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U. athletic director may leave

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Chris Hill didn't show up to his Huntsman Center office at the University of Utah on Monday. Whether or not his absence was tied to his potentially becoming the athletic director at the University of Washington is unclear, however.

But there is certainly a sense of uneasiness in the U.'s athletic department, as many employees wonder if their longtime boss is about to move on after 17 years as Utah's athletic director.

Hill has declined comment, and members of Washington's search committee have been nearly as tightlipped on the subject. But a Seattle Times story Monday, citing an anonymous source, indicated that Hill has been discussing the Washington job for three weeks and that a final decision could come as early as this week. No press conference in Seattle has been announced, however.

"(Hill) was headed to Seattle, and his wife was going with him," said the Times' source. "I've never heard of a wife going without the candidate being offered the job."

Utah interim president Lorris Betz, in Deer Valley for the Mountain West Conference board of directors meetings, declined comment on Hill's situation.

Utah assistant athletic director/senior women's administrator Mary Bowman would not comment on any discussions she's had with Hill but said she understands Washington's interest. "He's done a great job," Bowman said. "I can see why another school would want to hire him."

Utah assistant athletic director/sports information director Liz Abel said Monday that she hadn't talked to Hill and didn't know what, if anything, was happening with regard to the Washington AD job.

Washington is looking to replace Barbara Hedges, who retired under fire in January in the wake of gambling and prescription drug scandals. Several potential candidates for the job — including Oregon's Bill Moos, Arizona's Jim Livengood, UTEP's Bob Stull, Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart and Ohio State's Andy Geiger — have announced that they are not interested in the Washington job.

That has left Hill, 54, as the only candidate remaining whose name has become public — although there could be other candidates that haven't been identified. Hill's lack of comment on the subject has fueled speculation that he's been at least interested enough to listen to what the Pac-10 school has to offer.

Hill, who grew up in New Jersey, originally moved to Utah in 1973 to be a graduate assistant basketball coach at the U. He ended up staying.

"Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would be here (in Utah) this long," said Hill in a February interview.

He has passed on other high-profile, higher-paying jobs — including at Duke, Miami and Arizona State.

"Nothing that I had looked at was better for me at that time in my career," Hill said earlier.

But with his two children grown and out of the house, the Washington job may be a different situation than the others for Hill and his wife, Kathy, an instructor in the U.'s department of special education.

Football coach Urban Meyer, who was hired by Hill and recently signed a contract extension, said last week that he's hoping that Hill will remain at Utah. That seems to be the sentiment of most in the U. athletic department. But for now, all they can do is wait to see what happens.

E-mail: lojo@desnews.com