Fiesta Bowl could be Kelly's last with the Ducks


Fiesta Bowl could be Kelly's last with the Ducks

The Oregon Ducks enter the offseason with uncertainty over coach Chip Kelly's continued tenure and possible NCAA sanctions.

But at the same time the team faces a future with a strong foundation that includes redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota and speedy sophomore running back De'Anthony Thomas.

Fifth-ranked Oregon finished this season 12-1 with a 35-17 victory over No. 7 Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. It was the Ducks' fourth straight trip to a BCS bowl game and second straight win.

It is also the third season that Oregon has finished with 12 wins. The team's lone loss this season came to Stanford on Nov. 17.

But since a 48-24 victory over Oregon State in the Civil War, much of the focus has been on Kelly and whether he'll make the jump to the NFL.

At least three pro teams appear to have interest in Kelly, who devised Oregon's quick-strike spread offense, including the Cleveland Browns, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills. And the Ducks would no doubt love to keep him, too.

It seems inevitable that Kelly will leave. Last year in the offseason he entertained interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but decided to stay at Oregon because of ``unfinished business.''

Ducks fans at the Fiesta Bowl made their feelings clear by chanting ``We want Chip!'' during the victory celebration. Nike co-founder and Oregon mega-booster Phil Knight proclaimed to a reporter following the game: ``I was one of `em.''

The buyout for Kelly's contract with Oregon is $3.5 million.

``I'll listen and we'll see,'' Kelly said about his NFL courters. He also said he hopes to wrap up a decision quickly.

A person close to the team who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Kelly's future had not yet been decided told The Associated Press that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is considered the frontrunner to succeed Kelly as head coach, but Oregon state law says that the Ducks must interview at least one qualified minority candidate for the job.

Whoever the new coach might be will likely have to deal with the fallout from an NCAA investigation into the school's use of recruiting services.

The inquiry is the result of reports that surfaced in 2011 concerning payments Oregon made to two such services, including a $25,000 check sent to Willie Lyles and Houston-based Complete Scouting Services in 2010. Lyles had a relationship with a player who committed to Oregon.

Last month, Yahoo Sports reported that Oregon is headed toward a hearing with the NCAA committee on infractions because the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on appropriate sanctions. Yahoo cited two unidentified sources.

Earlier this year, Oregon requested a summary disposition in the case. The school presented a report to the infractions committee outlining violations the school believed occurred and appropriate sanctions. But that request was apparently turned down.

The NCAA does not comment on ongoing investigations.

``We've cooperated fully with them. If they want to talk to us again, we'll continue to cooperate fully,'' Kelly said. ``I feel confident in the situation.''

While Oregon awaits the hearing, which could be scheduled as early as this spring, the Ducks appear solid on the field for next season and perhaps beyond with rising offensive stars Mariota and Thomas.

Mariota set the team's single-season record with 38 touchdowns (32 passing, 5 rushing, 1 receiving), surpassing the previous mark of 36 held by Darron Thomas (2011) and Akili Smith (1998).

The first freshman named to the Pac-12's all-conference first team in 23 years, Mariota passed for 2,739 yards, completing a school-record 68.5 percent of his passes. He had 3,429 yards of total offense, second only to Smith's 3,947 in 1998.

The 6-foot-4 dual-threat quarterback from Hawaii credited Kelly for the season.

``The success, all that's happening with this offense is from him. To be able to just kind of go through that and to learn from it, you know, it's going to make me a better quarterback for future years,'' Mariota said.

Then there's Thomas, who scored on a 94-yard return of the opening kickoff Thursday against Kansas State. It was the longest all-purpose play in Oregon bowl history.

Thomas has a school-record 509 all-purpose yards on just 19 touches in his two career bowl games.

The Fiesta Bowl was the final game for several notable Oregon players, including running back Kenjon Barner, who broke out in his senior season after the departure of LaMichael James to the NFL.

Barner finished the season with 1,767 yards rushing, second-best in school history to James' 1,805 yards last season.

For his career, Barner finished with 5,848 all-purpose yards, 21 yards shy of James' career record. His 42 career touchdowns are also second to James (58) in the Ducks' record book.

The defensive side loses senior linebacker Michael Clay, one of the team's leaders. The senior had nine tackles in the Fiesta Bowl and was named the defensive player of the game.

``Right now, things are a lot more surreal than anything else,'' he said afterward. `` The last time playing with these guys, taking off the pads, the last time in an Oregon jersey. You're kind of surreal and in a daze right now.''

Kelly spoke after the Fiesta Bowl almost as though he was saying goodbye, too, although only time will tell.

``It's a special place with special people. They accepted me six years ago when I was at New Hampshire. Not many people knew about me,'' Kelly said. ``Gave me an opportunity to come here. It really means a lot.''

Syracuse vs. Clemson: Date, Time, TV Channel, How to watch

Syracuse vs. Clemson: Date, Time, TV Channel, How to watch

In a relatively open ACC, two teams that have the opportunity to rise are the Syracuse Orange and the Clemson Tigers who play on Tuesday. 

As of late, Syracuse is emerging as a late threat to establish themselves in the second tier of ACC basketball. Behind Duke, Florida State and Louisville, there is a big drop off to the rest of the pack.

Syracuse can standalone in that next category. Clemson hopes to get there. 

Led by Elijah Hughes (19.2 ppg) and the coaches' son Buddy Boeheim (16.2 ppg), the Orange are 13-7 (6-3) this season. Clemson, who's had plenty of their ups and downs throughout the year, is 10-9 (4-5) with Aamir Simms' 3-point shooting leading the way. 

These are the two teams' only head-to-head matchup on the year. The winner will hold the direct tiebreaker should they both be there at the end of the season. 

Syracuse vs. Clemson: How to Watch

Who: Syracuse Orange (13-7, 6-3 ACC) vs. Clemson (10-9, 4-5 ACC)
What: ACC basketball on NBC Sports Washington
When: Tuesday, January 28, 7 p.m. ET. 
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, SC
TV Channel: You can watch Syracuse vs. Clemson on NBC Sports Washington Plus (Channel Finder).

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Peter King believes Ron Rivera is 'the right guy' to turn the Redskins around

Peter King believes Ron Rivera is 'the right guy' to turn the Redskins around

After a disastrous 2019 campaign where the Redskins finished with just three victories, owner Dan Snyder seemed insistent on turning the organization around.

Snyder fired longtime team president Bruce Allen the morning after the season finale. Larry Hess, who had been the team's head athletic trainer for 17 seasons, was also let go.

Ron Rivera was hired as the team's next head coach shortly after the new year, and during his introductory press conference, Snyder stated the Redskins were moving with a 'coach-centric' approach, hoping to remove any organizational and structural divide that had been there prior.

NBC Sports analyst Peter King was asked if Rivera was capable of turning around an organization that has struggled for nearly three decades, and he spoke glowingly about the 58-year-old head coach.

"They got the right guy to do it," King told the Redskins Talk podcast.

King was adamant that Rivera will not let the previous disfunction in Washington fly during his time at the helm.

"Ron Rivera, if he senses that's happening, he will not stand for it," King said. "He will not stand for a divided organization. That will not last."

The Redskins fired six-year head coach Jay Gruden following the team's Week 5 loss to New England, but the beginning of the end of Gruden's tenure can be traced back to the 2019 Draft. Washington selected Dwayne Haskins 15th overall, with many believing the decision to select the Ohio State passer came from the top.

Gruden's job was on the line in 2019; he needed to win. Selecting Haskins, a signal-caller that was very raw and had just 14 career collegiate starts, did not match up with the head coach's timeline.

King believes a situation like that will not happen with Rivera in charge.

"The outside world all thinks that [Dwayne Haskins] was a Daniel Snyder pick," King said. "I don't think there will be anymore Daniel Snyder picks if Ron Rivera is there. Rivera said 'if we're all not together, we can't take this guy.' No matter what the owner says."

The success of Rivera in D.C. will likely largely have to due with the development of Haskins. The signal-caller showed promise towards the end of his rookie season, but still has plenty of work to do. 

Rivera expressed excitement with Haskins during his introductory press conference, stating he believes Haskins has all the tools to become a franchise quarterback. But Rivera didn't promise the QB anything, and even mentioned the team would bring in veterans to compete. 

King believes that Rivera will bring the organization to a level of accountability and credibility that hasn't been seen in Ashburn before.

"Ron Rivera's history is building consensus in your organization," King said. "His players [in Carolina] really loved him. I'm really interested to see how that works out. But I'm telling you, at one point, Ron Rivera let it be known to the people that were interviewing him, including Daniel Snyder, that we are going to have a team in all aspects of this. We can't do it without that."

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