GAINESVILLE — In a Florida season filled with adversity and defeat, the Gators took another body blow on Black Friday. According to a report by Yahoo’s Pat Forde, multiple sources are now reporting that Florida is no longer pursuing Chip Kelly for its vacant head coaching position.

Florida administrators met with Kelly on Sunday night in New Hampshire, culminating nearly three weeks of discussions regarding Kelly taking the open Gators job. Florida’s team, including Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, expressed confidence that they could finalize the hire after the meeting, and multiple reports, including one by longtime college football insider Bruce Feldman, confirmed Florida had the inside track.

It’s difficult to know what changed, outside of UCLA getting involved in the game.

Certainly, Florida and Stricklin, who replaced legendary athletic director Jeremy Foley last year, pulled out all the stops to lure Kelly to Gainesville.

Among the administrators who flew to New Hampshire last weekend was University of Florida President Kent Fuchs and associate athletic director Lynda Tealer, who is Florida’s main contract drafter when the school hires coaches.

While it isn’t unprecedented to bring a star-studded team of administrators to a meeting with a coach, it is unlikely to occur when there isn’t a job offer, and multiple sources confirmed this week that Florida did offer Kelly the job.

Now, it’s apparent Kelly isn’t taking it, and while the national media awaits official word that the ex-Oregon, Eagles and 49ers head coach is headed to Los Angeles to take the reins at UCLA, it’s back to the drawing board for Stricklin and the Gators.

Sources also confirmed that Florida has conducted initial vetting on multiple candidates, but to this point has only conducted further discussions with Kelly.

Losing the battle for Kelly is a body-blow to Stricklin, who parted ways with Jim McElwain after the Georgia game in late October in the aftermath of a 3-4 start and a bizarre series of remarks by McElwain that he and his players had received “death threats.”

In truth, the “death threats” remarks were simply the last in of a series of events that created a wedge between McElwain and the administration, and the acrimony between Stricklin and McElwain, whom Foley hired, was palpable. That acrimony, along with McElwain’s inability to fix an offense mired in the mud for most of a decade, gave Stricklin the window he needed to part with McElwain and find his own coach. Further, by moving swiftly and making the change midseason, Stricklin earned a head start on what promised to be a busy coaching carousel, both in the SEC and nationally.  Stricklin appeared, at the time, to be savvy and in control.

So much for the head start, and so much for appearances.

A nearly universally praised hire when he was tapped to replace Foley, the heat is very much on Florida’s young athletic director now.

Stricklin arrived at Florida having inherited Mike White, one of the brightest young minds in college basketball, and Kevin O’Sullivan, one of if not the premier college baseball coach in America. Further, his head football coach, McElwain, had captured the SEC East in both of his first two seasons on campus and had facilities upgrades and big recruiting classes in the queue. Stricklin took an immense risk making a change — and for now, appears to have severely miscalculated.

So where can Stricklin turn now?

Scott Frost

Now that Kelly is off the table, there’s only one “hot name” hire who could appease Florida’s offense-starved fan base. That’s Frost, Kelly’s protégé, who Friday finished the regular season 11-0 in his second year at UCF, a program that went 0-12 the season before he arrived.

But multiple sources confirmed Friday that Frost’s interest in the Florida job is at best lukewarm, and venerable college football writer Lars Anderson tweeted this Friday night:

At present, at least, Mike Riley is still the head coach at Nebraska, which would make it hard for Frost to be hired to do that job. Frost is represented by Trace Armstrong, a Florida alum, and that alone could help Florida get a foot in the door. But Frost didn’t seem eager to have the sit down being widely reported Friday night:

That’s hardly promising, but consistent with what our sources have indicated.

Dan Mullen

Mullen’s name has come up with every Florida job opening this decade (2010, 2014, 2017). Florida opted to hire Muschamp in 2010 and too loudly let it slip that Mullen was “not a candidate” for the job in 2014.

The thinking here is that Mullen didn’t forget that: who could forget Mullen calling Geoff Collins’ decision to leave Mississippi State for Florida a “lateral move” in 2014? Mullen’s family certainly hasn’t forgotten, judging from his wife’s remarks last month about how unfriendly Gainesville was during Mullen’s time as offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.

That sounds like Stricklin, who was Mullen’s old boss at Mississippi State but didn’t hire him to that job, would have a tough sell. And that’s before you get to the Florida fan base that doesn’t want Mullen despite the fact that he’s won more than any coach in Mississippi State history and coached a stable of successful quarterbacks like Alex Smith, Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald.

My guess? He isn’t coming.

Charlie Strong

Sources close to the program confirm that the USF head coach has the support of a handful of monied boosters, who feel he should have been the hire in 2010 when Meyer left, and Florida finally has the chance to correct that error now.

But much of the shine on Strong as a head coach was frayed by his disastrous stint at Texas, and that, coupled with his defensive background, make him less appealing to the rank and file Florida fan base.

Mike Norvell

If it gets this far, Florida’s in trouble.

Like Frost, Norvell is well-regarded in coaching circles as an offensive mind.

Unlike Frost, Norvell took over a program in great shape and hasn’t done much to improve it. Sure, his offenses are slightly better than Justin Fuente’s, but his defenses are 20 spots worse in S&P+ efficiency despite his recruiting being better than Fuente’s. Memphis will play for a conference championship next week (against Frost and UCF), but Norvell’s program won fewer games his first year than Fuente’s last season and there’s just not enough evidence to make this a convincing hire.

Also unlike Frost, Norvell has no familiarity with Florida recruiting and following the McElwain tenure, Florida can’t afford to take that kind of recruiting risk unless they hire a big name.

This hire might excite a few offense-or-bust fans, but it would not be a clear upgrade over McElwain.

Willie Taggart

Taggart is a Sunshine state native and has brought multiple programs back from the abyss. After successful turnaround jobs at Western Kentucky and South Florida, Taggart has Oregon 6-5 and headed to a bowl game a year removed from the disastrous 4-8 campaign that cost Mark Helfrich his job.

Taggart is also a tremendous recruiter, and has Oregon poised for the Ducks first No. 1 recruiting class in school history in 2018, should he stay put.

Outside of Kelly, Taggart’s recruiting prowess and Gulf Coast offense is the combination that scares both Georgia and FSU insiders, but would he leave Oregon and Phil Knight’s money after just one year?