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Losing Chip Kelly, and maybe Scott Frost, might not be a knock on Florida

By Martin Fennelly
Published: November 25, 2017 Updated: November 25, 2017 at 03:29 PM
ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Scott Frost of the UCF Knights walks off the field at halftime against the South Florida Bulls at Spectrum Stadium on November 24, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images) 775059853


The win Florida needs had nothing to do with trying to beat Florida State on Saturday. The win Florida needs can still happen, even without the great Oz, Chip Kelly, behind the curtain. Maybe even without Scott Frost.

I might have been watching Florida's next coach on Friday in Orlando.

UCF's Scott Frost.

But Nebraska has fired Mike Riley.

Or I might been watching Florida's next head coach Friday — and it was USF's Charlie Strong.

The Gators need a head coach. They need one because Kelly took himself out of the running and ran to UCLA. I think that's a good thing in the long run. I think Florida was overtaken by the fumes of Wow factor. I think the mistake was going after Kelly in the first place.

This is about Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin getting a win. This is 4-6 Florida's bowl game, in case you didn't know.

Outside of Bob Stoops leaving his recliner to be instantly hired, Scott Frost would be the biggest splash the Gators could make at this point. He could turn Florida losing Kelly into a win.

But Nebraska has fired Mike Riley.

I am willing to give Florida a pass on Kelly not coming to Gainesville (I didn't want him as head coach anyway) and on Frost if Frost leaves UCF for Nebraska.

There are forces at work that are out of Florida's control.

This is a tough coaching search, complicated by ties that bind.

Face it. Kelly made his college football bones at Oregon, in the Pac-12, where, among other things, he heavily recruited talent out of Los Angeles. UCLA might be a comfort zone, where odd duck Kelly can blend in, lock himself in his cave, that beautiful mind, and figure out ways to crush USC.

UCLA made more sense for Kelly.

It might not be a complete knock on the Florida brand.

Likewise Frost. He is from Wood River., Neb. He grew up a Nebraska fan. He ended up playing quarterback for Nebraska and helped lead the Cornhuskers to a share of the 1997 national championship. If he goes to Nebraska, no harm, no foul on Florida.

If Frost stays at UCF instead of bolting for Florida, we'll have another conversation.

I'm a huge fan of Virginia Tech's Justin Fuente. I'm a Dan Mullen fan, though Mullen has Egg Bowl on his face. I like former USF coach and current Oregon coach Willie Taggart. And I like Charlie Strong. The Nation could handle any of those names once it gets past the lack of buzz.

But I'm turning to Scott Frost. I'm trying, even if he says no, even if it makes Florida 0-2 in this search.

If I'm Florida, I'm turning to Frost because if you can't have Chip Kelly, you go to the next Chip Kelly. You go to Frost, who took over a UCF program that went 0-12 in 2015 and that he now has 11-0 heading to the American Athletic Conference title game.

If I'm Florida, I'm turning to Scott Frost for the field-spreading offense he runs, that run-first option. I'm turning to him for those years he put in at Oregon, where Frost helped construct offenses that helped Marcus Mariota to a Heisman Trophy. I'm going for him because UCF was averaging an FBS-best 48 points per game entering play Friday.

If I'm Florida, I'm turning to Frost because he helped Oregon lay 59 points on Florida State in a semifinal during the inaugural College Football Playoff. 59 against the 'Noles.

That's the kind of language Gators everywhere can understand.

Chip Kelly is out. Is Scott Frost out, too?

What about Dan Mullen? He coached under Urban Meyer at Florida. He has supporters here. But Mullen seems content at Mississippi State, at least outwardly. He has built something in Starkville. He has a lot coming back to tangle with Alabama. Maybe those ties will bind.

Or maybe Stricklin, who is an alum of Mississippi State, who spent six years as AD there before coming to Florida. Is he comfortable with poaching a coach from his old school? Again, ties might bind. Or might not.

Which just might leave it to Taggart or Strong. Don't count them out. They would both love the Florida job. A lot of coaches still do. It's just a matter of timing. Maybe it's just a matter of ties not binding. It might still work out.

Florida once went after Bob Stoops and Mike Shanahan and ended up with a handful of Zook. Florida once hired Will Muschamp and Coach Boom went bust. Florida made a McElmess with its last football coaching hire. This search could still go totally wrong, but a possible 0-2 start this time around isn't necessarily a disaster.