Rob Mullens: Obviously we’re ecstatic that Coach Kelly decided to remain at the University of Oregon. Obviously we’ve had unprecedented to success these last four years. That’s contributed to by his innovative style, he’s a great leader. We’re thrilled he’s going to remain in Eugene.
Q: When and how were you informed of his decision?
RM: He called me last night. He called me directly.
Q: Did you have any indication before he went in for interviews whether he’d stay or not?
RM: Absolutely. Chip has been a true professional whether it’s this year or last year, he manages everything the right way. So I was in the loop all the way. When he said he was committed to deliver for the student athletes and remaining focused, that’s exactly what happened. I began to hear from NFL teams on Wednesday night and Thursday, just to let me know what their plans were; which is a professional courtesy. I had a conversation with Chip Friday morning.
Q: Did he say why or what it came down that he decided to stay?
RM: We didn’t get into great details. I was busy celebrating when I got the call. He did exactly what he said he would do. He would talk, he would gather all the information and he’d reflect and make a decision. That’s exactly what he did. I appreciate the way he handled it. He kept me in the loop the entire time and I was pleased to get the call.
Q: Do you think for now, at least the near future, have held off the NFL now?
RM: I’m not going to predict the future. I will say this, I’d love to have another 12 or maybe 13 or 14 win season and then if that happens it happens. The reality is, when you’re 46-and-7 in four years, you’ll draw a lot of attention. Like I’ve said before, obviously he’s a genius with X’s and O’s, but it’s a lot deeper than that. He’s an outstanding leader; the way he’s so innovative. The culture he’s created here is unique. It’s unique because you have a 105 young people on the same page. You have all the adults in and around the program on the same page. It’s a great case study on leadership and it’s something special.
Q: How many teams did you hear from who wanted to talk to him?
RM: I heard from two while I was in Phoenix. Then when I got back, I got a voicemail from one, that had been left on my work voicemail.
Q: You said you were in the loop, what’s the frequency of the dialogue Friday, Saturday, Sunday?
RM: When we talked on Friday, he laid out exactly what was going to happen on Friday and Saturday. Then we touched base Sunday morning and talked again Sunday night.
Q: What time did you get that final call?
RM: The days are all running together the last few weeks. It was sometime during the basketball game. I know I had that on.
Q: Why do you think he opted to stay?
RM: Again, I don’t want to speculate on anything, other than to say I think we have something special here. It’s a great place. We have a very passionate fan base. We have a unique culture. I think it’s one of the best jobs in all of football. Not just college football, I think it’s one of the best jobs in football. I think that weighs heavily.
Q: Will there be any renegotiation of his contract?
RM: That was not a part of any of the discussions this weekend.
Q: How important was the timing for you to get it wrapped up in the 48 hours.?
RM: Obviously we’re coming down the stretch for recruiting, so timing is always critical and it’s certainly helpful.
Q: So, there were no assurances that this wouldn’t become an annual thing?
RM: We really didn’t have any of those types of discussions. If we’re having the type of success that we’re having and that we’ve enjoyed over the last few years and we’re winning 11, 12, 13, 14 games, this stuff may happen. But it’s a byproduct of success and success is our first priority.
Q: Is this something you’re OK with happening potentially on an annual basis?
RM: If we’re winning 11, 12, 13, 14 games, it’s something that we’ll deal with.
Q: We’ve all heard that Mark [Helfrich] was going to step in if Chip left. Were you kind of mentally preparing for that?
RM: Well, obviously I’m in a role where I have to be prepared. I do pride myself on organization and preparation. So yes, we were in the beginning stages of preparing for that. But, as I’ve said all along to everyone, our number one priority was to retain Chip Kelly. He’s a special coach. The best in football in our a opinion and we’re sure pleased that he’s here.
Q: There are some reports that Phil Knight was involved and may have had some sway. Do you know of the role or to the degree?
RM: I’ll say this, there were numerous reports about a lot of things, and as we sit here today, a lot of them were inaccurate. It’s interesting to me in your all’s world, that some of the same people were reporting the exact opposite things. I don’t know where accountability goes. But, no, it was laid out exactly the way Chip said it would be after the game. He was going to talk to a few teams, he was going to keep us all in the loop and then he would evaluate, reflect and make a decision. That’s exactly what happened.
Q: You guys are so aggressive with information, the Quack Cave, redesigning goducks, all of that. You guys want maintain a dialogue with your fans. Why wait overnight? People are so emotionally invested in this team and this decision.
RM: Again, there was so much speculation and so much misinformation, that there was really no rhyme or reason, we just wanted to get everything organized and delivered at the right time. You may want to talk to the communications experts as well, but, it was really about making sure that we were ready to talk.
Q: You felt sure when he called you last night?
RM: I was positive when he called me last night. There was no doubt in my mind.
Q: What was the nature of the assurance, one more year? Or what did he tell you?
RM: He called me and said, again, he did exactly as he said he would. He said ‘I’m remaining at the University of Oregon. That’s the extent of the conversation.
Q: I guess the point being, with teams out there with job openings this off-season, he said ‘This is it for this year. I’m coming back’.
RM: He said to me ‘I’ve explored these three, I’ve reviewed everything and I’m coming back to the University of Oregon.’
Q: Do you expect to have a fifth year with the same football staff in light of this?
RM: I’m not going to speculate on that. I know that we have a number of loyal assistants, who are very pleased with the culture that we have here. With that type of success, it’s not just the head coach that people are going to pursue. I’m confident that some other team are going to take a look at some of our assistants as well.
Q: Is it funny or interesting to know the inside information and see all these reports circulate around?
RM: There is a certain point where it does become comical, because I do have some information. I find it fascinating that the same individuals can report completely opposite reports in a matter of 24 hours.
Q: These are fluid situations thought, right?
RM: Oh yeah, these are very fluid situations. But people go out with such strong bold statements, with I would say are flimsy sources at best and then they use the same sources to report the exact opposite. Again, this was all laid out Thursday night; nothing deviated. But you guys can tell me more, than I can say, sometimes in your business the race to be first trumps everything else, that’s unfortunate.
Q: That got to my question earlier though. It speaks to the passion and investment. You ask an investment of your fans and they like constant updates on these situations. I think a lot of people felt kind of strung along the past few days.
RM: As you said, they’re fluid, so you don’t want to give a minute-by-minute update, because it does change. When we had the information, that was solid and done, let the process take its course. Everyone wants to make these bold predictions in the middle of a process. Again it was very clearly laid out exactly what would happen and that’s exactly how it went.
Q: Is there anything that stood out as particularly comical or outrageous throughout this whole process?
RM: Oh, I don’t know if anything specific. It’s always interested to me, with my values, that someone can be so strong on one thing on Saturday midday, then by Sunday night report the exact opposite. It’s difficult for me to comprehend.
Q: Was there ever a doubt in your mind that he wouldn’t be coming back throughout the process?
RM: I pride myself on preparation and I also live in the real world. There’s 32 of those jobs in the world, and again, I’ll stack this job up with any of those, because I think this is a special place and we have a lot of unique features, but my job is to be prepared.
Q: Does Chip plan on making a statement?
RM: When we talked last night he was 100 percent focused on doing what obligations he had at the convention and then he was going to turn to recruiting.
Q: Given the interest from more than one team, are you surprised the NFL didn’t take him away this time?
RM: Nothing really surprises me in this business. We have a great situation. Obviously I’m the athletic director and I’m biased, but at the end of the day, we have something special in that program, with this community, with the passionate fan base. We feel we’re on very solid ground.
Q: Have you talked to Mark Helfrich since Chip said he was coming back?
RM: (Long pause) I talked to Mark a couple of times, I talked to all the assistants over the weekend. I’m trying to think when the last time I talked to Mark, I don’t think I’ve talked to him since then.
Q: When you said you were preparing for if he did leave, were there preparations to promote Mark or was there going to be a national search?
RM: There was going to be a search. There was absolutely going to be a search. Clearly Mark would be a candidate. He’s a candidate for everyone else that’s called this off-season.
Q: How many have called about Mark?
RM: Called me directly? Two.
Q: All college jobs?
RM: Both college jobs, yes.
Q: Head coaching jobs?
RM: Head coaching jobs.
Q: Were you at all lobbying coach Kelly along the way?
RM: Absolutely. Chip and I have a great relationship. He was very aware of how much we wanted him here. He was focused on preparation. When the game was over I let him know we have something very unique here. He’s a special leader. He’s the right person for Oregon football. But I also understood, that he has an obligation to explore this. I completely understood that.
Q: What did you tell him when he said he was coming back?
RM: I don’t know what I said off the top of my head, I was probably high fiving my kids and my wife at that moment. But I said I was thrilled. I love working with Chip. I think he’s an outstanding football coach. But I think it’s much deeper than that. He’s a great leader. I appreciate what he’s done here.
Q: Those calls about Mark, were those Pac-12 jobs or otherwise?
Q: Would you call Chip irreplaceable? Obviously you can bring someone in here, but a guy like that, no one has ever reached these heights.
RM: He’s 46-and-7 in four years. Obviously he’s done something very special. Our job is to make sure we have a foundation that goes beyond any one person and that were prepared in fact we do have to make a change.