Despite earlier rumors that Oregon would promote offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich to replace Chip Kelly after the head coach decided to take the Philadelphia Eagles job, athletic director Rob Mullens said in a press conference that the school would have an open coaching search, saying that there was "no leader in the clubhouse".
Mullens indicated that although there are a "a number of internal candidates", no one person is in the driver's seat to take the job. Many had reported earlier that Helfrich would step up, much as Kelly had risen from offensive coordinator before him, but Mullens said that was not the case, saying that the school would definitely be interviewing outsiders as they look for a perfect fit for a "unique" program. The athletic director said that no interim coach would be appointed.
The school has been blessed with continuity at the coaching spot, hiring their last two coaches from within the system and, until Wednesday, Oregon was one of only five schools in the country to maintain the same coaching staff for three straight years. Mullens stated that continuity was "extremely important to me", but that it wouldn't be the only factor.
Asked about Kelly's decision to go to the pro ranks, Mullens said that "if it's where Chip's heart is at, it's where he belongs." He said that he had not spoken to Kelly about the NFL in between the Sunday after the team's Fiesta Bowl win - when Kelly supposedly decided to return to Oregon - and when he announced his decision, and that although he wasn't expecting Kelly to go to the NFL, he knew that there would be a possibility of it until every NFL job was filled.
Mullens said that although the "timing is not ideal" with National Signing Day approaching, the school wouldn't "sacrifice the future of the program" to make a move to fit that timeline. He mentioned that all the school's assistant coaches are currently on the recruiting trail, and that they would remain on the recruiting trail.
With regards to the specter of NCAA sanctions, Mullens said it had no role in Kelly's departure and that it would not factor into the upcoming coaching search.
Mullens said no head coaches had contacted him yet, and that the school had not retained a search firm.