Naturally, there are questions to ask after Mike Bellotti's surprise announcement last week that he was stepping down as Oregon coach after 14 seasons.
In December, when offensive coordinator Chip Kelly was named the Ducks' coach in waiting, the thinking was that Bellotti would stay through the 2009 season. Considering UCLA made a run at hiring Bellotti in 2007 after it fired Karl Dorrell, and that Bellotti got a fat, new contract after the courtship, there seemed to be no reason for him to call it quits sooner rather than later.
So was Bellotti forced "up" to the athletic director's job? Bellotti, 58, said no, that he started considering becoming athletic director in 2007, after the Ducks were embarrassed by Brigham Young, 38-6, in the Las Vegas Bowl to close the 2006 season, Oregon's fourth loss in a row.
Bellotti's family appeared to have factored in his decision. After going 30-6 from 1999-2001, the Ducks slipped to 20-17 from 2002-2004. Whispers around Eugene had the coach being distracted by a family issue. With that matter settled, his last four teams combined to go 36-15 and he finished 116-55.
Kelly, 45, who arrived in 2007, was contacted in late November by Syracuse about its coaching opening. Jeff Smith of the Oregonian had this interesting passage about the situation: "Bellotti said that Kelly will 'be a great head coach at some point,' but said the leap from coordinator to coach is tougher than it looks.
" 'There's a lot of on-the-job training that takes place,' Bellotti said. 'I don't think even Chip knows. I know I thought I knew, but when I went from being the coordinator here to the head coach it was probably two years before it felt comfortable.'
"Bellotti didn't appear particularly worried about Kelly's possible departure, saying that all of his previous offensive coordinators have been offered jobs in the past.
" 'I think it comes with the success of the program and with the territory and with the style of offense that we run,' " Bellotti said.
Whatever happened behind the scenes developed quickly. Within days, Kelly was the coach in waiting. Almost as suddenly came Friday's announcement that Bellotti was stepping aside.
Bellotti leaves Friday for a family vacation in Italy. Is coaching out of system? Right now, yes, but he likely will have an opportunity to get back into the game if he so chooses.