Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham drops another hint about when he might retire

The Utes coach is taking it “day by day,” but suggests his time on the sidelines is nearing an end.

Las Vegas • Kyle Whittingham, donning a black blazer and shirt, eased into his chair on the main stage at Big 12 Media Days for the first time.

By the time he was finished, you could be forgiven for wondering if it might be his last.

In between, as reporters asked questions from rows of tables inside Allegiant Stadium, Whittingham had a moment of clarity.

This was his fourth conference transition since joining the Utes’ coaching staff in 1994 and later taking the head coaching job in 2004. He started in the WAC, joined the Mountain West, was on the forefront of the implosion of the Pac-12 and, now, is one of the most tenured and winningest coaches in the new Big 12. While Whittingham said he is feeling as “energized as ever,” amid the changing landscape of the conference, he also suggested this week that his long, successful career will be ending soon enough.

The 64-year-old Whittingham, who once said he wouldn’t coach past age 65, added another date to monitor: Utah’s 2027 season-opener against Miami in the Vegas Kickoff Classic.

“I probably won’t be sitting here in this chair, but somebody will,” Whittingham said at the podium on Tuesday.

Even with his small hints, Utah’s head coach maintains that he remains day-to-day when considering his future in college football. He still has an entire season ahead of him. He’ll visit places he’s never been before in the Big 12 and will coach against programs that he hasn’t seen in years.

“As to when that happens? That is a great question,” Whittingham said of his impending retirement. “I’m just taking it day by day. I’m as excited and enthused about the season as I’ve ever been. A lot of that is the excitement of going into a new conference, the challenge and new opportunity, but it’s just going to be a day-by-day process. I’m not getting any younger, but at the same time I feel like I have a lot of energy right now.”

As one door shuts another one opens, however, and Utah athletic director Mark Harlan is well aware of that. It’s why in November 2023 he made the decision to reinstate Utes defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley as the official head coach in waiting once Whittingham decides to hang it up.

Scalley lost the title when he was suspended from the program in 2020 after a text message surfaced of him using a racial slur in 2013. Over the course of three years, Harlan said he had seen enough growth from the defensive coordinator.

“I’ve had a chance to watch Morgan day in and day out as a person, as a coach, and his leadership is extraordinary,” Harlan told reporters. “It just made perfect sense for us to formalize what had been really in my mind for a while. I think I probably made the decision definitively in the fall.

“As far as coach Whitt — I mean, every time I’m around him, he looks younger and has more energy. Even flying into (Big 12 Media Days), he’s just so excited about coming here and being in this venue, which we all love. So whenever it happens, [it’s a ] good thing for Utah, as we got Morgan right there ready to go.”

Whittingham, who has become close with Scalley over nearly a decade coaching with him, gave a shining endorsement to his protege. Like the Utes’ current defensive coordinator, Whittingham once learned under long-time Utah coaching legend Ron McBride, who led the U. to 88 victories and six bowl games in 13 seasons.

After McBride was fired in 2002, Urban Meyer stepped in from 2003-2004. Then the job was officially handed to Whittingham in 2004.

Scalley, in a similar fashion, is following in the same footsteps.

“Without a doubt, he’s the right choice to become the head coach at the University of Utah where that transition takes place,” Whittingham said of Scalley. “He is a Utah guy.

“He does a great job building relationships with the players and working with their families. He’s direct, honest and families really appreciate that. His track record as far as player development speaks for itself and recruits are very impressed with what he’s done.”

As Whittingham walked off the Big 12 Media Days mainstage and down the steps, he met Brett Yormark, the Big 12′s commissioner, with a firm handshake and exchanged a few pleasantries with his new conference boss.

“In a way like getting a new job,” Whittingham said of moving conferences again. “It’s energizing in that respect.”

While it’s one of the first times Whittingham has greeted Yormark in person since the conference move was announced, it’s more than certain it’ll be his last time greeting a brand new conference commissioner.

He’ll be long into retirement by then.