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California NewsUSA

Its success depends on the support of the school

UCLA finalized a head coaching trade Monday morning, 24 hours before its self-imposed deadline.

The Bruins have completed the trade of Chip Kelly, a winner of 81 college games and one of the most respected players in sports, for DeShaun Foster, a former UCLA running back who has never been a head coach or coordinator.

It is, certainly, and intentionallyan oversimplification – as Kelly has had a deeply flawed tenure in Westwood and Foster brings significant potential to the role.

But the juxtaposition helps frame the challenge at Westwood, where a once-proud program has gone 25 seasons without a conference title, burned five head coaches this century and failed to generate traction heading into the Big Ten .

Kelly, who left late last week to become offensive coordinator at Ohio State, hated recruiting. He failed to connect with players, failed to energize fans and made little effort to recruit donors in an effort to create a NIL (name, image and likeness) war chest.

He bears significant responsibility for the current situation, but not in its entirety.

Foster, who coached under Kelly last season, bleeds blue and gold. He gets along well with players and has both the energy and passion needed for high-level recruiting. But success in the Big Ten isn’t just about Foster — much more.

In announcing the news of Foster’s appointment Monday morning, the Bruins described him as “a leader of young men.” To date, he has led the UCLA running backs as coach for the past seven years. Soon we will know if he can lead a team, if he can engage donors, work with central campus, manage the media and handle all the tasks that come with running a major college football operation.

Foster gives UCLA a chance to keep the coaching staff intact and prevent an exodus of players into the transfer portal with the Big Ten opening in seven months. Plus, it’s cheap. The Bruins paid Kelly $6 million per year. That cost will be cut in half (roughly) with Foster’s promotion – a significant move for a department deep in the red.

These fiscal challenges could get worse before they get better.

Yes, the Bruins will start collecting Big Ten paychecks next season, but they’ll also start racking up Big Ten expenses — the cost of doing business across the country in the nation’s richest conference.

And they may very well have to subsidize Cal by as much as $10 million a year if the UC regents implement a policy approved in late 2022.

We must also not forget the lack of leadership on campus. Chancellor Gene Block is retiring this summer. There’s a good chance the next boss will care more about football than Block ever did, but it’s not guaranteed.

Foster also faces a host of football-specific challenges, from holes in the depth chart to the grueling schedule to the lack of an NIL support structure critical to the team’s strength and stability. (The Bruins plan to step up their NIL efforts this offseason.)

In other words: To a large extent, it doesn’t matter who coaches UCLA in 2024 and beyond.

The Bruins enter the Big Ten at a strong competitive and financial disadvantage compared to the conference’s top teams. They may experience a slow start in their new home, which could have a lasting impact on their entire project.

Foster will need help, and lots of it, not only from athletic director Martin Jarmond, who has a personal stake in Foster’s success, but also from the institution itself.

California Daily Newspapers

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