Sources: Florida preparing to widen its search beyond Chip Kelly

Florida officials remain engaged with Chip Kelly about becoming the next football coach of the Gators, but the school is preparing to widen its search, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports.

Florida and Kelly are believed to have been in contact throughout the month of November, sources said, starting soon after the school parted ways with Jim McElwain on Oct. 29. Talks between the two parties culminated in a meeting in New Hampshire on Sunday that was attended by university president Kent Fuchs, athletic director Scott Stricklin and other Florida officials. That meeting has not yet resulted in an agreement.

Kelly is the school’s top candidate for the job, and the coach has taken his time to engage in a deliberate evaluation of Florida. But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Chip Kelly was hailed as one of the top offensive innovators while at Oregon and took the Ducks to the national championship game in 2011. He did not, however, have the same success in the NFL. (Getty)

UCLA’s firing of Jim Mora on Sunday brought another player into the mix for Kelly, and it’s believed to be an option he is considering. Kelly knows the Pac-12 from his time at Oregon, and the ability to work in a city not consumed with the football coach has its appeal. The Pac-12 South also is a relatively wide open division, with the last eight conference championships all won by teams currently in the North Division.

If Florida’s search does extend beyond Kelly, UCF’s Scott Frost would be the likely next target. Frost’s undefeated Knights play South Florida on Friday for the American Athletic Conference East Division title and a berth in the AAC championship game next week.

Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, who could be in play for a number of jobs, also is a potential Florida candidate. He was the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer when Florida won the 2006 and ’08 national titles, and Stricklin was his athletic director at Mississippi State from 2010-16.

Mullen also is considered a target of Tennessee’s coaching search, and it’s possible that other schools could take an interest in the nine-year coach of the Bulldogs. Mississippi State plays its final regular-season game Thursday against rival Mississippi.

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