Kyle Whittingham on Utah’s Rose Bowl moment and the next mountain to climb: ‘You’ve got to have no weaknesses’

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes celebrates on the podium after the PAC-12 Football Championship football game against the Oregon Ducks at Allegiant Stadium on December 03, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Utah Utes won 38-10. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
By Nicole Auerbach Feb 16, 2022 22
SALT LAKE CITY — A month and a half has passed since Utah’s first Rose Bowl appearance, and the evidence is everywhere in the football offices, down to the gorgeous helmets with roses nestled between the two block Us of the Utes’ logo. The trinkets and memorabilia are reminders of a threshold crossed, an accomplishment the program had been working toward for more than a decade.

After losing a 48-45 thriller to Ohio State in Pasadena on Jan. 1, Utah has its sights set even higher than a Pac-12 title and a trip to The Grandaddy of Them All. Head coach Kyle Whittingham believes his 2022 team just might have what it takes to snap the Pac-12’s College Football Playoff drought. The league hasn’t sent a team to the CFP since the end of the 2016 regular season.

Whittingham recently sat down with The Athletic to discuss getting the monkey off his back with a Pac-12 title, the myriad challenges that come with recruiting in the era of name, image and likeness (NIL) deals and what keeps him going in this profession.

A lot of times, when you talk to coaches in the middle of winning big, they’ll say they’re in the moment or focusing on the next day or next opponent. Looking back now, when did it sink in that you had accomplished what you had been building toward all this time? Did you enjoy any of it as it was happening?

Coaches have a tough time enjoying the moment. I do, and I’m assuming that, probably, the majority of coaches do the same. The same M.O. But it was a huge — I don’t want to say relief, because that’s probably the wrong word — but when we won that Pac-12 title, that was a monumental moment for our program. We’ve been working towards that ever since we got in the league, which was 11 years ago. First of all, it’s the third time we’ve been to the championship game. We wanted to get it right.