Mullens: No 'leader in the clubhouse'

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
7:30
PM ET
All indications are that Mark Helfrich will be promoted from Oregon's offensive coordinator to head coach, but athletic director Rob Mullens isn't showing his cards just yet.

During a news conference Wednesday after Chip Kelly suddenly decided to reverse course and take over the Philadelphia Eagles after saying Jan. 7 he would stay in Eugene, Mullens said there will be a full-on coaching search, meaning he will adhere to university policies and procedures as well as a state law that requires him to interview at least one minority candidate.

"We don't have a leader in the clubhouse," he said. "We will be interviewing multiple candidates."

Just don't bet against Helfrich getting the job.

Mullens admitted that he was as shocked as many fans about Kelly's reconsideration of the Eagles. Mullens said Kelly called him at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday to tell him of his change of heart.

"He said, 'I've thought long and hard over the last 10 days and I'm going to take the Eagles opportunity,'" Mullens said. "He said he's always been intrigued by the challenge of the NFL and this was the right time, and he didn't know if there would be another opportunity like this and he felt like he needed to do it."

Mullens said his impression was that Kelly simply had a change of heart since Jan. 7 and that Kelly had not engaged in a second, secret round of negotiations with the Eagles.

Mullens said the "timing was less than ideal," but he wouldn't be rushed into making a hire.

As for the popular idea among Oregon rivals that Kelly is leaving to escape NCAA sanctions, Mullens said, "I don't think that was a factor in his decision."

It was reported in mid-December that Oregon will have a hearing in front of the NCAA committee on infractions, likely this spring, after it failed to obtain a summary disposition from the NCAA for the investigation of the school's use of scout Willie Lyles. The odds that something new happened in that investigation between then and now are close to zero. That inquiry is in the exact same place it was on Jan. 7, when Kelly wanted to stay in Eugene.

Mullens seemed a bit frustrated with how things went down, but obviously Kelly's unprecedented success made the specter of other opportunities luring him away an annual reality for the program.

"Hey, it is what it is. We're here, moving forward," Mullens said. "We're not going to worry about what happened. He made a decision that was best for him. We wish him well. He's been great for Oregon football, and we're moving on."

Ted Miller | email

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