Utah football: Whittingham turns down Vols

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More money and a chance to coach in a BCS conference wasn't enough to convince Utah coach Kyle Whittingham to leave the Utah Utes.

Whittingham, who recently completed his fifth season as head coach of the Utes, met with Tennessee officials Thursday night and turned down an offer to become the Vols head coach Friday morning.

Utah associate athletic director Liz Abel said Whittingham was maintaining his policy of not commenting on job searches or coaching offers. Whittingham did not return calls to his cell phone.

Whittingham, 47-17 as the Utes' head coach, joined a long list of coaches who turned down the Vols. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, Duke coach David Cutcliffe and former NFL coach Jon Gruden all declined offers.

Candidates were being offered $3-4 million to replace Lane Kiffin, who recently accepted an offer to become the head coach at USC, a position which opened when Pete Carroll was hired by the Seattle Seahawks.

Whittingham signed a 5-year contract five days before the Utes beat Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl that pays him $1.2 million in base salary and incentives.

Whittingham's name has been linked to several job openings at BCS schools, including Florida and USC. The Tennessee offer is the first confirmed offer for Whittingham.

Even so, having his name on many potential candidate lists is an indication that Whittingham has gone from being a little known coach outside of the west when he was hired to being a highly respected coach following the Utes' undefeated 2008 season.

He was named the 2008 National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association and the Paul "Bear" Bryant Awards committee after leading the Utes to a 13-0 record and a No. 2 final national ranking in the AP poll.

Recently, the Utes finished the 2009 season 10-3 and extended their bowl winning streak to nine games by beating Cal 37-27 in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Utes were ranked No. 18 in the final Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches polls.

Utah athletic director Chris Hill refused to speak specifically about the Tennessee job but said he was thrilled to have Whittingham as his head football coach.

"I really don't comment on any specific jobs but from time to time people are going to come after Kyle and he has done a wonderful job," he said. "I'm really happy and excited he is our coach. From my standpoint you either are going to have a coach a lot of people want or nobody wants. Give me a coach everybody wants and I'll deal with that stress any day."

According to the terms his contract, Whittingham automatically earned a year's extension because the Utes won at least nine games this season, making his contract good through the 2014 season.

He also picked up a $10,000 bonus for being ranked in the Top 25 during the season and $50,000 bonus for finishing the season ranked in the Top 25.


Kyle Whittingham's career

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