Utah, a cautionary tale?

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.



Filed under It's Just Bidness

24 responses to “Utah, a cautionary tale?

  1. TennesseeDawg

    So I can start the Whittingham to Georgia as OC rumor now?


  2. Is this posted as a precautionary warning or a prediction of things to come in Athens? Is your faith in McGarity and B-M this low?


    • The only thing I’m predicting is that one ignores the market at one’s risk.


      • Jack Klompus

        Couldn’t agree more. Take care of the guys that are on your team and they’ll take care of you. The other point is that if you pre-emptively pay these guys then you retain them and usually for less than what you’ll pay someone new.- which UGA will soon recognize with Bobo’s replacement.


      • Bazooka Joe

        Agree – the scary thing is I don’t think BM realizes that…..


      • W Cobb Dawg

        But if blowing money = success on the field, programs like ut, fu, tamu, etc. should be in the title hunt.

        Grantham wasn’t worth what we paid him, while Bobo was worth every penny and more. It’s a crapshoot. I think it comes down to the HC doing his homework when he hires and finding the absolute best assistants he can.


        • Skeptic Dawg

          “…it comes down to the HC doing his homework when he hires and finding the absolute best assistants he can.” W Cobb, if this is true then we are hosed. Richt has a proven track record of botching hires and then hanging on to them far too long. Martinez, Grantham and Searels are examples of both. This OC search may very well spell the beginning of the end for Richt.


        • But Grantham was better than CWM and that was worth the extra $$, IMO.


        • Cosmic Dawg

          Perhaps blowing money isn’t a guarantee of winning, but NOT spending money ain’t gonna help.

          At first blush it appears Utah’s salary offers were fair and competitive, though. imho.


  3. South FL Dawg

    I’m not defending McG who I think is tone deaf anyway, but the Utah situation isn’t just about money according to this story:


  4. W Cobb Dawg

    Whittingham should’ve provided better guidance on what offer his assistants would deem acceptable. Seems to me the assistants were leaning toward leaving anyway. The a.d. eventually increased the raise to 50%, plus incentives and 3 year term. 750k isn’t chump change, and ought to attract and/or keep plenty of good candidates. Utah is competitive, but it’s not as if they challenged for the PAC-12 title.

    I guess it depends on the overall financial picture. Where the heck is Oregon State getting all that money? I would think Utah’s budget is essentially equal.

    Then again, if they have to exchange e-mails to discuss such important issues, there is a rift. The a.d. can’t spend more than he’s authorized, so the school has made its decision on what they will pay. Whittingham can accept that reality, or leave and see what happens to Ute’s program.


  5. Bright Idea

    Coaching is a nomadic profession that seldom makes a lot of sense. UGA has had less turnover than most because Richt is easy to work for. I suggest that having Bobo helped make Richt easy to work for so that may be about to change.


  6. Good stuff, senator. Point well received. Boise State has been the flashy up and comer but I actually think what Utah has done has been equally as impressive and I also think they’ve been doing it longer and have done a better job of building something to last. Well…built to last until this.

    Things like this could probably hurt us worse in this conference with the level of negative recruiting. You reading this, McGarity and especially those you answer to? Hell….negative recruiting has become it’s own powerful entity in the sec.


  7. “Once again, you can act like you can ignore the market. The problem is that the market won’t ignore you”.
    Does this absolutely correct statement of economic truth apply to health care as well? I’m just askin.


    • You think pre-Obamacare health care was a free market?



      • The health care market hasn’t been free in the US since the wage controls of WW2 when employer-sponsored health insurance and the tax benefits associated with it were introduced.


        • At least.

          If you can’t make that market free, at least make it more cost-efficient.


          • That’s true, but cost-efficient and effective are two completely different things. I’m happy to pay more for an effective system that continues to innovate. I’m afraid of what happens when the motivation to innovate is gone because the innovators can’t monetize his/her investment because of price controls.


            • I’d rather have people run through Medicaid or subsidized private insurance than having them show up in the emergency room for medical treatment, On a per capita basis, our medical care costs far outstrip every other country on the planet and a lot of it’s due to dumb policies like Reagan’s mandatory emergency room coverage.


              • There’s plenty of DUMB policy to go around with US health care policy. In this case, government thinks it can bend the laws of supply and demand sort of like Greg McGarity thinks the laws of economics will bend to the Georgia Way. 🙂