Kyle Whittingham feeling reenergized as another Utah football season nears

Whittingham’s 18th season kicks off Sept. 3 when the Utes take on Florida in the Swamp.

At the end of every season, Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham takes a step back and reassesses things.

Reassess his physical health, reassess his emotional wellbeing, reassess his desire to continue the grind and rigors involved with being the head coach of a Power Five program.

“You reassess everything, every facet of your program and every facet of yourself personally,” Whittingham told The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this summer. “That’s an inventory I take every offseason, and that doesn’t change.”

The University of Utah broke camp on Saturday afternoon following its second and final fall camp scrimmage. And as Whittingham prepares for the first game of his 18th season as head coach, here’s where he stands.

“Physically I feel great. Emotionally, I feel great,” said Whittingham, who will turn 63 on Nov. 21. “I have a lot of energy, a lot of passion. I’m as excited about this season as any I can remember. Me, personally, I think I’m in a great place.”

Whittingham’s latest inventory this past winter took on new elements.

He had just coached the University of Utah to its first Pac-12 championship and subsequent Rose Bowl appearance. His staff celebrated another top-35 recruiting class nationally in the middle of the Rose Bowl hoopla, but all of that came against the backdrop of defensive back Aaron Lowe’s death on Sept. 26. Lowe’s death came just nine months after star freshman 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.

Even taking all of that into account, Whittingham emerged from his wintertime reassessment convinced he was ready to lead for another season.

And this season will come with plenty of expectations, as No. 7 Utah readies for a trip to the University of Florida for a high-profile opener at The Swamp.

“We’re Pac-12 champions, so it’s a different mindset. We’re positioned differently than we usually are going into the season, so we have to be able to handle that,” Whittingham said.

Whittingham’s situation also includes even more job security than he had last season.

According to a contract amendment obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune in June, Whittingham is set to make $6 million in 2022 — $4.5 million in base salary and another $1.5 million combined annually from Utah’s partnerships with Under Armour and Learfield. All told, that’s up about $400,000 from what he was guaranteed under his old deal.

The amendment includes newer and more substantial salary escalators in the contract, which runs through 2027. Whittingham will see a $200,000 increase in 2023, $300,000 more in 2024, and so on. In 2027, Whittingham’s base salary would top out at $6.5 million.

Should Whittingham coach through the remainder of the contract, he is guaranteed $32 million in base salary.

This marked the third time since Mark Harlan’s arrival in June 2018 that the Utes athletic director has either given his head football coach a contract extension or amended an existing deal. In March 2019, Whittingham was given a two-year extension to take him through the 2023 season, before getting a four-year extension in 2020 to take him through 2027.

“It gives stability to the program, continuity. It’s a display of confidence in our program from the administration and I’m grateful for it,” Whittingham said.