Utah and Florida have met only once on the football field.

It happened 45 years ago. On Nov. 19, 1977, the Gators defeated the Utes in their homecoming game 38-29 in Gainesville. Utah finished that season with a 3-8 record.

Utes on the air

No. 7 Utah (0-0)

at Florida (0-0)

Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT

Gainesville, Florida


Radio: ESPN 700

But the two programs’ paths have crossed in interesting ways since then. 

Let’s start with the Urban Meyer connection.

Meyer was the head coach of the Utes from 2003-04 and left to become the head coach of the Gators in 2005. Meyer coached Florida through 2010, earning two BCS national championship game victories during that time, in 2006 and 2008. 

Later, Meyer became the head coach at Ohio State, where he led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2014. 

Kyle Whittingham replaced Meyer at Utah. Meyer accepted the head coaching job at Florida in December 2004. In the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2005, Whittingham and Meyer served as co-head coaches in a 35-7 victory over Pittsburgh. 

Last season, when Utah faced Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, Whittingham talked about Meyer’s influence on him as a coach. The opposing coach in that game, Ryan Day, succeeded Meyer at Ohio State.

Whittingham spent two seasons as Utah’s defensive coordinator under Meyer.

“I don’t think I would be where I am today if I had not had that opportunity to work for coach Meyer for those two years,” Whittingham said. “And I had the same whistle ceremony that coach Day had, and that was a great experience as well.

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“But it was interesting. I had been at Utah for eight or nine years. We had a coaching change. I thought I should be the guy. Didn’t get it. I was very disappointed. Urban got the job. Turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me in my coaching career because I had a chance to spend two years with Urban and just his day-to-day way he ran a football program. And everything was mapped out.

“Organization is one of his strengths. And being able to see how he ran the program and being able to absorb all that knowledge and the way that he did things was invaluable to me.

“And like I said, I found out right away that I wasn’t ready for the job when I thought I was. But two years later, I learned so much from him that I felt very comfortable taking over. And that’s how it laid out.”

Another member of the Utah coaching staff under Meyer was Dan Mullen, who was Florida’s head coach from 2018 to 2021. Mullen was fired after a 6-7 record and replaced by Billy Napier. 

Former Ute quarterback Brian Johnson spent time on Mullen’s staff at Florida before moving on to his current position with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

This week, Whittingham was asked about his relationship with Mullen. 

“I have a good relationship with Dan. I consider him a friend. An excellent football coach,” he said. “We were here together for a couple of years. I’ve kept in touch with Dan through the years. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Former Utah assistant coach Dan Mullen was the head coach of the Florida Gators from 2018 to 2021. He and Whittingham coached together on the Utes staff for a few years. Says Whittingham of Mullen: “I consider him a friend. An excellent football coach.” | Butch Dill, Associated Press