Dick Harmon: Kudos to Whittingham for shining example of loyalty
Tom Smart, Deseret News
Kyle Whittingham: The opposite of ship-jumping Lane Kiffin.
It's true. Tennessee of the mighty SEC came calling for a local guy, flashing big bucks and visions of grandeur on Thursday, and Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham said "no" by breakfast on Friday.
Oh, he mulled it over. It was tempting. But he refused the hook, pushed away the cake and frosting on a deal reported to be in the $3.4 million a year range.
It was a back-and-forth affair, with offers, conversations, things weighed and balanced out. In the end, Whittingham, who USA Today says makes $1.2 million a year at Utah, decided he would stay within the confines of a state that provided him his greatest success as a player at Provo High, BYU and as a coach with the Utes.
That kind of loyalty is to be saluted.
Since Thursday's column on Kiffin hit the Internet, I've been flooded with e-mails from USC and Tennessee fans. You can only imagine the bitter bile Vol fans have for Kiffin for splitting Knoxville after one season. With Tennessee recruits confused and de-committing right at a critical time with signing day a few weeks away, these fans are in a disgusted frenzy.
One e-mail included a link to a YouTube video that featured an obscenity-laced rant from a Tennessee fan who urinated on and then set fire to a Tennessee sweatshirt with Kiffin's name embossed on one side.
Utah is lucky to have three head coaches at Utah, Utah State (Gary Andersen) and BYU (Bronco Mendenhall) who are from Beehive stock, born and bred and proud of it. A fourth, Weber State coach Ron McBride, is easily counted in that company.
These younger guys are not show horses on the fast track. Roots have grown beneath their feet. They are family men who refuse to transplant their kids more than is necessary. In a profession of nomads, castaways, fortune and glory seekers, these guys are not the norm.
Hats off to Whittingham for deciding to stay and work to try to dismantle TCU. That Tennessee called him and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun is a very big deal.
I remember the summer after Utah finished third in the MWC at 5-3 in 2007 for the second straight year. His team got embarrassed at UNLV 27-0 and there were a few rumblings on the hill. Standing on the patio of The Country Club with 1280 The Zone's John Lund, he asked me on a remote on-air hookup what I thought of Whittingham.
There is a reason BYU offered him the Cougar job, I told Lund — he's good. It was a BYU job he accepted, reconsidered, accepted again and then drew back from during that crazy week in December 2004.
It boiled down to loyalty.
Whittingham could not take the Utes' players to the Fiesta Bowl and then look them in the face and take up the colors of the chief rival. It wasn't in him.
Oh, money had something to do with it back then. But the key was loyalty to a cause he believed in and could recruit to.
I told Lund that Utah's program is lucky to have a guy with local ties who would not turn his back on the program for greener pastures. That's not to say he'd always stay, but he was not of the mindset of an Urban Meyer, looking at the job as a springboard.
I hoped the few Utah fans who grumbled over that third-place finish would be grateful Whittingham blood from the father and son (Fred and Kyle) had been invested in the program.
The next year, Utah won the Sugar Bowl.
As per school policy, Whittingham was unavailable for comment regarding the Tennessee offer.
But just over a week ago, reporters in Provo had a chance to meet with Mendenhall on BYU's campus, and he was asked if he could be lured to another coaching job.
"I think the best way to answer the question is I would aspire to be where I think I am supposed to be," he said. "I am actually intrigued by a school that has great academics and standards.
"Maybe if you would throw out a school like Northwestern or Vanderbilt, Stanford or Navy, Air Force or Army. I like and am drawn to those that have a sense of purpose, maybe beyond just playing football.
"So I think I am supposed to be at BYU," Mendenhall said. "I feel strongly about that now. Will that be forever? Will I be coaching forever? I think I have made that pretty clear. Right now, this is exactly where I am supposed to be, and what I am supposed to be doing."
There's something to be said for loyalty, the steadfastness, reliability and commitment we see in Whittingham and Mendenhall. USU's got that in Andersen, too.
This is especially true in the face of this ugly Kiffin affair, which looms as a prime example of big BCS money tainting the respect leaders of young men should have for those in their charge.
Question is, will BYU and Utah fans show the same loyalty if Whittingham or Mendenhall coach teams in years to come that somehow whiff a few and win just seven games?
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