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University officials return from Utah trip

Sam Davis | Friday, December 3, 2004

A private jet carrying two, possibly three, University officials, including athletic director Kevin White and University President-elect Father John Jenkins, landed just before 2 a.m. Friday at Corporate Wings, an executive aircraft service company at South Bend Airport.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that White and Jenkins were in Salt Lake City talking with Utah head football coach Urban Meyer for several hours about the Notre Dame football coaching vacancy. Notre Dame fired Tyrone Willingham Tuesday after three seasons as head football coach. White said Tuesday the search for a new head coach had not begun, but that it would begin immediately.

The plane, N42ND, landed at 1:53 a.m. The jet, which had an “ND” logo high on the tail, was en route from Salt Lake City. Once the plane landed, the officials got into two vehicles – a black BMW SUV and a sedan. Both were waiting with drivers when the plane landed. The vehicles left through the main entrance escorted by security and University officials did not stop to talk to reporters.

One official left in the sedan, followed by the other two officials who left in the BMW.

The first signs of the Notre Dame head coaching search were evident Thursday evening, when, according to the Associated Press, the jet arrived in Salt Lake City at about 7 p.m. EST. The Associated Press reported that when White and Jenkins arrived, they did not talk to reporters as they traveled to and from the airport in an SUV with tinted windows.

The University of Florida could have an interest in Meyer as well.

The Palm Beach Post, Deseret Morning News and The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Florida sent representatives to meet with Meyer. The Gators are looking to replace head coach Ron Zook, fired in October.

A corporate jet registered to Gainesville Aircraft Sales, Inc. left at 9 p.m. EST from Gainesville, Fla. to fly to Colorado Springs, Co. That plane, tailwing number 9575 EW, then left Colorado Springs and landed in Salt Lake City at 3:27 a.m. EST Friday.

Meyer is 21-2 in his two seasons at Utah. This year, the Utes are 11-0 and may land a BCS Bowl berth. Meyer is a former assistant coach at Notre Dame, where he coached wide receivers from 1996 to 2000.

Matt Bramanti contributed to this report.