip Kelly informed Mullens and the team that he was accepting the head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Or maybe it just feels that way.
10 days ago, University of Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens sat before gathered members of the media, informing the public that in fact Chip Kelly had decided to remain the head coach of the Oregon Ducks after entertaining serious NFL head coaching offers from the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns following the Ducks' 35-17 win over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on January 3.
With Kelly returning, excitement for the 2013 season was palpable amongst fans and the possibilites of what the Ducks could accomplish with Kelly at the helm for another season were endless.
That is, until Wednesday happened.
10 days after Mullens confirmed the news every Duck fan wanted to hear, Oregon's athletic director sat at the same podium. This time, however, the news felt more like a swift kick to the gut to Oregon football faithful.
Mullens confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the University of Oregon would be "restarting the search" for a new head coach football coach after Kelly informed Mullens of his intent to accept the head coaching position with the Philadelphia Eagles early Wednesday morning.
Though details of Kelly's agreement with the Eagles are not currently known, Mullens admitted surprise upon receiving the news from Kelly personally Wednesday morning, saying that Kelly "wrestled" with his decision to remain at Oregon even after informing Mullens of his intention to stay a little over a week ago.
"The only thing our conversation was about this morning was, [Kelly] relayed to me that he's thought long and hard over it over the last 10 days and in fact it was a challenge that he always wanted to take," said Mullens.
"He wasn't sure if that opportunity was ever going to present itself again, so he felt like this was the right one at the right time."
When Mullens spoke with Kelly two Sundays ago, Mullens was under the impression that Kelly was "thorough" in his decision to remain at Oregon, believing that this was the end of Kelly's interest in open NFL jobs, at least for this season. However, Mullens did reveal that he was not completely at ease until no NFL coaching vacancies remained.
"Ironically enough, someone asked me within the last couple of days if I was relieved [Kelly was staying]," said Mullens. "I said I'm not going to be relieved until all NFL jobs are filled."
When asked if there was any doubt in his mind that Kelly could change course again even in light of Wednesday's news, Mullens said, "There's no doubt in my mind. He is the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles."
After informing Mullens of his decision to leave for Philadelphia, Kelly then met with his players prior to a morning workout to inform them of his departure. According to Mullens, the players were "very respectful" and understanding of his decision to take on the challenge of the NFL.
While strong indications suggest that Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is the leading candidate to assume the head coaching duties in place of Kelly, Mullens stated that the university would conduct a "national search" to find the program's next head coach. Mullens also acknowledged the difficult timing of Kelly's decision to leave Oregon with regard to recruiting, but appeared confident that the process of finding a new head coach would be handled "expeditiously."
"What we want is someone who understands the culture [at Oregon]," said Mullens of what he's looking for in the program's next head coach. "It is unique here, not only within our football program, but within our community. We want someone who has proven excellence, has been around winning programs, and who knows what it takes [to win].
"The expectations for this program have shifted," Mullens continued. "We want to compete for Pac-12 Championships and we want to be in BCS bowls, so we want someone who understands what that takes from A to Z. From recruiting to creating a culture of academic excellence to understanding the role of that team in this department and this community and of course, on field success."
On possible NCAA sanctions affecting Oregon's search for a new head coach, Mullens admitted that he would be "restricted" in the details he would be able to divulge to potential head coaching candidates regarding the NCAA's investigation to the football program, reiterating that he is confident that process will play itself out favorably for the program.
"I don't think [potential sanctions] will be a significant conversation with candidates," said Mullens.
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