Utah is a member of the Pac-12 now. It’s got a big boy’s revenue stream to work with. By accounts, it’s got a good coaching staff… well, make that had a good coaching staff.
On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki accepted jobs at Oregon State, working under former Utah Defensive Coordinator Gary Andersen, who went on to head the Utah State and Wisconsin football programs before recently opting for the Beavers post.
Then, on Christmas, news broke that Offensive Coordinator Dave Christensen agreed to become offensive line coach and run-game coordinator at Texas A&M.
As a general rule of thumb, things ain’t good when an offensive coordinator leaves for a lesser position at another school. So what’s the Utes’ big problem?
Remember when Utah capped off a breakthrough season with its first bowl victory in three years?
That was six days ago.
In the time since, three assistant coaches have left the program, and sources familiar with the situation tell The Salt Lake Tribune that the relationship between Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and athletic director Chris Hill is severely fractured, perhaps irreparably.
Those sources, who requested anonymity so as not to compromise their ties to the program, say Whittingham and Hill were on poor terms before the start of the season and that the rift widened in recent weeks.
A “rift”, hunh. Over what?
Sitake was a bone of contention between Hill and Whittingham. He was ultimately lured to Oregon State in part by a what he felt was a better offer and greater stability, a source said, adding that he still might have been willing to stay at Utah for less money and a shorter deal than OSU offered.
Emails obtained through 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, a figure that was redacted in the Dec. 5 email but amounted to an increase of $100,000 above his $500,000 salary over a two-year deal, according to a source.
“If this does not meet your expectations as a significant raise, please let me know,” Hill wrote to Whittingham. “We do not want to lose Kalani to another defensive coordinator position so please let me know in that case if it involves money and/or other issues.”
A source close to the athletic department said late Friday that Hill eventually made Sitake a final offer of three years at $750,000 per year, with bonuses and incentives that could take the deal to $800,000.
A source said Hill’s inability to lock up Sitake made Whittingham feel that Hill was trying to sabotage his program.
Yeah, I can see how that would cause a rift. For sure.
Like I said, these guys aren’t bums. Utah led the nation in sacks this season. Whittingham’s been associated with the program for twenty years and succeeded Urban Meyer as head coach there. He’s probably not going to be there much longer.
And that’s fine. The athletic director calls the shots and if he thinks he can do better than what he’s got, based on what he’s willing to pay, that’s his business. Except how do you think this is going to play out with the coaches in the replacement pool?
Once again, you can act like you can ignore the market. The problem is that the market won’t ignore you.