After beating Alabama 31--17 in the Sugar Bowl, his undefeated Utes finished second in the AP Top 25 and fourth in the USA Today coaches poll.
Dan Patrick: Voters in the coaches poll are required to vote the winner of the BCS title game (page 42) No. 1. Why did you vote for Utah instead of Florida?
Kyle Whittingham: I felt first and foremost, I've got to stand up for my players. I think we've got a strong case for it. We're the only team in the country that does not have to make excuses for a loss. Our strength of schedule is rock-solid: We beat four teams in the Top 25, and we beat six teams that went to bowl games.
DP: How frustrating is this?
KW: We're not bitter. We're not sitting here crying the blues. I'm just hoping the system can improve in the future.
DP: You know Urban Meyer. Why don't you call him and say, "Can we meet and play?"
KW: I traded texts with him after the game. You just tell us where to be and when to be there and we'll show up.
DP: Would you schedule Florida next year if you could?
KW: If we could get a home-and-home with the Gators, that would be awesome. If it was a one-time shot [in Gainesville], we'd have to think about that.
DP: Did Urban take it as a slap in the face that you chose to vote for your team?
KW: I don't believe so. Urban understands better than anybody about taking care of your players.
DP: With what you saw in the BCS game, how would you attack Florida?
KW: Offensively, we'd have to do something very similar to what we did against Alabama, the short to intermediate passing game. Defensively, I think we can play with anybody in the country. We held Alabama to 30-some yards rushing.
DP: Do you think Pete Carroll or Mack Brown has the right to say, "I don't think Florida is the Number 1 team in the country"?
KW: I think anybody has the right to say that.
DP: Not in the BCS.
KW: Yeah, I guess you're locked in—and that's the crux of the matter. Why not get a playoff system in place?
Is it a Little Dusty in Here?
LAST WEEK on the show, Davidson guard Stephen Curry admitted that he cried the first time he watched Hoosiers. No shame in that. It's got everything a sports movie needs to get the waterworks going: lovable underdogs, a complex father-son relationship and a touching speech (Gene Hackman's "I love you guys ..."). Here are the best tear-jerking moments in sports cinema:
Bang the Drum Slowly
Catcher Bruce Pearson (played by Robert DeNiro) circles under a pop-up but can't find it because he's too sick.
Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) invokes his dying teammate (James Caan) in a speech after receiving an award: "I love Brian Piccolo, and I'd like all of you to love him too. And tonight when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him."
Those things on your cheeks when Sean Astin finally gets into a game? They're tears of joy. But they're still tears.
Field of Dreams
Possibly the single teariest moment in any sports movie: Kevin Costner, as Ray Kinsella, asking his father, "Hey, Dad. Want to have a catch?"
GOOD NEWS out of Glendale: University of Phoenix Stadium is available for the NFC Championship Game this Sunday. Doesn't it usually host a giant home and garden show this time of year? Safe to say, no one expected the Cardinals to be playing at home this weekend, least of all the Cardinals. Dan Bickley, who covers the team for The Arizona Republic, told me that the flight home after the Carolina game (page 32) was strangely quiet, almost as if the players couldn't believe what was happening. Join the club.
The Senior Moment
TIM TEBOW made the right call to return to Florida for his senior season. If all goes well, he'll improve his draft stock and stop the talk that he should become a fullback. And if it doesn't happen, so what? He spends another year at the pinnacle of the college game. Leaving Gainesville a year early is like leaving the Playboy Mansion at midnight when you can stay until two o'clock.
THE FINE PRINT: Fourteen hundred people attended the funeral of Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad. Although Al Franken claims it was closer to 2,100.
Go to DANPATRICK.COM for more from Kyle Whittingham and other recent interviews, and hear live audio of Dan's radio show, 9 a.m.-noon ET, Mon.-Fri.
ILLUSTRATION BY KEITH WITMER
¬©ORION PICTURES/EVERETT COLLECTION (HOOSIERS)
PHIL SANDLIN/AP (TEBOW)
DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/AP (WHITTINGHAM)