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2023-24 College Football Coaching Carousel Spinning Well Into February

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High school recruits and transfers who enrolled early at UCLA and Boston College barely got to know the coach who brought them on board. They have their second head coach before playing a game. Heck, their second head coach a month or so before spring drills even begin.

DeShaun Foster, who spent the past seven years coaching running backs at UCLA, was named as Chip Kelly’s successor Monday. Kelly left the Bruins last week to be the offensive coordinator at Ohio State under Ryan Day. It was news that surfaced mere hours after Bill O’Brien vacated the position in Columbus after three weeks on job to be the head coach at Boston College. That job opened when Jeff Hafley departed Chestnut Hill on January 31 to be the defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers.

Because of the timing, it is unlikely O’Brien and Foster will overhaul the staffs they inherited. There is sure to be some tweaking, though most dominoes fell into place with the previous 27 coaching changes at the FBS level that took place in December and January. Hence, with the clock ticking toward spring practice it might be as much about staff retention, which would certainly be no surprise with Foster given his familiarity with assistants at UCLA.

At any rate, it is not a shock that Kelly is no longer at UCLA. After all, his name surfaced on multiple occasions with respect to offensive coordinator positions in the NFL. What surprises is the timing of his move to Ohio State and the fact he left a $6-million position for one that likely pays less than one-third that amount.

Then again, maintaining one’s sanity these days might be a priceless commodity among the coaching fraternity given the numerous potential headaches head coaches have to deal with these days with the transfer portal and NIL spinning out of control.

Then there is the fact that while UCLA had a couple nice years under Kelly, the Bruins largely bumped along (35-34) while not seriously competing for a Pac-12 title in his six seasons in Westwood. Indeed, his record was likely to slide below .500 amid a daunting Big Ten schedule and the loss of quarterback Dante Moore to the portal (and ultimately Oregon). Kelly will likely not miss approximately 20,000 miles in roundtrips to Honolulu, LSU, Penn State and Rutgers next season.

Perhaps Kelly’s time with the Bruins was just about up anyway. After all, the roughly $70 million an athletics department that has piled up $170 million in deficits the past five years will receive from the Big Ten’s media rights package does not come with conference wins.

Undoubtedly, a key for the 60-year-old Kelly in making the move to Columbus is a relationship with Day that dates to 1998 when the latter was a quarterback at New Hampshire and the former coached the Wildcats’ offensive line. Both are Granite State natives and Kelly, who was a defensive back at UNH, was elevated to coordinator for Day’s final three seasons as a college QB.

It was a little more than nine years to the day (January 22, 2015) of Kelly accepting the position at Ohio State that he hired Day to be his quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, whom Kelly coached for three seasons. He also brought Day on board and in the same role with the 49ers in 2016. They went their separate ways – Kelly to ESPN for a year and Day to Ohio State to work under Urban Meyer – following a dismal 2-14 season.

While Kelly reunites with Day, O’Brien did not waste much time returning to his native Massachusetts. He takes over a program at BC that went 22-25 in four seasons under Hafley, whose seat was undoubtedly warming after a promising first two months (6-3) of 2023 dissolved into a .500 regular season. A victory over SMU in the Fenway Bowl salvaged a winning mark.

The 54-year-old O’Brien, whose Eagles have trips to Florida State and Missouri in the first three weeks of the 2024 season, left the New England Patriots where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season, his second stint with the Pats under now-former coach Bill Belichick. It was a season that followed two years as Alabama’s OC under Nick Saban.

Boston College is O’Brien’s third head-coaching job. He took over for Joe Paterno at Penn State, where he spent two seasons before leaving for what was a seven-season stint on the Houston Texans’ sideline.

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