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What does Kyle Whittingham’s contract extension mean for the Utes’ future?

Utah rewarded Whittingham with a four-year contract extension, athletic director Mark Harlan announced Wednesday. Whittingham will remain on the Utes’ sideline at least through December 2027.

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University of Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham watches his former players participate in the University of Utah Pro Day at the Spence Eccles Field House in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 28, 2019. On Wednesday, the Ute coach was given a contract extension that could keep him on Ute sidelines through the 2027 season.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

As Utah coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 16th season at the helm, the school secured continued stability in the program for years to come. 

Whittingham, who has guided the Utes to back-to-back Pac-12 South division titles, was rewarded with a four-year contract extension, athletic director Mark Harlan announced Wednesday, meaning Whittingham will remain on the Utes’ sideline at least through December 2027.

Whittingham is the longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12 and the third-longest tenured head coach at the same school in the FBS.

“Kyle Whittingham has established a culture in the Utah football program that not only achieves success on the field, but also in the classroom, the community and in the development of student-athletes for their future beyond their time on campus,” Harlan said in a statement. “This has been especially evident throughout the pandemic, as he has steadily demonstrated leadership, patience and flexibility, putting the priority of health and well-being for student-athletes above all else.”

The contract extension also signals to recruits that the Whittingham era will roll on well into this decade. Such stability is crucial during the recruiting process.

“We want to thank our athletics director Mark Harlan and our President Ruth Watkins for their unwavering support of our coaching staff and for their commitment to our football program,” said Whittingham in a statement. “This vote of confidence makes it very clear to recruits that our program has the full backing of our university, which is vital to our long-term success.”

Whittingham, the school’s 20th head coach, has achieved remarkable success since he was hired in December 2004, including a 2009 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama and the back-to-back Pac-12 South titles in 2018 and 2019.

Under Whittingham, Utah has finished in the CFP top 25 five times: No. 22 in 2014 and 2015; No. 19 in 2016; No. 17 in 2018; and No. 11 in 2019. The Utes have made the final AP Top 25 six times with Whittingham at the helm: No. 2 in 2008; No. 18 in 2009; No. 21 in 2014; No. 17 in 2015; No. 23 in 2016; and No. 16 in 2019. He has amassed a 131-64 record in 15 seasons. 

Whittingham earned 2019 Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors and the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year award

Amid it all, Whittingham, who turns 61 later this month, has navigated the program through a jump from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12. More recently, he’s had to steer the program through the global pandemic. 

In 2008, Whittingham was named National Coach of the Year by the AFCA and the Bear Bryant Award when undefeated Utah finished No. 2 in the AP poll. 

Whittingham has posted an 11-3 record in bowl games, tying him for second among active coaches. He also ranks in the top 10 all-time, including ties. He’s gone 2-0 in New Year’s Six bowls, including the victory over Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl as co-head coach with Meyer and the dominating win over Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. 

In 1994, Whittingham joined Utah’s staff as the defensive line coach prior to being promoted to defensive coordinator the following season.

In all, Whittingham has spent 26 years with the Utes and has been a part of 216 wins, more than any coach in program history.  

Off the field, Whittingham’s program ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 Graduation Success Rate at 93%.