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Kalani Sitake Reveals He and Kyle Whittingham Almost Left Utah for Tennessee in 2010

NCAA Football: Oregon at Utah

Back in 2010, Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham almost left the Utes to take the job at the University of Tennessee, according to BYU Head Coach Kalani Sitake.

Despite receiving several offers from Power Five programs throughout his career, Sitake was certain that Whittingham would never leave the Utes. The two coached together in Salt Lake City from 2005 to 2014.

“First of all, I love the state of Utah,” Whittingham said in an article published by Deseret News. “Essentially raised here in Utah. It is home for me.”

But there was a time when Utah almost wasn’t home, but Knoxville, Tennessee, would’ve been for one of the longest-tenured head coaches in America.


“We were just talking about this last week — we were close to heading out to Tennessee,” Sitake said during a fundraising event at Hidden Valley Country Club in Utah on Monday.

“And then Kyle calls me at like 1:00 in the morning, and I take the phone call. We were literally (about to accept the job). I was working on my Southern accent and stuff like that.

“I answered the phone and he said, ‘Let’s stay and make it awesome here (at Utah).’ It was like sweet music to me. I was like, ‘Yes.’ It just felt right to stay, you know?”


Whittingham reportedly turned down a lucrative offer from the Vols back in 2010, and because of that,t the Utes have enjoyed an embarrassment of success under his leadership.

Upon entering his 20th season as head coach of the Utes, he has made the program a national powerhouse with a coaching record of 162-79, along with three National Coach of the Year awards.

He has strung together 10-straight winning seasons, including finishing 8-5 in 2023, despite star quarterback Cam Rising missing the entire season due to injury.

“I am not a ‘grass is always greener, looking over the fence, type of guy,'” Whittingham said. “And I believe in where your feet are, that’s where you do the best job you can do, where you are at, and our program has had a chance to be successful because of guys like Kalani.


“I have surrounded myself with really good assistant coaches who have done a great job recruiting, which has enabled us to have the longevity that we have had,” Whittingham continued. “You know, 80% of your success, or lack thereof, is tied to recruiting. We have done a great job — our assistant coaches, out on the front lines — have done a great job evaluating the talent, and bringing those guys into the program. That’s really been the key to our success.”

After leaving for the BYU job in 2015, Sitake highlighted the fact that Whittingham had multiple opportunities to leave for more money, but was committed to the Utes.

With Utah making the move to the Big 12 Conference ahead of the 2024 college football season, the the team is set to host the Cougars on Saturday, Nov. 9.

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