LAS VEGAS — Talking to coaches across the Big 12, there’s a level of respect for what Kyle Whittingham has built at Utah — even among those who have never coached against him.

As he enters his 20th season at Utah, Whittingham carries an impressive resume — two BCS bowl wins (one as co-head coach with Urban Meyer in 2004), an undefeated 2008 season that culminated in a Sugar Bowl win over Nick Saban and Alabama, three conference championships (one in the Mountain West and two in the Pac-12) and the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year award in 2008.

Even as retirement questions are growing louder in the wake of the program publicly naming Morgan Scalley as Utah’s “head coach in waiting,” Whittingham has shown no signs of slipping — look no further than the fact that Utah was picked to win the Big 12 in its first year in the conference.

It’s the third different conference for Whittingham as head coach of Utah, but there is some familiarity as he enters the Big 12.

Utah has played five schools currently in the Big 12 — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, TCU and BYU more than five times in the Whittingham era — and Utah has faced three other current Big 12 teams with Whittingham at the helm — Iowa State (2010), West Virginia (2017) and Baylor (2023).

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Whittingham has coached against five current Big 12 coaches — BYU’s Kalani Sitake, Arizona State’s Kenny Dillingham, Baylor’s Dave Aranda, Colorado’s Deion Sanders and TCU’s Sonny Dykes (while he was at Cal).

Here’s what six Big 12 coaches — and one player — said about Whittingham and Utah’s program at the conference’s media days in Las Vegas.

Arizona coach Brent Brennan:

“I think Kyle Whittingham is one of the best coaches in America and he’s done an incredible job. I don’t know anyone that’d say different. Back-to-back Rose Bowls. They joined the Pac-12 and had success consistently at a high level. It’s pretty cool.”

Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita:

“Really good program. Obviously one of the more consistent programs. A lot of props to coach Whitt, coach Scalley and so forth, so it’s kind of nice to be able to move into the new conference with them and as far as my college career we’re 1-1 (against Utah). I’m looking forward to a good showdown, Week 4 in Salt Lake City.”

Baylor coach Dave Aranda:

“Tough, reliable, consistent. When you think of their system and their play, it’s an illustration of that. I think they might be one of the strongest that way and so I think playing there this year will be very difficult. Very tough test. It’s tough to win there, so we’re excited for that opportunity”

Houston coach Willie Fritz:

“He’s done an unbelievable job with his consistency. I don’t know Kyle real well, but it seems to be that (his teams) kind of have taken on his personality a little bit. Tough, hard on his team. He’s done an excellent job, done an excellent job recruiting. Very impressed with his career.”

Kansas coach Lance Leipold:

“I don’t know coach really well, sat by him at our meetings in May. Obviously his tenure there, the time, you don’t find guys that stay in one place and do it, but he has built a program that many of us would love to emulate, where you have the kind of consistency and continuity among staff and others.

“Got a physical brand of football. They play excellent defense. They don’t beat themselves. They’re not on our schedule this year, so I can’t tell you I completely dove into them, but again, it’s a program you don’t hear about negatively in headlines and stuff and again, another quality opponent, a quality coach, a guy that’s going to be in the Hall of Fame someday. A great addition.”

UCF coach Gus Malzahn:

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“Kyle, he’s old school. I love watching his teams. … Kind of traditionally got to stop the run and got to run the ball and that’s what he does. He’s one of the best in the business. We play him late in November, in our place. I’m glad we’re playing at home, there’s no doubt about that. Got a lot of respect for him and hoping that game will be of some importance.”

West Virginia coach Neal Brown:

“One of the best coaching jobs over the last 15 years, in my opinion. ... The question a minute ago was about being a physical, run-first league. They really brought that to the Pac-12 and they were at the top of the league for a really long time.

“Just watching them from afar — never played Utah — just getting to know coach in our meetings that we had back in May, but a program that I’ve always had a high level of respect for because of how physical they ran the football and how well they played on defense.”

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