The glory of four straight BCS bowl games, including back-to-back wins, wasn't lost on many in Eugene, especially those who watched the Fiesta Bowl and thought it was Kelly's last game as head coach. A sense of inevitability pervaded campus following the game, a wistful acknowledgment it was time to move on. Subsequent news that Kelly was staying recharged campus.
But Kelly is anything but predictable.
"On some level, I'm a little disappointed about Chip's decision to go to the Eagles after publicly announcing he would stay with Oregon," senior Grant Templeton said.
But there's the catch, one overlooked by many, including the local media: Kelly never reaffirmed his intention to stay in Eugene.
Some around campus thought Kelly's initial denial of the Eagles' job meant he would roar back into town and proclaim eternal love for his adopted city.
"I think the hardest part is that we were blindsided," senior Katie Souther said. "Ten days ago, I think most of us were ready to say goodbye to Chip and would have been proud of what we witnessed while he was here. But to be so excited, when we all heard he was staying, to have our hopes crushed ... It was kind of hard."
Still, fans look forward to Oregon's bright future. Young talent stocks both sides of the ball, and most signs point to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich succeeding Kelly.
"I think so much of the program comes from the players and the culture that has been built here that we aren't going to have a problem," Souther said.
Kelly's spread offense is known for its deception, speed and effectiveness. Oregon fans say they hope he gains quick success in his return to his native East Coast.
"I think we are all curious to see how it goes," Souther said. "We'll all be rooting for him."
"This is huge for his career, and, at the end of the day, I wish him the best," Templeton said, adding another popular prevailing thought: "Suddenly, I became a huge Eagles fan."
Matt Walks is the sports editor of The Daily Emerald, the student newspaper of the University of Oregon.