Bellotti calm about moving on as coach

Updated: March 15, 2009, 2:57 AM ET
Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. -- Having thought about his next step for the past couple of years, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said the time was right to become the university's athletics director and hand over the team to offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.

Bellotti announced Friday the move to step down after 14 years as Oregon's head coach. The Ducks originally announced plans for the transition in December, but set no timetable.

It was widely assumed that Bellotti would remain coach for at least one more season.

"This was not a rushed decision. I gave it time," Bellotti said on Saturday, making his first public comments since the announcement. "Having said that I don't know if you ever know until a couple years down the road if you made the right decision. And I said that very honestly.

"I am comfortable with my decision. There's a peace and a calm in my soul about that decision, and obviously it's because of the people I'm involved with."

Bellotti will take over as Oregon's athletic director on July 1, replacing Pat Kilkenny. Kelly becomes coach on March 30, the opening day of spring practice.

Bellotti will serve in the interim as senior counselor to Kilkenny, who will step down June 30.

Bellotti, 58, has gone 116-55 as coach of the Ducks. Last season Oregon went 10-3 with a 42-31 win over Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl. The Ducks finished the season ranked No. 10.

Kelly said in a conference call his situation is unique because most coaches take over programs in need of a turnaround.

"He's set the bar very, very, very high for success; one of the most successful coaches in the country," Kelly said. "The one thing that's comforting through the whole situation is, I know I'm going to need help through this, and he's only going to be about a hop, skip and a jump away."

Bellotti jokingly corrected: "A short 9-iron."

Under Bellotti, the Ducks have gone to 12 bowl games. In 2001 Oregon won 11 games, including a 38-16 victory over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl to finish ranked No. 2.

He joined the Ducks as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Rich Brooks in 1989.

Bellotti said he did not make a final decision until Thursday night, after he met with Kilkenny and Oregon president Dave Frohnmayer. He spoke to his coaches and players Friday morning -- with a bailout plan in place in case he changed his mind.

The timing was important to Oregon's players, he said.

"The last opportunity for me to get the team together was yesterday, the last day of class. We go into finals next week. And my plan has been to make a decision at that time to allow, if I wasn't going to coach, Chip to get the next coach in here, the offensive coordinator or however he wants to structure that. And give them a chance to go through spring ball as a trial run," Bellotti said.

There was speculation that one of Bellotti's first major actions as athletic director will concern the futures of men's head basketball coach Ernie Kent, and women's basketball coach Bev Smith. But Bellotti said he would not be involved.

"Up to this point I have been the football coach. I don't have the experience or expertise to evaluate other programs. I will eventually," he said. "And I don't know anything about changes, I have not been involved in any discussions in that regard, but down the road I'll be very willing to make changes if I deem that necessary."

Kelly, who has been at Oregon the past two seasons and designed the team's spread-option offense, becomes the Ducks' 30th coach, and the third in the last 33 years.

Kelly, 45, made an immediate impact when he arrived at Oregon, helping turn quarterback Dennis Dixon into a Heisman Trophy contender. This past season, Kelly adjusted the offense through a series of quarterback injuries.

Kelly did not rule out the possibility that he would still perform his duties as offensive coordinator rather than hire one.

Kilkenny was named AD in February 2007 and said at the time he planned to serve in that position for two years. A prominent booster, Kilkenny has spearhead plans to build a new basketball arena to replace venerable McArthur Court.

Frohnmayer is retiring at the end of June after 15 years at Oregon. On Friday the university announced that University of Kansas provost Richard Lariviere will succeed him as president.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE