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Last week, Utah athletic director Chris Hill released a statement that read, in part, "Kyle Whittingham is our head coach and any rumors to the contrary have no validity."

For the better part of three weeks, that was the word on Utah's football program.

Kyle Whittingham is the head coach. Anything else, who knows?

Thursday saw both Hill and Whittingham go a little further than that.

Whittingham first spoke Wednesday night with CBS Sports Radio's Damon Amendolara, and then Thursday morning with 1280 The Zone's David James and Patrick Kinahan before speaking to The Tribune.

The Zone hosts asked him if at any time, Whittingham had a proverbial foot out the door. Whittingham responded by reiterating that he has been at the U. for 20 years, and that his exclusive focus is next season — but he didn't address whether that was once the case.

"This is a profession that's, at times, volatile. There's no doubt about that," he said.

While Whittingham declined to talk in depth about a rift with Hill, Hill told Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe on Thursday morning that it "seems weird" to be asked about whether his relationship with Whittingham has led the football program astray.

"I was very happy for the fans that Kyle said something [publicly]," Hill said.

Media portrayals "got out of hand," Hill said. "It was disappointing to see stuff out there that I'm reading and going, 'Well, OK. I didn't know that.'"

In the immediate wake of Hill's statement last week, The Tribune was told that Utah's sports information staff expected a similar statement from Whittingham, but the head coach said Thursday that he felt it wasn't needed.

"Maybe I missed the boat on all that, but a statement for what?" he said. "We had a good season."

The hubbub started after defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki left, when sources told The Tribune and others that Whittingham and Hill were on bad terms, in part due to Hill's decision to limit lower-level assistants to single-year deals going forward.

An email from Hill to Whittingham, received in response to a Tribune records request, indicates that in addition to offering Sitake a three-year, $750,000 per year deal to remain competitive for his services as a defensive coordinator, Hill was willing to give Tuiaki a multiyear deal if Whittingham wanted to instead limit offensive coordinator Dave Christensen to a single year.

That appears to have been a nonstarter. All three coaches left the program — Sitake and Tuiaki to Oregon State, and Christensen to Texas A&M.

Hill first told Whittingham that Tuiaki's salary could increase from $175,000 to $230,000, but that he could only be offered a single-year deal.

Asked about the possibility of a contract extension or multiyear deals for assistant coaches, Whittingham did allow, without being specific, that there are "negotiations" underway.

He believes that his new coordinators, at least, will receive multiyear deals.

Hill said Thursday that while he helps determine the salary pool, and whether Whittingham can have more to attract or keep a "superstar," the responsibility to divvy up the pool of money falls to Whittingham.

Twitter: @matthew_piper