On Jan. 1, Utah took two steps forward as a football program.
The Utes competed in their first Rose Bowl, against ultra-blue blood Ohio State. Though Utah ultimately lost the game, they more than proved worthy of the hallowed ground on which they played: a 14-point halftime lead, 45 points and 463 yards of total offense. The program has already won Sugar and Fiesta bowls as a Mountain West program, but getting to the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12 champion is something else entirely.
The other step forward Utah took that day only became clear today. That's the day Utah's commitment to head coach Kyle Whittingham reached a whole new level.
As reported by USA Today on Wednesday, the program has reached an agreement with Whittingham on a contract extension with a total pledge hitting the 9-figure mark.
First, effective Jan. 1, the school granted Whittingham $41 million in base salary over the next six years, a $6.83 million annual average that makes him the highest-paid coach at a Pac-12 public school. (Stanford's David Shaw is believed to be around the $7 million mark, and USC's Lincoln Riley is rumored to be around $10 million or even above.) Whittingham was paid $5.2 million in 2021, below the $5.6 million UCLA paid Chip Kelly.
Whittingham's 2022 pay will be $6 million, a $400,000 raise from what he was scheduled to earn under the previous agreement. He will reach $8 million by 2027.
Furthermore, the school has put in writing its commitment to increasing its investment in football to reach -- and win -- future Rose Bowls and beyond.
-- If Utah does not put new graphics on the walls of the Eccles Football Center by Sept. 1 of this year, it owes Whittingham $100,000 by Nov. 1.
-- If Utah does not install new carpet in the Eccles Center by Dec. 31, it must pay Whittingham $100,000 within 60 days of that date.
-- If Utah does not begin construction on a $62 million football-only indoor facility by July 1, 2023, it owes Wittingham $100,000.
-- If Utah does not assume occupancy of said facility by Dec. 31, 2024, it owes Whittingham another $100,000.
Presently, Utah shares its indoor facility with other Utes teams and local recreational programs.
"Kyle has elevated our football program to the highest levels of success within our conference and climbing nationally and at the same time establishing a culture of excellence that has more than just winning. It's also incredible academic achievement and just the development of our student-athletes,” Utah athletics director Mark Harlan told USA Today. “So it made a lot of sense to compensate him at that elite level in our conference because he's proven that that's where our program resides."
In 17 seasons as Utah's head coach, Whittingham is 143-70 with two conference titles, six AP Top 20 finishes, and the program's first Pac-12 championship. The former BYU linebacker has been with the program continuously since 1994, and his first game as head coach was the landmark Fiesta Bowl victory over Pittsburgh following Urban Meyer's departure for Florida.
The extension cements the 62-year-old Whittingham's status as a Ute lifer. It also includes promises of free tuition for his grandchildren, a $1 million lump sum retirement payment, and a 5-year, $995,000 per year contract to serve as special assistant to the AD when he hangs up his whistle.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.