Mike Bellotti on the return of Chip, Lanning's start and those times he turned down UCLA
If there's anyone who knows how much is riding on No. 10 Oregon vs. No. 9 UCLA, it's the long-time Oregon head coach.
UCLA first tried to hire Mike Bellotti after the 1995 season.
If it sounds like an odd pairing for the long-time Oregon coach, keep in mind Bellotti was born in Sacramento and the Bruins’ dominant teams of the 1960s ran parallel to his formative years. UCLA was his dream.
“And then I figured out where it was,” Bellotti says now on the phone from his home in Bend. “‘Wait a second. Los Angeles? I don’t know if I want to live in Los Angeles.’ So I didn’t.”
But in 1995 things had changed. UCLA was a big-time job, much bigger than Oregon at that point, and Bellotti was on the school’s radar after his first year as the Ducks head coach.
“I was interested,” Bellotti says, “but I had just gotten the Oregon job, so I said no and didn’t even pursue it.”
The second time UCLA tried, the Bruins at least got Bellotti to nibble.
This time it was 2007, right after one of the best regular seasons of Bellotti’s 14-year tenure. Had Dennis Dixon not injured his leg late in the year, Bellotti and his relatively new spread offense may have ended up in the national championship game.
And the Bruins wanted a piece.
At that point, Bellotti was one of the longest-tenured coaches in college football, so he entertained a couple of meetings before ultimately issuing this statement:
“You’re always flattered when others want to talk to you, but that’s because of the success we’ve enjoyed based on our players, our support staff and our administration. I have been, and continue to be, 100 percent committed to the University of Oregon and our pursuit of a national championship.”
Bellotti and the Ducks went 9-3 in 2008, then he retired from coaching after win No. 116 — a 42-31 win over No. 13 Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl — gave him 25 more victories than anyone in program history.
Two years later under Chip Kelly, the Ducks reached the national championship.
Ask Bellotti what a retired coach does and he’ll tell you it’s really not that complicated.