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UCLA Football Coach Chip Kelly Betting Favorite to Take Over at Oregon

Mario Cristobal's departure to Miami has many wondering if the former Ducks coach could leave the Bruins to return to Eugene.

The coaching carousel is still running at full speed, and the Bruins may be on the verge of getting roped into it.

With Oregon coach Mario Cristobal leaving Eugene for Miami on Monday, UCLA football (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) coach Chip Kelly was immediately named as the odds-on favorite to become his replacement. According to SportsLine, Kelly has +150 odds to become the Ducks' next head coach, safely ahead of BYU's Kalani Sitake, Cal's Justin Wilcox and others.

There was buzz throughout much of the regular season surrounding Kelly's future in Westwood, and whether or not the Bruins would end up firing him by year's end. But after UCLA won its last three games of the regular season and earned a bid to the Holiday Bowl, Kelly was seen by many as safe in his spot, and that an extension was on the horizon.

A wrench was thrown into the mix on Dec. 4 when Oregonian columnist John Canzano started speculating on who the Ducks' successor to Cristobal could be, should he leave for the Hurricanes like he ended up doing. Canzano brought up Kelly's name, not only as a potential fit, but as the top target for Oregon to go after.

The first half of Canzano's what if came true after Manny Diaz was fired and subsequently replaced at Miami, and now it's just a matter of who ends up stepping in to take Cristobal's place.

Kelly is under contract with UCLA for one more year, but his $9 million buyout will drop to nothing after Jan. 15. Kelly has gone 18-25 in his four seasons with the Bruins, and the upcoming Holiday Bowl marks the first postseason game he is set to coach with the program.

Before taking four years to coach in the NFL, Kelly came up through the ranks at Oregon and went 46-7 as their head coach from 2009 to 2012 while leading the Ducks to a national championship game appearance, a Rose Bowl and a Fiesta Bowl. Kelly was previously the offensive coordinator in Eugene and spent six seasons total up at Oregon.

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To return to Oregon, the Ducks would likely have to pay some portion of Kelly's buyout at UCLA in order to lock him down before the early signing period for class of 2022 recruits opens Dec. 17. That would also leave the Bruins without a coach during the most high-stakes period of the annual recruiting cycle, condensing the timeline even further.

This all remains a hypothetical at the moment, but one that certainly has some steam. Many local fans and columnists alike have pegged Kelly as the No. 1 option to replace Cristobal, and it would send even more shockwaves through a Pac-12 that has already been flipped on its head.

At least one-third of the conference will open next season with a new coach, with USC's Lincoln Riley, Washington's Kalen DeBoer and Washington State's Jake Dickert joining whoever steps in at Oregon.

Kelly was asked about the Washington opening in November, to which he said he had not been contacted and was happy at UCLA. However, Kelly ended his final postgame press conference of the regular season without giving a straight answer to whether or not he wanted an extension.

"I don’t need to discuss my contract with you, so I’m good," Kelly said in response to the Los Angeles Times' Ben Bolch. "I have an agent and he takes care of things and that’s the way it works, so. What’s your contract?"

As it turns out, Kelly turning the temperature down on his hot seat didn't save the Bruins from wondering about their future at the head coaching position.

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