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Comfort Level Helps UCLA Land Biggest Coaching Free Agent in Chip Kelly

Florida also discussed its opening with Chip Kelly, whose compensation will be supplemented by money he's still receiving from the San Francisco 49ers.

UCLA reeled in the biggest fish in the coaching free agent market by landing Chip Kelly. The former Oregon coach, who went 46-7 in four seasons with the Ducks, agreed to a five-year contract worth $23.3M with a $9M reciprocal buyout. Kelly’s UCLA contract is back-loaded in the deal.

A few things to know about how the deal came together:

While the deal for Kelly sounds relatively modest by today’s coaching standards at an average of $4.7 per year, SI has learned that Kelly will still be getting paid around $13 million over the first two years he’s at UCLA as part of his old deal with the San Francisco 49ers.

As SI reported last week, Kelly was visited by six Florida officials in New Hampshire. Both sides thought the meeting went well. A source close to the coach told SI that Kelly liked and was very impressed with the UF brass and that made his decision harder. But in the end he felt he’d be a lot more comfortable living on the West Coast with the situation UCLA offered him than he would in Gainesville. 

For One Night, Scott Frost and UCF Took the Focus off Their Future

Kelly met with UCLA leadership 24 hours after his sit-down with UF. The Bruins meeting took place in San Francisco, not in Los Angeles as previously had been reported. One of the big pushes for Kelly wasn’t on the financial end for him but rather to ensure UCLA’s commitment to his vision to develop and optimize the experience of its student-athletes. It was also important to Kelly who he was working with and to feel good about those folks. He’d taken note of a few other situations where the leadership had been pretty dubious in how some programs treated their staff.

The challenge at UCLA for years was a relative lack of commitment to football as compared to arch-rival USC across town and certainly to the likes of the SEC and the heavyweights of the Big Ten and Big 12. However, when UCLA parted ways with coach Jim Mora, stepping up to pick up a $12.4 million buyout, it became obvious the Bruins were prepared to jump into the deep end of the pool to go get Kelly.

When Kelly settles in in Westwood, some things will feel a bit familiar. The Bruins had spent four years working on their sweet new facilities. They used the same architectural firm that designed Oregon’s, the one that Chip Kelly collaborated on.

One other note that UCLA fans will probably also like: Kelly is 3-1 all-time against the Bruins arch-rival USC and those three wins were by an average of 20 points per game. His teams averaged 49 points per game in those match-ups.