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If Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham is working on the final chapter of his storied career, he hasn’t told his boss.
There has been much conjecture in the Utes’ runup to the Rose Bowl over Whittingham’s future and whether or not the University of Utah head coach will retire at the end of this season. As far as Whittingham’s athletic director is concerned, he expects his head coach back next year for an 18th season.
“I do because there have been no signs that tell me otherwise,” Utah AD Mark Harlan told The Salt Lake Tribune late last week. “We’re looking forward to continuing to move the program forward and obviously, the next step of that is Jan. 1.”
With the Utes playing in the Rose Bowl in 12 days, Whittingham’s focus has been on Ohio State. But his conversations with Harlan have looked beyond the Buckeyes to next season, which will begin Sept. 3 at the University of Florida.
“We’ve talked a lot about next year, what’s needed, the things we want to do, and the idea of him deciding to step aside has not come up,” Harlan said. “In terms of anything he’s interested in, it’s been laser-focused, as it has been with this recruiting class that was just signed” last week.
Whittingham turned 62 years old on Nov. 21. He has previously said publicly that he does not intend to coach past the age of 65.
He has also said that this season has been the hardest of his career, largely due to Aaron Lowe’s death on Sept. 26. Lowe’s death came nine months after Ty Jordan’s death, which came days after the truncated 2020 season, contested under adverse conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, came to a close.
“Obviously, we know what Kyle has done, and a big part of this has been keeping the staff together,” Harlan said. “With all these (coaching) changes, the West in particular and elsewhere, keeping this group together, that’s been our conversations.”
On Nov. 29, four days before Whittingham and the Utes won their first Pac-12 championship, 38-10 over Oregon, he was asked about the conjecture surrounding his future. At that time, Whittingham did not sound like a guy ready to retire.
“I’m having as good a time right now as I’ve ever had, so I’m not even contemplating that right now,” Whittingham said then.
The coach reiterated that message Monday afternoon.
“I just enjoy coaching right now, and I’m loving coaching this team,” Whittingham said. “I just continue to plug away. We had a good recruiting class, we’re excited about that. I think the future is bright for this program.”
Whittingham’s latest contract extension, his second since Harlan arrived in June 2018, was announced on Nov. 4, 2020, keeping him as head coach through the 2027 season, at which time he will be 68. In addition to new salary escalators, the contract amendment, obtained at the time by The Salt Lake Tribune, included a previously agreed upon role as “special assistant to the athletics director” whenever Whititngham retires.
If Whittingham coaches all the way through the end of the contract on Dec. 31, 2027, his role as special assistant to the AD would last for six years and pay him one-sixth of his total compensation. Retirement between Jan. 1, 2025, and Dec. 30, 2027, triggers seven years and one-seventh of total compensation, while retiring on or after Dec. 31, 2024, means eight years and one-eighth of total compensation.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM AT UTAH
2004: 1-0 (Co-head coach of Fiesta Bowl with Urban Meyer)
2005: 7-5, 4-4 Mountain West
2006: 8-5, 5-3 Mountain West
2007: 8-4, 5-3 Mountain West
2008: 13-0, 8-0 Mountain West
2009: 10-3, 6-2 Mountain West
2010: 10-3, 7-1 Mountain West
2011: 8-5, 4-5 Pac-12
2012: 5-7, 3-6 Pac-12
2013: 5-7, 2-7 Pac-12
2014: 9-4, 5-4 Pac-12
2015: 10-3, 6-3 Pac-12
2016: 9-4, 5-4 Pac-12
2017: 7-6, 3-6 Pac-12
2018: 9-5, 6-3 Pac-12
2019: 11-3, 8-1 Pac-12
2020: 3-2, 3-2 Pac-12
2021: 10-3, 8-1 Pac-12
Totals: 144-69 overall, 35-13 Mountain West, 55-44 Pac-12