- Associated Press - Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oregon hired Mark Helfrich as its football coach Sunday, promoting him from offensive coordinator to be Chip Kelly’s successor.

Two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed the decision to The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the school had not announced it. The school scheduled an afternoon news conference. The move was first reported by CBSSports.com.

Kelly stepped down at Oregon on Wednesday to coach the Philadelphia Eagles. Helfrich’s promotion does not come as a surprise. Before Kelly left for the NFL, the offensive coordinator was considered the front-runner for the position.

The Ducks also promoted wide receivers coach Scott Frost, the former Nebraska quarterback, to offensive coordinator, according to those who spoke with the AP.

Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the final AP Top 25, went 12-1 this season capped by a victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Helfrich is from Oregon and was appointed offensive coordinator of the Ducks when Kelly took over four seasons ago. The Ducks have appeared in BCS bowls each of those four years, including an appearance in the national championship game against Auburn in 2011.

Before joining the Ducks, the 39-year old Helfrich was quarterbacks coach at Colorado from 2006-08.

Kelly came to the Ducks in 2007 as offensive coordinator under coach Mike Bellotti and is credited with creating Oregon’s innovative hurry-up spread offense. Kelly went 46-7 at Oregon.

It had been widely expected that Kelly would jump to the NFL, leaving many surprised when he announced he was staying at Oregon after interviewing with Philadelphia, Cleveland and Buffalo following the Fiesta Bowl. Nine days later, however, he changed his mind and decided to go to the Eagles.

Just hours after Kelly’s departure was announced, Oregon posted a job for a new head coach on its website. Under state law, Oregon was required to interview at least one qualified minority candidate for the job.

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said at the time that Oregon had already started the process of naming a replacement for Kelly following the Fiesta Bowl. He had set no timeline for replacing Kelly, except to say the Ducks would “move as fast as we can.”

“We had already done a lot of groundwork, we had already started the process, knowing that Chip was going to be talking to the Eagles, Bills and Browns. We had geared up our process. We had obviously shut it down, but it’s easy to click right back on.”

At the time, Mullens also said there were internal candidates, but there was “no leader in the clubhouse.”

Former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton acknowledged Saturday that he interviewed with Oregon before he was hired by the Indianapolis Colts’ to be their offensive coordinator.

Helfrich becomes the third straight offensive coordinator Oregon has promoted to head coach. Bellotti took over following Rich Brooks’ departure.

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