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Kyle Whittingham-Family on 3 in a Moment of Loudness

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Kyle Whittingham has been the head coach at Utah for 19 years. How does a football coach remain at one school for that long? By winning football games and building lasting relationships with his players and coaches. He is a living and breathing exception to the rule when it comes to coaching college football.

Whittingham “Hammered” Opponents as a Linebacker at BYU

As a menace to opposing ball carriers everywhere while at BYU, Whittingham recorded 272 career tackles. In the 1980 Holiday Bowl, Whittingham faced off against the Pony Express backfield of SMU, consisting of Craig James and Eric Dickerson. Whittingham introduced himself early and when the Mustangs tried to block him, he just smiled at them and kept on coming.

With SMU clinging to a slim lead, Whittingham put on a happy face with a Grinch smile as he met Dickerson head-on at the line of scrimmage and stopped him for a drive-killing, one-yard loss. SMU was forced to punt the ball. BYU blocked that punt and recovered it.

On the ensuing drive, McMahon tossed the Mormon equivalent of a Hail Mary 41-yards for the winning score as the clock struck zero. BYU46SMU 45. For the game, Whittingham posted 16 total tackles, with 10 solo stops on James and Dickerson alone.

He was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 1981 after posting 132 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 2 INTs, and 7 sacks. On a team quarterbacked by the great Jim McMahon, Whittingham was named the Defensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl that season after recording 10 tackles in a 38-36 win over Washington State.

After a short stint at the pro level, Whittingham got into coaching. It was the next logical step for a football guy.

Kyle Whittingham-The Son of a Coach Who Became a Coach

Whittingham has stickers on his suitcases from such coaching stops as BYU, Eastern Utah, and Idaho State. In 1994, he arrived at Utah to coach linebackers under his coach and mentor, his father FredMad DogWhittingham, the Utes Defensive Coordinator.

Mad Dog had played at BYU in 1958 before moving on to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, playing football and running track. He was drafted by the Rams in 1963 and played 9 years of pro ball with the Rams, Eagles, and Saints. After his playing days, Mad Dog became a football coach (he was a LaVell Edwards disciple), a new career that spanned three decades. A father and son, coaching together in a sport they loved, the conversations they must have had.

The morning commute to work must have been radio gold.

When Mad Dog left the college ranks to coach with the Raiders in the NFL, Kyle was elevated to replace his dad as Defensive Coordinator at Utah.

Most of the plays Whittingham called then, and now, come from playbooks and scratch pads with plays written on them that belonged to his father, pearls of wisdom and knowledge that only a loving father and coach could leave for a loving son and coach.

In 2003, Fred “Mad Dog” Whittingham passed away at the age of 64, a man beloved and well-respected by all.

When head coach Urban Meyer left Utah to take the same position at Florida in 2004, Whittingham was hired as the head man to replace him in Salt Lake City.

In 2008, he led the Utes to an undefeated season (13-0) and defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, earning National Coach of the Year honors. Whittingham has also been named PAC-12 Coach of the Year twice (2019 and 2021), leading the Utes to back-to-back PAC-12 titles in 2021 and 2022.

Whittingham is the all-time winningest head coach at Utah (154-74, .675 winning pct.) and is the 2nd longest-tenured head coach in the FBS behind only Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. He has produced six 10-win seasons and has gone 11-5 in bowl games.

And, when it comes to leaving his in-state rivals bloodied and beaten outside the red zone and then walking away victorious, Whittingham is a combined 18-5 against BYU and Utah State.

“Family on 3”

Whittingham’s name has come up many times for head coaching vacancies, including the Tennessee job in 2010. But Utah is home. Utah is family. But it has not been without its gut-wrenching challenges.

In the span of just 10 months in 2020-21, two Utah players, Ty Jordan (age 19) and Aaron Lowe, lost their lives to senseless gun violence. Ty and Aaron played high school ball together at West Mesquite High School in Mesquite, TX, and were best friends.

Ty died from a gunshot wound suffered from the accidental discharge of a firearm. To honor his fallen friend, Aaron switched his jersey number to #22, which had been Ty’s number.

Less than a year later, Aaron was shot and killed at a party held off campus. Both were leaders on the team with selfless dedication and strong determination.

After Aaron was laid to rest, the Utes played on in honor of both Ty and Aaron. Coach Whittingham had the Utes working hard to get “22% better” and rallied to win a conference title in 2021. When the going got tough, it was “Family on Three” in a moment of loudness, when players, coaches, and fans came together as one to cheer loud and proudly and pay their respects to their fallen brothers.

A scholarship fund was created to honor Ty and Aaron, called the 22 Forever Memorial Scholarship- “awarded to the student who best exemplifies the inspiring qualities of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe.” Coach Whittingham is a frequent donor to this scholarship fund.

Kyle Whittingham on What College Football is About

Coach Whittingham believes “college football is all about the players.” He has built a program of winning football by first developing a talented roster. Whittingham has coached All-Americans, and national award winners, and sent players to the NFL.

Secondly, he has hired excellent coaches that have hung around for a while. Whittingham has assistant coaches that have been with him for 5-10 years or longer. His brother Freddie has been on staff for eight years now and coaches the tight ends. Defensive Coordinator Morgan Scalley has been with the Utes for 16 years.

A devout man of God, Whittingham coaches with the man upstairs on his headset. A man who provides advice and counsel in a spiritual sort of way on life and on X’s and O’s. A man whose name is Mad Dog.



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