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Utah’s Kyle Whittingham named Dodd Trophy Coach of the Year, recognized for on-field and off-field achievements

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Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham comes off the sideline during the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SAN ANTONIO — When Utah’s Kyle Whittingham was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year earlier this month he shifted the credit elsewhere. 

“That means we’ve got a good team,” he said. “To me that’s more of a team of the year award and that doesn’t happen without a lot of good players and a lot of great individual performances.”

On Friday, Utah — specifically Whittingham — received some additional recognition. After leading the Utes to an 11-2 record and back-to-back Pac-12 South titles, Whittingham was named the Dodd Trophy winner for 2019. The Atlanta-based organization honors a coach based on integrity, leadership, scholarship and success on the field.

“In my opinion, I think this is the most distinguished of all the coach of the year awards,” said Utah director of athletics Mark Harlan, who noted all it incorporates. 

“I’ve said it multiple times that what’s most impressive about this program is not only what we’re doing on the field but what we’re doing off it — graduation rate, what we do in the community and certainly overall classroom success,” he continued. “So it was fairly gratifying when I got notified last week that he was going to win this award.”

Harlan announced it to the team after practice. He noted that Whittingham, in typical fashion, deferred the recognition to the players and called it a team award.

“That’s Whitt,” Harlan said.

Utah won eight straight games at one point this season and climbed to No. 5 (a school record) in the College Football Playoff rankings. The streak ended with a 37-15 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. The Utes then accepted an invitation to the Alamo Bowl and will face Texas in the Alamodome on New Year’s Eve.

Utah placed eight players on the all-conference first team. The honorees included Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Zack Moss and Morris Trophy winner Bradlee Anae, a consensus All-American. Moss, Julian Blackmon, Leki Fotu and Jaylon Johnson also received All-America recognition from major organizations.

Whittingham is 131-63 in 15 seasons at the helm. He’s the second-winningest coach in team history, trailing only Ike Armstrong, who posted a 141-55-15 mark from 1925-49. Whittingham’s teams are 11-2 in bowl games.

In 2008, Whittingham was named the Paul “Bear” Bryant National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. This season, the AFCA honored Whittingham as its Region 5 Coach of the Year.

Academics have been a priority under Whittingham with the program ranking in the top 10 nationally among all athletic teams in a multi-year Academic Progress Report. The Utes posted a perfect APR score of 1,000 in 2017-18. The AFCA honored the team with its 2017 Academic Achievement Award for the 100% NCAA Graduation Success Rate score.

Whittingham has also been heavily involved in creating the Ute Academy, a resource for current and former players that puts a priority on personal and professional development.