Chip Kelly is a wanted man.
The former Oregon and NFL coach likely has a decision to make about his next coaching stop: Florida or UCLA? Kelly, currently working as an ESPN college football analyst, met with Florida officials Sunday afternoon. When UCLA fired coach Jim Mora earlier that day, multiple industry sources said the school would pursue Kelly.
A decision could come as soon as Monday afternoon.
Both Florida and UCLA are attractive options for Kelly, who led Oregon to three Pac-12 titles, a national title game appearance, a Rose Bowl championship and a Fiesta Bowl championship in just four seasons as head coach. Both Florida and UCLA are located in talent hotbeds. Both have recently made overdue commitments to facility upgrades. While Florida has a national championship tradition, UCLA always has been viewed as a sleeping giant.
ESPN reached out to coaches and others to gauge which school Kelly should pick and why. The near consensus: Kelly should head west again.
Coaches pointed to Kelly's knowledge of the Pac-12 and its recruiting scene as reasons? he should pick UCLA.
"He is more familiar with the Pac-12," a Pac-12 coordinator said. "You're going to get big-time players there no matter what. You just have to take the right ones and evaluate well."
Kelly isn't in love with recruiting, which could make life in the competitive SEC especially challenging and annoying. But Oregon grew into a national brand during his tenure, and the Ducks had success landing players from Texas and California.?
"That's where people know him now," said a Power 5 head coach. "He came from New Hampshire, but he's established himself from a recruiting standpoint in that part of the world."?
UCLA also brings in top recruits from outside the state, but Kelly could focus much more on Southern California. He also wouldn't need to go far for talent at Florida.
"At both of them, you've got players who are driving to your campus," said a coach who has worked in both the Pac-12 and SEC. "Both are competitive in recruiting, but a little different."
The biggest difference in Kelly's options could come outside of the football facility. Los Angeles offers eight major pro teams, USC and the entertainment industry. In Gainesville, Kelly would be the second-biggest celebrity behind Steve Spurrier.?
"Off the field, it is significantly different," a coach who has spent time in both leagues said. "In the bigger city, you can go to the grocery store. The SEC towns are so small and everybody's going to be in your business. If you want to be the guy who everybody sees and you want to be on TV all the time, and everybody recognizes you at the restaurant and gets pictures, then you probably go to the SEC."
Added an SEC assistant: "It sounds like he doesn't want to be in the middle of the spotlight like he would have to be an SEC head coach."
At Oregon, Kelly benefited from a program steeped in Nike money that spared no expense to elevate its profile. Florida and UCLA, meanwhile, have both faced criticism -- even by former coaches like Jim McElwain and Rick Neuheisel -- for a lack of commitment. It certainly played a role in the McElwain-Florida divorce last month. A $60 million facility is finally on the way at Florida, and UCLA in August opened the $65 million Wasserman Football Center on campus, a massive upgrade from what the program had before. Former UCLA tight end Charles Arbuckle said UCLA's decision to pay Jim Mora's $12 million buyout indicates a shift.
"That tells me they're looking to get not only the best person but the biggest splash," Arbuckle said. "Clearly the alums at USC have been able to take care of that program and build it up. I think UCLA looks at that, and they see? Washington?has gotten better. It seems like they're really trying to make a push, too."
Kelly coached Oregon to college football's biggest stages and is believed to be considering jobs where he feels like he could win a national title. Florida has a clear edge here, as both Spurrier and Urban Meyer won national titles in Gainesville. UCLA has only one national title, in 1954, and hasn't won the Pac-12 since 1998 (then the Pac-10). Then again, Oregon wasn't a national title contender until Kelly arrived.
"He's been in the Pac-12 and knows the conference would probably be an easier path to a national championship," a Power 5 coach said. "If he wants to challenge [Nick] Saban, he could do it at Florida, but I would go for UCLA."
Coaches have little doubt Kelly could succeed at both schools. His offense would draw different types of players to Florida, but it could also help the Gators stand out. While UCLA's reboot must start on defense, Florida fans accustomed to Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun and Meyer's offense are craving points.
"Coaching-wise, at Florida, he's on the easier side," a former Pac-12 head coach said. "Get an offense and all is well."
At some point soon, Kelly will choose his next coaching destination. Florida and UCLA are both exciting landing spots, and more opportunities could be coming his way. Coaches point to several factors Kelly must weigh -- administrative commitment, facilities, coach control and league strength.
But ultimately, Kelly has to look in the mirror and decide.
"Florida obviously is the better job, but does it fit him?" a Pac-12 coordinator said. "He should take the job that fits him, regardless of perception. Without knowing him ... UCLA probably would be a better fit."