Could Utah HC Whittingham be out after breakout season?

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham and athletic director Chris Hill have been feuding over contracts. Are his days in Salt Lake City, Utah numbered?

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According to the Salt Lake Tribune, there is a growing rift between Utah’s football head coach Kyle Whittingham and athletic direct Chris Hill. The Utes just completed there best season since joining the Pac-12, but the program has had trouble holding onto its assistance since the bowl game ended; as Utah’s defensive coordinator and line coach have left for the same jobs at Oregon State.

Kyle Whittingham

Head coach Kyle Whittingham took over for Urban Meyer prior to the 2004 season, and has gone 84-43 as the head man. (Courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune

The rift apparently started when Whittingham emailed Hill to try to lock up Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake to a multi-year deal that included a well deserved pay raises. Hill did offer Sitake a multi-year deals, but the pay raises were lower than Whittingham suggested.

Sitake was a bone of contention between Hill and Whittingham. He was ultimately lured to Oregon State by a more lucrative and longer-term offer, said a source, adding that he still might have been willing to stay at Utah for less money and a shorter deal than OSU offered.

Emails obtained via Utah’s open records law show that Whittingham had suggested “a significant increase” in Sitake’s pay. Hill then offered what he considered a sizable raise for the defensive coordinator, a figure that was redacted in the Dec. 5 email but amounted to an increase of $50,000 per year over a two-year deal, according to a source.”

The athletic director only offered a one-year deal to Tuiaki and all of the assistant (non-coordinator level) coaches on staff. Despite these offers, Tuaiki and Sitake left the program for Oregon State; and offensive coordinator Dave Christensen left for Texas A&M.

Sitake and Tuiaki led one of the best defense’s in the Pac-12 last season. Utah was the fifth best scoring defense in the conference (24.6 points per game), fourth in total defense (5.4 yards per play), sixth in pass defense (7.1 yards per completion), and tied for fourth in rush defense (3.9 yards per rush). The defensive unit also excelled at getting to the quarterback, as the Utes sacked opposing quarterbacks 52 times in 2014 (leading the Pac-12).

Eventually Whittingham asked about the status of his contract — currently the head coach is guaranteed $750,000 a year, but makes up to $2.4 million with bonuses and side deals — and he received an unsatisfactory answer from Hill.

As a result of his assistant coaches’ departures, and the unsatisfactory answer to his inquires about his contract, there is growing rift between Whittingham and Hill. This rift has led to speculation about the head coaches future at the Utah.

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