Whittingham signs $6 million contract

By By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

NEW ORLEANS8212;Utah is days away from a chance to go 13-0 and become the first team since the inception of the BCS to go undefeated twice with a win in the Sugar Bowl. Things got a little sweeter for head coach Kyle Whittingham, beforehand.

Utah’s athletic director, Chris Hill, announced on Monday that Whittingham and Utah have agreed to a new contract that will pay the 15-year coach $6 million over the next five years. His base salary will be $200,000 and the other $1 million per season will come from radio and television rights, appearance fees, public speaking, fundraising and Utah’s official outfitter Under Armor. With the new deal, Whittingham will become the highest paid coach in Utah football history.

Four years ago when Urban Meyer lead Utah to it’s first perfect season and made Utah the first non-Bowl Championship series team to break into a BCS Bowl, he was given a new contract as well. Unfortunately for Utah, it was not to stay in Salt Lake City. Whittingham’s new salary is certainly closer to what his peers at other high profile programs are receiving.

“When I hired Kyle four year’s ago, I felt he was the best person for the job, and the fact that we are here at a BCS bowl, with a 12-0 record and a No. 7 national ranking bears that out,” Hill said.

Whittingham’s contract extension is also a clear sign that he has taken himself out of the running for other top positions around the country like the Washington job, which will likely stand to pay it’s new head coach well above what Whittingham’s new deal is worth. After thrashing BYU, Whittingham said he plans to stay in Utah. The fact that the extension comes earlier than necessary is a tribute to Hill’s desire to pay Whittingham a competitive salary, and to keep a successful coach at Utah for years to come.

“We are elated that Kyle feels the same commitment o the University of Utah that we have to him and our football program,” Hill said “Kyle does things the right way, his players excel not only on the field, but in the classroom and the community.”

Whittingham, who is 36-14 overall as Utah’s head coach, has improved his team’s record every season. In 2005, Utah went 7-5, extended their bowl streak to five wins and Whittingham and the Utes have improved every year since then. Now Whittingham has a chance to step out of the shadow of his predecessor, Urban Meyer, and lead Utah to its best record in school history.

“I am very happy here at the University of Utah and feel fortunate to coach in a place where we can attract quality student-athletes who can compete at the highest level,” Whittingham said. ” I appreciate the support of that Dr. hill and President (Michael) Young have given me and the incredible support the community has shown for our football team.”

No matter what the result of the Sugar Bowl is, Utah will be undergoing a change of sorts when it looses defensive coordinator Gary Andersen to the head coaching position at Utah State and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to his same position at Kansas State. But this time, Utah’s coaching staff won’t be undergoing the complete overhaul that it underwent in 2005. That means Utah, which could return as many as nine defensive starters, might not see the same drop off that followed the last time the team had a tidal wave of national success.

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