Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
In the run up to the January 3 Fiesta Bowl between K-State and Oregon, The Jug will be running a series of potentially overlooked variables that should determine the game’s final outcome. Up next: Chip Kelly’s Coaching Status.
Every year fans of teams that exceed historical expectations wait with trepidation to see whether their coaching saviors will return or move on to greener pasture$. Even historically good programs that fail to turn in dominate performances may find themselves scrambling to find a new face, as evidenced by Bret Bielema jumping ship from Wisconsin to Arkansas earlier this month. K-State fans know their relationship with Bill Snyder: Snyder will either stay or retire with a responsible plan of succession in place. The man loves K-State and wouldn’t leave the program in limbo, and would never start over at a different program given his age and loyalty to the program. Unfortunately for Oregon fans, they can’t say the same for coach Chip Kelly.
Nobody expects Kelly to fly southeast and find a home in the SEC or stray within his own conference to take over a program in, say, Los Angeles. However, speculation as to his potential future in the NFL is discussed on a daily basis. Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has already adopted parts of Kelly’s system to create the attack headed by Tom Brady. As NFL team’s look for replacement coaches, those organizations can provide the money Oregon can’t while promising Kelly he won’t have to abide by the illogical demands made by rich alumni. Additionally, rumors are rampant that Oregon may be hit with a variety of penalties this offseason which would follow Kelly anywhere he coaches on the college level. Kelly would incur no penalty for recruiting infractions on the professional level.
As speculation mounts that this could be Kelly’s final year with the Ducks, the impact of his departure is a relative unknown. If Kelly announces his departure before the game, players could approach the Fiesta Bowl distracted or disinterested. Additionally, it means that Kelly has been focusing on his next move while Snyder was busy game planning to stop quarterback Marcus Mariota. However, Oregon’s players could approach the game with a ‘win one for the Gipper’ mentality, playing inspired and emotional football during their final game for Kelly.
Of course, K-State’s players will need little encouragement to find emotional fuel on their end. With a team chock full of seniors playing the last game of their careers while the same senior class has never won a bowl game, the Wildcats will be extremely focused this Thursday. Will Oregon?