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Top 10 2014-15 storylines: #3 Post-season Football coaching drama

The Utah coaching shakeup ranks #3 on our list top 10 storylines list.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

After blowing out Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl in late December, all seemed right with the Utah football program. The Utes had just put together their first winning season in Pac-12 history, returned to the postseason, and dominated a very good Colorado State team. The offense looked explosive and creative during the game and the defense shut down what had been a potent Rams offense. In the hours after the bowl win, it was hard to feel anything but positive about the direction of the program.

The good feelings would last 3 more days, when on December 23rd, defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki announced they were leaving the program for the same positions at Oregon State. The move came as a shock to many. Sitake's name had long been bandied about as a head coaching candidate and many were aware he could leave to pursue a head coaching opportunity, however leaving Utah for the same position at a different Pac-12 school? Sitake had worked under new Oregon State head coach Gary Anderson when Anderson was Utah's defensive coordinator, but something seemed awry.

Just two days after Sitake and Tuiaki had announced they were leaving, word came out that offensive coordinator Dave Christensen was leaving, after only one year, to become the offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Texas A&M. Christensen's move confirmed there was turmoil amongst the coaching staff. Sitake and Tuiaki making lateral moves within the conference and Christensen leaving for an offensive line coaching position were not common moves for power 5 conference coaches. In addition to these two moves, there was no word out of head coach Kyle Wittingham and speculation he was unhappy began to grow. All of a sudden, less than a week after dismantling Colorado State, it appeared Utah's entire coaching staff could be gone.

Coach Whittingham had entered the 2014 season with many believing he was on the hot seat and could likely be on his way out the door at season's end. Whittingham had been trying to get his assistant coaches contract extensions prior to the season, however athletic director Chris Hill was reportedly only willing to offer one year deals, which played a role in Sitake and Tuiaki leaving the program. Whittingham meanwhile, had not only taken himself off the hot seat with a 9-4 season, but had moved himself into the catbird seat with rumors he was a candidate for other head coaching jobs including Michigan. Suddenly, Whittingham seemed  to have his choice of whether he would return or not.

The standoff between Whittingham and Chris Hill dragged on through January with not much new information trickling out. Hill released a statement giving his side of the story, but Whittingham remained quiet, adding to fears he was on his way out the door.

Whittingham broke his silence finally during a CBS radio interview where he talked about the difficulty of replacing both coordinators. He said he expected to be back as the head coach in 2015, however, it was apparent during the interview there was tension between Chris Hill and himself. Things were beginning to point towards Whittingham's return, but the situation seemed tenuous.

Another week passed before it was announced the Chris Hill and Kyle Whittingham had agreed on a contract extension that would keep him at Utah for the foreseeable future. A couple weeks after Whittingham's extension was announced, the Utah program introduced its new coordinators and position coaches, finally giving some stability back to the program.

The new hires were mostly met with positive feedback and Kyle Whittingham and Chris Hill seemed to patch up their relationship after the contract extension was agreed upon. It remains to be seen on the field how the new hires work out, but for now it seems the Utah football program emerged from the offseason in good shape all things considered. With Whittingham's extension, Utah fans can expect next year's offseason to be a lot less dramatic.