I Voluntarily Decline: Kyle Whittingham Says No Thanks to Tennessee
Kyle Whittingham is a tough guy to figure out.
He protrudes an impenetrable outer shell.
His business is to do just one thing: win football games.
In five seasons, that's all he's really done. He followed in the footsteps of a legend and molded the program into something that's a fair resemblance of his demeanor.
No nonsense. Hard work. Paying attention to the details.
Laying the groundwork for a program that he, along with any random passer-by can see as something that's respectable and gives back to the community while making national waves from a relatively dark-horse region.
Five seasons after being named head coach of the University of Utah football team, Whittingham has gone 47-17. 30 games above .500 for those of you who openly worship statistics.
Thursday evening, Whittingham was the target of one of the most sought-after (or we thought) programs in the nation. He wasn't just the target, he was suddenly the No. 1-with-a-bullet.
The Tennessee Volunteers scrambled. Lane Kiffin proved and delivered his best Judas impersonation after just one season in Knoxville, Tenn., and left the program he promised to deliver to the top of the mountain high and oh-so dry.
By flying out to Utah Thursday, the Volunteers were after someone polar opposite of Kiffin.
Kiffin's the guy that stood toe-to-toe with Al Davis and told him to shove it where it don't shine.
He's the guy that talks a bigger game than he's delivered—5-15 as head coach of the Oakland Raiders and 7-5 in his first and only season on Rocky Top.
Whittingham's old school in new school. Kiffin's like school in July—no class.
So as Tennessee officials came a'calling, attempting to woo the stern, extremely-respected Whittingham, with them they brought money. Lots and lots of money.
Initial reports are they were prepared to double Whittingham's current salary of $1.2 million on the hill.
They undoubtedly saw Whittingham as a SEC coach.
A former linebacker turned defensive coordinator, Whittingham and his staffs have assembled reputable defenses gently tucked away in the Wasatch Mountains. They got kids from Hawaii, California and Texas. Former running backs and quarterbacks and turned them into NFL'ers.
Offensively, Whittingham's a disciple of the same guy Kiffin accused of being a cheater (you're sure to know who he is).
Tennessee had a guy that would've worked. They had a guy that—although he was primarily a West Coast recruiter—has the know-how to sell himself and his program.
Whittingham graduates his players. He's on top of his players.
He's like the dad that everyone loves to talk to, but knows where the boundaries are.
I once was performing an interview with former cornerback, now starting Miami Dolphin Sean Smith. Smith, a product of Pasadena, Calif., came to the U as a running back. He went from running back to wide receiver and eventually made his way to cornerback.
He was drafted with the 61st pick in the second draft and was an immediate starter.
While I was interviewing the jovial Smith, Whittingham was gliding past.
He noticed Smith slouching a bit and overheard something Smith had said and he just responded the way you know Whittingham would.
"Shut up, Sean. Stand up straight and answer the questions," he said half-jokingly, but still half-completely-serious.
Kiffin is, was and probably will forever be all talk.
Whittingham is a man of many words by only stating a few.
He slept on the Tennessee offer and awoke Friday morning.
Thanks, but no thanks, Vols.
Is it a testament to what he's picked up after Meyer and would like to continually build a force to be reckoned with that not many get to see except come bowl season?
Speaking of, Utah has won nine straight bowl games. Two shy of the all-time record set by Bobby Bowden's Florida State Seminoles from 1985-1995.
Whittingham's undeniably very comfortable in Utah. He's raised his family here. He's built something worth seeing through.
Meyer's two-year stay was a blessing for the program. He put the typically second-best team in the state of Utah on the map and left it in the trusting hands of Whittingham.
The ultimate question is: will there ever be a job that comes along that presents Whittingham with an offer he simply cannot refuse?
That's hard to say. There won't be many more as big or bigger come along as Tennessee, but more than anything it's a testament to his steadfastness.
Kyle Whittingham doesn't give two licks what anyone else says or thinks he should do.
He knows what's best for him, his family and his program.
The tranquil-sometimes-ruffled-sometimes-intimidating coach of the Utes isn't going anywhere.
In the meantime, fans and players can rest assured. The program's in hands that continually expects nothing but the ultimate.
Whittingham's a man that cannot be bought. A man without a price.
One thing's certain: we, as humans, all need a little time to sleep on things. Case in point: Meyer thought he wanted (needed?) to retire, but realized his addiction is coaching college football.
The name no one mentioned in the race to supplant the slimy Kiffin as Tennessee's next coach slept on it.
Photo by: Ty Cobb
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