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Kyle Whittingham May Be Utah’s Best Football Coach Ever

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is not going anywhere any time soon as he recently signed an extension to keep him roaming the sidelines of Rice-Eccles Stadium through the 2023 season.

With that extension, Whittingham will end up being the head coach of the Ute football program for 19 years, yet there is a debate about if he is the best Utah coach ever.

This seems to be a clear open and shut case for Whittingham being considered the best Ute coach of all-time with a BCS win, Pac-12 title game appearance and an 11-2 bowl record.


KSL’s Unrivaled host Alex Kirry is 100 percent on board saying Whittingham is the greatest Ute football coach.

“When it’s all said and done, I think everyone will look and go, ‘ya, these are the best years of Utah football,'” Kirry said. “What he has done he will absolutely have given you the best years as Utah fans.”

What About Urban Meyer?

The one name that comes up to challenge Whittingham as the best coach ever is Urban Meyer. This is due to his two-year stretch from 2003-04 which could be considered the best back-to-back seasons ever.

Meyer led the Utes to a pair of Mountain West titles, a 22-2 overall record, produced a Heisman Trophy finalist in quarterback Alex Smith, who also went on to be taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft and Utah became the first school from a non-power league to crash the BCS in 2004 en route to an undefeated season after defeating Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl, 35-17.

Meyer was catching lightning in a bottle for Utah football and arguably has the best two-year stretch of any Utah coach ever.

“I got a lot of people like, ‘you are forgetting Urban Meyer,'” Kirry said as some people were pushing back and saying Meyer over Whittingham. “He was here for like two seconds, and not only that but the mark or how good a coach Whittingham is in all this is that a lot of the players were ‘Urban Meyer guys’ and then be continued to stay good after Urban Meyer left.”

What Meyer started at Utah, Whittingham has kept going and even passed him for on-field success. All one has to look at is the 2008 season where the Utes once again went undefeated. That year Whittingham led Utah to a BCS game where they easily defeated Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl to finish 13-0 and No. 2 in the AP poll.

Not only does Whittingham have the best win ever in Utah football history, but his longevity also counts just as much. Over his 14 year tenure, he has a 120-60 record, an 11-2 bowl record and just two losing seasons.

The move to the Pac-12 only saw a bump in the road with two losing seasons in the second and third years in the upgraded conference, but overall Whittingham has a 62-41 record in eight years, a Pac-12 championship showing and a 5-1 bowl record.

Winning the Pac-12 South and making it to the championship game in 2018 could be a stepping stone to bigger and better things for this program and taking this team to unprecedented heights.

Even after all of those examples of why Whittingham should be the best coach ever, some might just be waiting to see what happens when the Utes have a target on its back and no longer playing the role of the underdog.

Pac-12 Title Or Bust In 2019?

Next season is that year and maybe those skeptical fans just really want a Rose Bowl berth to justify saying Whittingham is the best Ute head football coach of all time.

Utah returns the majority of its two-deep and is getting preseason hype as a top 20 team and that will mean expectations are going to be ratcheted up to the highest ever. We will see how Whittingham responds to this new challenge.

Unrivaled co-host Scott Mitchell plays contrarian to this and wonders what happens if Whittingham does not get Utah a Pac-12 championship next year with his best team, and if it doesn’t happen maybe he never will.

“If there was ever a time for this team to actually win the Pac-12, it is this year. This team is as good and deep as it has ever been with so many players returning,” Mitchell said. “There certainly is a pathway for Utah to get to the championship, but they will have a target on their back and how will they answer that.

“There is just not a better time for Utah to win the Pac-12, and if he doesn’t that, you just have to start asking yourself the question: ‘is there is a ceiling and can [Whittingham] only get you so far, in the Pac-12.'”

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.