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'It's been a terrific ride': Whittingham reflects on being 2nd-longest tenured coach in FBS

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham celebrates a touchdown in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham celebrates a touchdown in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — After 22 seasons as head coach at TCU, Gary Patterson and the university "mutually agreed" to part ways Sunday.

Patterson leaves the program with an overall record of 181-79 and 17 bowl appearances during his tenure, which matches the entire number of bowl games the program had in its history before Patterson. The former Horned Frogs coach was previously the second-longest tenured active head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

With his departure, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, who has been head coach at the University of Utah for 17 seasons, moves into Patterson's role as the second-longest tenured active coach. He trails Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, who took the job in 1999.

On Monday, at the start of his weekly press conference, Whittingham congratulated his "good friend" Patterson, saying he "did a tremendous job during his time there" and that "it just won't be the same without him on the sidelines there at the Horned Frog Stadium watching him patrol the sidelines."

"Congrats to Gary, and I'm very confident if he wants to keep coaching he'll have plenty of opportunities," Whittingham said. "Just want to wish him the best and let him know I have the utmost respect for him and what he's done in his career."

The sudden departure of Patterson left Whittingham in a reflective mood Monday after his nearly 20 years as the head coach at Utah. Whittingham said he's been "blessed" and "fortunate" to stay in the role as long as he has, even though he expected to be head coach at Utah for only three or four years.

"I figured I'd just do it three or four years and maybe try the NFL or something like that, but it's been a great run," Whittingham said. "I've got no regrets. If I had to do it over, I'd do it just the way it's laid out. It's been a terrific ride."

Whittingham recently received a four-year contract extension to coach the Utes through the 2027 season, though in his latest round of contract extensions the long-time coach had retirement language written into his deal, signifying a potential end in the coming years. Whittingham, though, has given no public indications of an end date.

"Very blessed to have had the talent level of player that we've had come through here — the character level, not just talent, but character — and the assistant coaches that have come through here," Whittingham said. "It's just been — I've just been fortunate to be a part of the whole thing and surrounded by really good players and really good coaches.

"At its core, coaching is about relationships and the relationships with your players and your assistant coaches, and I can't say how thankful I am for the for the opportunity and the longevity that I've had. I love this university; it's been a it's been a great however many years it's been — 17 years as the head coach, I guess — and another 10 years on top of that as a defensive coach."

And while Whittingham is in no immediate risk of losing his job at Utah, especially as he has his team leading the South division of the Pac-12 for the third time in the last four seasons, he said he realizes "nobody's safe" in the coaching world.

"It lets you know that nobody's safe, I guess, no matter what the circumstances in college football. It's a ruthless business, but it should be, I guess. You get paid well — and I'm not complaining about it."

Utah currently has a two-game lead in the South division and could potentially lock up the division Friday night in a road contest against Stanford (8:30 p.m. MT, FS1).

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