Chip Kelly Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The wildest offseason college football has seen in decades continues, and we can’t be sure of anything anymore.

Last month, championship head coaches Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh departed— not surprising, but seismic changes. And now, we have this stunning development.

When a power conference head coach like Chip Kelly leaves UCLA to become an offensive coordinator at Ohio State, you know we’ve reached a new level of bonkers. For a sport that loves tradition, this is a shock to the establishment. UCLA isn’t a football blueblood. Still, moves like this aren’t supposed to happen to the Bruins.

Assistant coaches typically leave to become head coaches. Not the other way around. But with so much changing so rapidly, the old rules of logic don’t apply. Conference realignment, the transfer portal, name, image, and likeness (NIL), and other factors have changed the game. This isn’t your parents’ sport. It’s not even your older siblings’ sport.

Kelly punted on UCLA’s inaugural 2024 Big Ten season and took a demotion to join the more respected firm down the block. It’s fascinating, and it prompts many questions. What is going on? Over the past few weeks, two Power Five head coaches have willingly quit to become assistants elsewhere. It seems unprecedented.

Jeff Hafley left Boston College after four seasons to become the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator. Hafley was replaced by Bill O’Brien, who had just been hired to be Ohio State’s offensive coordinator less than a month ago. O’Brien’s decision, while abrupt, did make sense. He has deep ties to the region. Plus, it was a shot for the Boston native and former New England Patriots assistant to run his own program. He hadn’t been a college head coach since a two-year stint at Penn State (2012-13).

At first glance, Kelly’s decision seems like a calculated risk. Why did he do this? Was it because he feared being a lame duck next season? UCLA (8-5, 4-5 Pac-12) went 35-34 during his six-year tenure. He had a disappointing record considering what Kelly previously accomplished at Oregon (46-7 in four seasons).

According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, Kelly was bothered by UCLA not being able to compete financially for staff and not having NIL money.  Kelly has been plotting an exit strategy for some time. He reportedly interviewed for the opening at Cincinnati last year. Recent reports linked him to NFL offensive coordinator jobs.

Since Kelly wasn’t offered those positions, he did the next best thing. He saw an opportunity to work for a national championship contender and bolted.

Kelly will be reunited with a former pupil. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day played quarterback and was an assistant at New Hampshire when Kelly was an offensive coordinator there. It’s always better to work for a friendly face. Kelly is as gifted a football mind as there has ever been in the sport. Presumably, he’ll immediately take over play-calling from Day, who has been under fire in recent years for falling behind Michigan.

This move may work out for Ohio State. However, the chaotic nature of it all makes you wonder if this is the future of college football. Is Kelly and Hafley quitting just isolated incidents or the start of a trend? Power-conference head coaches leaving to join perennial playoff contenders as assistants is not something we could have ever predicted a year from now.

What will college football be like in 2025? Expect more of the unknown.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.