In a story published yesterday by John Locanthi of the Willamette Week, it was revealed that a number of University of Oregon boosters are annoyed with football head coach Chip Kelly due to a lack of appreciation for the fans, which in this case means the same thing as a little kid screaming at his dad, “Pay attention to me!”
Some boosters even hope Kelly bolts for the NFL after this season so the team can bring in a coach who will interact with them more.
Some say that it is Kelly’s duty as head coach to mingle with boosters in order to keep them happy, and keep the money flowing into the athletic department. Last year, the Oregon athletic department received over $30 million in donations and gifts. The team generated $20.5 million in 2011. It’s pretty simple math. Keep the donors happy, the money keeps coming in. Upset the donors, and the money stays in their pockets.
But I have a news flash for Oregon boosters: It’s not Kelly’s job to please you. His job title is head football coach, and his obligation to the school is to coach, and win, football games. So you have to watch the game from a special luxury suite instead of down on the sidelines. Cry me a river while you feast on your complimentary food and beverages.
I watched every Oregon home game this season from the same viewpoint the boosters have and, believe me, it’s actually an upgrade from the sidelines. Other examples of Kelly turning a cold shoulder include videoconferencing with the Oregon Club instead of making the weekly trip to Portland, and skipping an annual golf tournament put on by the Oregon Club, sending assistant coaches instead.
Boosters are like young children. They crave attention and recognition, and if they don’t get the attention they want, they throw a hissy fit. Because Kelly doesn’t give them enough attention, their attitude is, “Let him leave for the NFL so we can have a coach who pays attention to us!”
Now boosters, I’m going to throw some numbers your way to put things in perspective. Since taking over in 2009, Kelly has led the Ducks to as many 10 win seasons (four) as Oregon had in the previous 113 years of the program. On January 3, the Ducks will play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, their fourth consecutive BCS bowl appearance. The only other teams to make at least four consecutive BCS bowls are Miami, USC, and Ohio State. Starting to see a pattern here? Kelly has brought Oregon to the top tier of college football programs.
So you want Kelly gone in order to get a coach who will let you stand on the sidelines, come speak at your booster meeting, or play a round of golf with you? Mike Bellotti was good at that, but the best he ever did was one BCS appearance in his 14 years as head coach. Rich Brooks was also good with boosters, but Kelly has something neither of those coaches do. A Rose Bowl ring.
It’s become clear that Kelly is good at his job of winning football games. In his four years at Oregon, Kelly has an overall record of 45-7, and a conference record of 33-3 Even though his tenure at Oregon is nothing compared to that of Bellotti’s or Brooks’, he will go down as the most successful football coach in the history of the program.
Boosters have to understand that different coaches have different personalities. Brooks and Bellotti were people pleasers, while Kelly is not. People pleasers are guys like newly hired Cal head coach Sonny Dykes, who announced that football practices would be open to the public, and that he intends to live in Berkeley so he can interact with fans on a daily basis and become part of the community. But Kelly is nothing like that. He keeps his life private, and any interactions, even with the media, brief.
One of Kelly’s post-game press conferences this season was nearly over in a matter of less than three minutes before reporters were pressed to ask more questions by the athletic department, who said, “Really guys, that’s it?” I’ve been in Eugene for the same amount of time that Kelly has been head coach, and only once have I actually seen him away from an Oregon athletic event, and that was with him in the passenger seat of a car with his feet kicked up on the dashboard.
What boosters seem to be missing is that Kelly is giving them a could shoulder not because he doesn’t appreciate them, but rather because he is focused on winning football games, which logically should make the boosters happy.
So I pose this question to the boosters who want him gone because he doesn’t pay attention to you. Would you rather have a coach who takes time out of his hectic schedule to videoconference in to your booster meeting every week, and continue to make trips to the BCS every season, or would you rather the Ducks hire a coach whose main concern is shaking hands and kissing babies rather than win football games? I don’t know about you, but if I was a fan, I’d take videoconferences and BCS bowls over meet-and-greets and Sun Bowls (or Holiday Bowls, or Alamo Bowls or…New Mexico Bowls) any time.
Comment below if you think Oregon should do something about Kelly’s lack of support from boosters.