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Who’s the best Utah-related college football coach — LaVell Edwards, Urban Meyer, Kyle Whittingham?

BYU football head coach LaVell Edwards, left, and offensive line coach Roger French at the Copper Bowl.
FILE - BYU football head coach LaVell Edwards, left, and offensive line coach Roger French at the Copper Bowl. ESPN lists Edwards and two other coaches with Utah ties on its list of the top coaches of the past half-century.
Deseret News file photo

Three of the most iconic college football coaches linked to the state of Utah — BYU’s LaVell Edwards and the Utes’ Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham — all have a place in the discussion of top coaches of the past 50 years.

Where do they land on that list, though? ESPN’s Bill Connelly took on the task of ranking the top 101 college football coaches of the past half-century, and all three made an appearance.

Whittingham, who’s been the Utes’ coach since 2005 and is currently the third-longest tenured coach at the same school at the FBS level, comes in at No. 83. By comparison, that’s 10 spots ahead of current Georgia coach Kirby Smart, nine ahead of Stanford’s David Shaw and eight above Florida’s Dan Mullen, a onetime Utah offensive assistant.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham talks to reporters during a University of Utah football practice at the Eccles Football Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham talks to reporters during a University of Utah football practice at the Eccles Football Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

That also puts Whittingham, who’s led Utah to a 134-66 record over 17 seasons and to back-to-back Pac-12 South titles in 2018 and 2019, behind two former head coaches he faced in the Mountain West days: Colorado State’s Sonny Lubick (No. 76) and Air Force’s Fisher DeBerry (No. 66). He’s also behind current coaches Kirk Ferentz (Iowa, No. 71), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State, No. 65), Craig Bohl (Wyoming, No. 62) and Chip Kelly (UCLA, No. 58).

Edwards, who led the Cougars to the 1984 national championship, 257 wins and 19 conference titles over 29 seasons, came in at No. 10, just ahead of Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Grambling’s Eddie Robinson and behind current Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney (No. 7), former Kansas State coach Bill Snyder (No. 8) and former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer (No. 9).

“One of the most influential and prolific offensive coaches in history, Edwards was also one of its best. BYU hadn’t spent even a week ranked before he led the Cougars to the most unlikely of national titles, three top-10 finishes and shares of 19 conference titles,” Connelly wrote of Edwards, who died in 2016.

Utah football coach, Urban Meyer, coaches practice at the practice facility at the University of Utah. photo: michael Brandy. 8/18/03 (Submission date: 08/18/2003)
FILE - Then-Utah football coach Urban Meyer coaches practice at the practice facility at the University of Utah in August 2003.
Michael Brandy, Deseret News

Even higher on the list is Meyer, who’s now in his first season coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Utes coach from 2003-04, when he had a 22-2 record and led Utah to a BCS Fiesta Bowl win in 2004, won three national titles — two at Florida and a third at Ohio State.

That landed Meyer at No. 5 on the list.

“He immediately turned BGSU (Bowling Green) around. He went 22-2 at Utah. He won two national titles (and nearly a third) at Florida. He won another at Ohio State while losing just five conference games in seven years. Whatever your school’s potential was, you realized it under Meyer,” Connelly wrote.

Two other coaches with Utah ties also slide into the end of the list: former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, now at Virginia, is No. 100, while Bruce Snyder, who coached at Utah State in the late ’70s and early ’80s, took the final spot on the list at No. 101.