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Mullens Talks Kelly's Return

After a whirlwind past few days bookended by a Fiesta Bowl win on Thursday and Oregon head coach Chip Kelly's decision to remain at the school Sunday evening, you could reasonably assume that Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens was ready for a break. Before assembled members of the media at the Casanova Center Monday, Mullens discussed Kelly's decision to return to the school after having been heavily courted by the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, and the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL.

Kelly told Mullens he was returning to coach Oregon Sunday evening.

"Obviously, we're ecstatic that coach Kelly decided to remain at the University of Oregon," said Mullens. "Obviously, we've had unprecedented success over the last four years and that's contributed to his innovative style. He's a great leader and we're thrilled that he's going to remain in Eugene."

A direct call from Kelly to Mullens during the Oregon-Oregon State basketball game Sunday evening was the first time Mullens knew definitively that Kelly was remaining with the program.

"Chip's been a true professional, whether it was last year or this year, he manages everything exactly the right way, so I was in the loop all the way," said Mullens. "I began to hear from NFL teams on Wednesday night and Thursday, just to let me know what their plans were -- which is a professional courtesy -- and then I had a conversation with Chip Friday morning."

Mullens said that Kelly didn't get in to great details as far as why he decided to remain at Oregon, as Mullens recounts that he was "busy celebrating" after receiving the call. However, Mullens was steadfast in stating that Kelly was open and honest throughout the entire process.

"[Kelly] did exactly what he said he would do," said Mullens. "He would talk [with NFL teams], he would gather all the information, and then he would reflect, and then he would make a decision. And that's exactly what he did."

As far as all future interactions between Kelly and the NFL are concerned, Mullens stated that he was quite alright with the attention, as long as Oregon maintains their unrivaled success on the football field.

"I'd love to have another 12, or maybe even a 13 or 14 win season, and then if [the NFL] happens, it happens," said Mullens. "The reality is, when you're 46-7 in four years, you're going to draw a lot of attention.

"As I've said before, he's obviously a genius with X's and O's, but it's a lot deeper than that. He's an outstanding leader with the way he's so innovative and the culture that he's created here is unique...It's a great case study in leadership and it's something special."

According to Mullens, no discussions about the re-negotiation of Kelly's or his assistants' contracts were had through the process. In addition, Mullens shot down multiple published reports that prominent Oregon booster Phil Knight was making a "push" to keep Kelly at the University of Oregon.

"There was numerous reports about a lot of things, and as we sit here today, a lot of them are inaccurate," said Mullens. "It's interesting to me, in your all's world, that some of the same people were reporting complete opposite things, so I don't know where accountability goes."

Mullens did confirm, however, that a contingency plan was in place should Kelly leave for the NFL. Though Mullens mentioned no specific names, popular belief is that Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich would have succeeded Kelly. Of Helfrich, Mullens said that the offensive coordinator would have been consider a candidate, however -- and perhaps most interestingly -- Mullens stated that a national search for a new head coach would have been conducted in the event Kelly left.

"There was going to be a search," said Mullens. "There was absolutely going to be a search. Clearly, Mark would be a candidate; he's been a candidate for everyone else that's called this offseason."

Mullens says that two unnamed college programs called him directly to inquire about Helfrich during the recent coaching carousel. According to Mullens, the two non-Pac-12 programs were interested in Helfrich as a head coaching candidate.

No statement is expected from Kelly, who is currently in Nashville attending a coaches convention before heading out on the road to complete Oregon's 2013 recruiting class before Signing Day on February 6.

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