The Bruins just landed the hottest coach on the carousel, signing Chip Kelly to a five-year deal worth $23.3 million.
Where will he take a program that hasn't competed for the division in three years and hasn't won the conference in 19?
There is every reason to believe Kelly will make the Bruins vastly more competitive than they have been ... that he will contend for division and conference titles ... that he could, potentially, position the Bruins as a regular playoff contender.
It's a colossal move for UCLA football, an investment in the investments, so to speak.
The Bruins just opened a $60 million (approximate) football operations complex. They want an on-field product worthy of the price tag and the commitment by top donors, including Casey Wasserman, whose name is on the building.
(Waserman, by the way, was part of the hiring process. So, too, was Troy Aikman, who is close friends with Kelly's agent, David Dunn.)
*** Kelly hardly has a pristine off-the-field resume:
He was slapped by the NCAA with a failure to monitor charge and given an 18-month show-cause penalty (since expired) for violations under his watch at Oregon.
(Hello, Willie Lyles.)
It's a bold step for the Bruins in that regard, which certainly shows their level of urgency to make football work.
It also shows confidence in their compliance infrastructure and, it would seem, the NCAA's confidence in athletic director Dan Guerrero, who has a stellar reputation on such matters.
(I spoke to a source recently who said Matt Elliott, the Bruins' senior associate AD for internal ops, has a first-class system in place to educate/support Kelly and his staff.
(Because obviously, all eyes will be on Kelly and Co. when it comes to adherence to the NCAA rulebook.)
*** Will Kelly recreate the success he experienced at Oregon?
I'm skeptical it will reach that level, despite his acumen and innovation and UCLA's resources.
Yes, Kelly + UCLA's new facilities + its recruiting base = a powerful combination.
But the college game ... the Pac-12 game ... has evolved since the heyday of the Quack Attack.
If anything, the game is slowing down a notch: Defenses have caught up to the no-huddle, warp-speed style.
One of Kelly's central advantages in the 2009-12 window was being unique: His system was fast and simple -- it had to be simple because it was so fast -- and different.
That's not the case anymore, not to the extent it was.
Will he find a way to make it work? Will he adjust his style?
He's smart enough to adjust, for sure, and to attract elite players -- and his approach works better in college than the NFL, where he was twice dismissed (Eagles and 49ers).
And win. But win at his previous level? Hmmmm.
There are more obstacles in his path than there were in 2009, and several of them are located in the North.
*** The impact across town will be fascinating to watch.
The Kelly hire is UCLA's ultimate response to USC's football dominance of Southern California and the South division:
We're ready to take control. Stop us if you can.
The move ramps up the competitiveness of college football in Los Angeles, which is a good thing for football in the entire Pac-12.
The South isn't quite wide open, at the moment. But if Sam Darnold leaves USC this winter, the division becomes anyone's for the taking in '18.
It's a far better situation for Kelly than the North, where Stanford and Washington -- and possibly Washington State and Oregon, too -- would pose greater annual obstacles.
No doubt, this heaps pressure on Clay Helton by an order of magnitude.
Again, the competition is a good thing.
Crucial point: Whether Kelly wins in Westwood or wins big in Westwood is a secondary issue for the conference as a whole.
His presence increases the quality of coaching and makes the Pac-12 vastly more interesting.
It's somewhat akin to Jim Harbaugh's return to Michigan and the impact, on the field and off, that Harbaugh has had on Big Ten football.
This has been a forgettable season for the Pac-12 in many regards. It has taken multiple hits on the PR front and isn't involved in the playoff race.
The conference desperately needs a boost in appeal and success. Kelly provides the former, immediately, and a chance for the latter.
The Pac-12 football brand just got a major bump.
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