The Utah Football Culture: What Is ‘Utah Mili’?

Aug 10, 2023, 2:05 PM | Updated: 2:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – When you talk to people about Utah football, “culture” is a word that pops up often, much like “family”. What exactly is Utah football’s culture, and where is it derived from?

Head coach Kyle Whittingham has often talked about the diversity of his team- a third Black, a third White, and a third Polynesian. Utah’s roster can also be divided into semi-equal thirds with players from Utah, California, and Texas. Finally, the Utes can be split down the middle between members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and non-members.

Perhaps the biggest contributing factor to Utah football’s “culture” and “family atmosphere” can be traced to their warm embrace of the Polynesian culture which started as far back as the 1990s under then-head coach Ron McBride. The legendary coach is widely known for his love of all people and taking parts of their individual cultures and melding them into one. One of those pieces that is present to this day is the “Utah Mili”.


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Defensive End Coach Lewis Powell Explains The ‘Utah Mili’

Recently, defensive end coach Lewis Powell was filmed explaining the significance of the ‘Utah Mili’ and how it was adapted from a war chant in the Polynesian culture for the Utes.

“The Utah Mili replicates a war chant that South Pacific warriors used to prepare for war,” Powell said. “The Utah Mili is the entrance chant to let others know, we are here, we are one, and we are ready for war.”


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22 Forever And The Utah Mili

While the Utah Mili is most often heard just before the Utes take the field on game days, there have been other, more touching instances of its use in recent memory.

In 2021, Utah football had to say good-bye to two of their most dedicated family members in running back Ty Jordan and defensive back Aaron Lowe. In both instances, the team gathered around to do one last battle cry with their brothers, gone but never forgotten.


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Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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The Utah Football Culture: What Is ‘Utah Mili’?