HOUSTON — Utah's Kyle Whittingham, whose team capped an undefeated season by romping past Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, won the Paul "Bear" Bryant College Coach of the Year Award on Thursday night.
Before receiving the award, Whittingham spent the afternoon campaigning for a playoff system after his team went undefeated but didn't get a spot in the national championship because it is not a BCS school.
"I'd really like to see a playoff system," Whittingham said. "I've been a proponent of the playoffs for many years now. It wasn't just this year that put me in that mind-set. I would like to see a level playing field."
Utah finished second in The Associated Press poll and fourth in the coaches' poll after beating the Crimson Tide — the program where Bryant became a college coaching icon decades ago — 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl to finish 13-0.
"We feel like we can play with anyone in the country," Whittingham said. "I think we demonstrated that during the course of the season. We're not bitter. (There's) a little bit of disappointment that we didn't get a chance to play for it all but it was a great season nonetheless."
Whittingham said he was honored to receive an award bearing Bryant's name. "I'm young enough where I didn't have a chance to ever meet or be associated with him, but he's the icon of college football coaching," Whittingham said.
Whittingham, who also won the American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award, was joined by seven other finalists, including Texas coach Mack Brown and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
Former Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer was honored with the Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award given by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
He won the three national championships with the Sooners and the 1995 Super Bowl with the Cowboys.
The awards were given in conjunction with the American Heart Association.
Other finalists were Texas Tech's Mike Leach, Mississippi's Houston Nutt, Buffalo's Turner Gill, Alabama's Nick Saban and Chris Petersen of Boise State.