Seven Random Facts To Know About Utah Football

Aug 24, 2023, 8:27 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah football is seven days out from their season opener with the Florida Gators. In honor of the big game being week out, we thought it would be fun to provide seven random facts about the Utes.

This will be only the third time Utah and Florida have met on the field and the first time ever in Salt Lake City.

With that being the case, it seemed like a good idea to give Gator fans a little taste of who Utah football is, and maybe even teach Ute fans a thing or two they didn’t know about their team along the way.

Fun Fact No. 1: Utah Is The Only School With First Round Picks In The NFL & NBA Draft In The Same Year

13 schools have had players taken No. 1 overall from the NFL and NBA Draft at various times in their history, but only one of them has had it happen in the same year. That is Utah.

Alex Smith and Andrew Bogut were taken No. 1 overall in the NFL and NBA Draft back in 2005.

Fun Fact No. 2: Kyle Whittingham & Suge Knight Have Something In Common

In 1987 the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) went on strike in week four of their season forcing the league to find replacement players from the USFL.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham was one of those players along with his brother Cary, both of whom played linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams during that time. Marion Hugh Knight Jr.- more widely known as Suge Knight was their teammate on the defensive line.

Obviously, Whittingham went on to be a position coach, defensive coordinator, and head coach of the Utah Utes starting in 1994.

Suge Knight on the other hand, would go on to fame in the music industry as the co-founder and CEO of Death Row Records (formed in 1991) that would help elevate some of rap’s biggest stars including Tupac, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg among others.

Fun Fact No. 3: The Utes Are The Original “BCS Busters” X 2

There is sometimes some confusion here as some outlets have reported in the past that Boise State was the first non-Bowl Championship Series school to break into the old ranking system, but rest assured it was Utah.

Florida fans might be familiar with a guy named Urban Meyer, who, before becoming the head coach of the Gators, catapulted the Utes to an undefeated season in 2004 and a visit to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl to start 2005.

His successor, Whittingham, followed up that performance four years later being the first non-BCS school to bust the system twice with a 12-0 regular season record and a 31-17 schlacking of Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl to make it 13-0.

This of course, was also the same year Meyer would give the Gators their third National Title, a second under his reign in two seasons.

*Bonus fun fact: Utah’s quarterback in 2008, Brian Johnson, would eventually go on to be Florida’s offensive coordinator before jumping to the NFL in 2021.

Fun Fact No. 4: OJ Simpson, Almost A Ute

How would history have changed if OJ Simpson had stuck with his original commitment to the University of Utah instead of jumping to USC? Would it have mattered? We’ll never know, but it sure is interesting that there is an alternate universe out there where Simpson was a Ute and not a Trojan.

So how did this almost come to pass?

Utah head coach at the time, Mike Giddings, became aware of Simpson in high school while the defensive coordinator at USC. After Giddings left for Utah, he kept close tabs on Simpson and even got him out on a recruiting trip to SLC where he gave a verbal commitment.

Simpson couldn’t sign on the spot and had to get a parent or guardian signature, so he went back to San Francisco with an assistant Giddings sent with him to get the job done.

However, the assistant assigned to keep an eye on Simpson as they got the paperwork done made a fatal flaw. He left Simpson’s side to visit family in the Bay Area leaving the door wide open for new USC head coach Marv Goux to swoop in. And that was all she wrote.

(For more in-depth details on the story be sure to check out 100 Things Utes Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.)

Fun Fact No. 5: Kyle Whittingham Broke A 72-Year-Old Record

It’s not often records live long, but in the case of the “winningest” coach in Utah football history, it took a minute for anyone to sniff it.

Ike Armstrong coached the Utes for 24 years from 1925-1949, compiling a record of 141-55-15 over his career. That record would stand for 72 years until current head football coach Kyle Whittingham broke it in 2021.

Whittingham is entering his 19th season as the head coach of the Utes and 29th season overall. As a head coach, Whittingham sits at 154-74 so far.

Will the Gators be his 155th win?

Fun Fact No. 6: George Seifert Got His Coaching Start At Utah

Before he took over the San Francisco 49ers from legendary and revolutionary coach Bill Walsh, George Seifert was a graduate assistant for the Utes in 1964.

Seifert would go on to be a five-time Super Bowl winning coach with the 49ers- three as an assistant under Walsh and two of his own when he took the club over from 1989-1996.

Fun Fact No. 7: Alessandra Ambrosio Has Been To A Utah Game In Salt Lake City

That is right, the super model attended a University of Utah football game and tailgate last season as the Utes played host to USC.

Another interesting person that’s attended Utah football games before? Elgin Baylor Lumpkin- better known as R&B star Genuwine. That’s another story for another day though.

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 XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Seven Random Facts To Know About Utah Football