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Chip Kelly staying at UCLA, agrees to new 4-year contract

NCAA Football: UCLA at Washington

Oct 16, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly returns to the locker room following pregame warmups against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA football coach Chip Kelly agreed to a new four-year contract Friday after leading the Bruins to their best season since 2015.

The agreement came two days before the $9 million buyout on Kelly’s original contract would have expired. Kelly said he had discussions about returning to Oregon last month before the Ducks hired Dan Lanning.

“We are extremely appreciative of the entire UCLA administration for their support of our football program,” Kelly said in a statement. “We have a tremendous amount of gratitude for our players and staff. Their tireless work and commitment to our vision have built a great foundation. We are excited to continue to build this program into something that makes the UCLA fanbase proud.”

UCLA had its first winning season in Kelly’s tenure in 2021. It went 8-4 and closed with three straight wins, including a 62-33 blowout over Southern California. The Bruins earned their first bowl appearance since 2017, but could not play in the Holiday Bowl against North Carolina State due to COVID-19 protocols.

Kelly is 64-32 as a college coach but is 18-25 in four seasons at UCLA. He took over after Jim Mora Jr. was fired in 2017 and had a roster predominantly filled with underclassmen his first two seasons.

The Bruins were 3-9 in Kelly’s first year in 2018 and 4-8 the following season. During the shortened 2020 season, a turnaround began with a 3-4 mark.

“This new contract represents the commitment, stability and investment needed to continue the upward trajectory of our football program,” athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “Since joining UCLA, our football team’s winning percentage has increased every year, including increased momentum in recruiting and strategic use of the transfer portal,”

Kelly will have to make adjustments on his coaching staff after his longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro resigned this week. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson announced that he will return for a fifth season earlier this week.

The Bruins could get off to a quick start next season. They have one of the easiest nonconference slates for a Power Five program, hosting Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama before beginning Pac-12 play at Colorado on Sept. 24.