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Utah Utes football
Utah Utes logo.png
First season 1892
Athletic director Chris Hill
Head coach Kyle Whittingham
5th year, 47–17  (.734)
Home stadium Rice–Eccles Stadium
Stadium capacity 45,017
Stadium surface FieldTurf
Location Salt Lake City, UT
Conference Mountain West
All-time record 617–421–31 (.592)
Postseason bowl record 12–3 (.800)
Conference titles 26
Consensus All-Americans 4
Current uniform
Colors Crimson and White            
Fight song Utah Man
Mascot Swoop
Marching band Pride of Utah
Rivals BYU Cougars
Utah State Aggies
New Mexico Lobos

The Utah Utes are a college football team that competes in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA Division I, representing the University of Utah. The Utah college football program began in 1892 and has played home games at Rice–Eccles Stadium since 1927. They have won twenty-six conference championships in five different conferences during their history,[1] and have a cumulative record of 617–421–31 (617 wins, 421 losses, and 31 ties).[2]

The Utes have a record of 12–3 (.800) in bowl games,[3] which is the highest winning percentage in the nation among teams that have had ten or more bowl appearances.[4] They have won their last nine bowl games, which is the longest active winning streak.[5]

Among Utah's bowls are two games from the Bowl Championship Series (BCS): the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. In the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Utah defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers 35–7, and in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, they defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 31–17.[3][6] They were the first team from a conference without an automatic bid to play in a BCS bowl game—colloquially known as being a BCS Buster—and the first BCS Buster to play in a second BCS Bowl.



At the start of Utah's football history in 1892, the school did not have a conference affiliation so Utah played as an independent. That changed in 1910 when Utah joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Utes have played in five different conferences in their history:


Beginning of Utah football: 1892–1924

The 1905 football team

Utah's first year in 1892 saw the Utes win one game and lose two, including a loss to future rival Utah State. Utah did not field a team in 1893, but would resume play in 1894. It was interrupted one other time: in 1918 Utah again did not field a football team because of World War I.[1] Utah won their first three conference championships in these early years: in 1912, 1919, and 1922.[1]

Utah had its first sustained success when, in 1904, it hired Joe Maddock to coach football, as well as basketball and track. During his six seasons, he coached the football team to a record of 36–9–1 (.793).[2] The school enthusiastically embraced the former Michigan Wolverine. In 1905, the Galveston Daily News reported, "He has the Mormons all football crazy. He has written here to say that his team now holds the championship of Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and the greater part of Colorado. When he won the hard-fought battle with Colorado College a week ago the Salt Lake City papers said: 'Maddock' is a new way of saying success. The great Michigan tackle has taken boys who never saw a football before and made them the star players of the Rocky Mountain States."[8] In early 1910, Maddock retired from coaching (although he later coached a year at Oregon.)

Fred Bennion coached the Utes from 1910 to 1913. He finished with a record of 16–8–3 (.648).[2] Nelson Norgren finished with a record of 13–11 (.541) during his coaching years from 1913 to 1917.[2] Utah did not field a team for the 1918 season because of a shortage of players due to World War I.[1] When play resumed in 1919, Thomas Fitzpatrick started his football coaching career. He continued as football coach until end of the 1924 season. His teams finished with a record of 23–17–3 (.570).[2]

1925–1949: Ike Armstrong era

Ike Armstrong was originally hired to coach both the mens basketball team and the football team. While he lasted only two years as basketball coach, in football he amassed a record of 141–55–15 (.703)[2] during his twenty-five years as head coach, which places him first among Utah head coaches for total wins. Under Armstrong, Utah won thirteen conference championships, including six in a row from 1928 to 1933 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.[1] His teams produced three undefeated and untied seasons (1926, 1929, and 1930) and two more seasons where Utah was undefeated but tied (1928 and 1941).[9]

The 1930 team only allowed 20 points by the opposition all year (2.5 points per game), but scored 340 points (42.5 points per game.) On offense, they averaged 463 yards a game that year, but were unable to find a post season opponent because the only bowl game at that time was the Rose Bowl.[10] Armstrong coached the Utes to their first bowl victory in the 1939 Sun Bowl defeating New Mexico 26–0.[3] In 1957 Armstrong was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.[11]

Fifties and Sixties

Under "Cactus" Jack Curtice, head coach from 1950 to 1957, Utah enjoyed moderate success. During his eight seasons as Utah head coach, the Utes compiled a record of 45–32–4 (.550)[2] and won four conference championships in the Skyline Conference.[1] His teams are perhaps best known for popularizing the Utah Pass, which is an overhand forward shovel pass of the ball.[12] It it sometimes incorrectly referred to as a shuffle or shuttle pass. The play is commonly used today by teams which use a spread offense.

After Curtice left to coach Stanford, Ray Nagel took the helm. He coached for eight seasons from 1958 to 1965 before leaving for Iowa. During his tenure, the Utes had record of 42–39–1 (.518)[2] and were co-conference champions of the Western Athletic Conference in 1964.[1] As a reward, the Utes garnered an invitation to Atlantic City to play in the 1964 Liberty Bowl, which was the first major college football game held indoors. Utah dominated the game against West Virginia from start to finish and won by the score of 32–6.[13] Utah finished the season ranked #14 in the Coaches' Poll.[14]

Curtice's replacement, Mike Giddings posted a record of 9–12 (.429)[2] during the 1966 and 1967 seasons before resigning. Bill Meek, coach from 1968 to 1973, failed to substantially improve the Utes, and they went 33–31 (.515)[2] over his six seasons before he was fired.

Seventies and Eighties

Last night I sat down and tried to think about all the highlights from last year and I fell asleep.

—Former coach Tom Lovat after the Utes went 1–10 in his first year.[15]

Utah replaced Meek with Tom Lovat, who has the lowest winning percentage among coaches of the Utah football program. During his tenure from 1974 to 1976, his teams posted a 5–28 record (.152),[2] and had a 0–6 record against in-state rivals Utah State and Brigham Young (BYU). To make matters worse, these years coincided with the emergence of BYU football under the tutelage of LaVell Edwards.

Next in line was Wayne Howard, who coached from 1977 to 1981. He performed substantially better than his predecessor and his Ute teams posted a record of 30–24–2 (.554).[2] Despite a record of 8–2–1 in his final season and being in contention for the Western Athletic Conference Championship, Howard resigned at the end of the season. He cited several reasons for leaving, but he particularly disliked the Utah–BYU rivalry.[16]

The Utes lost whatever progress they made under Howard during the Chuck Stobart years, 1982–1984. During his tenure, the Utes compiled a 16–17–1 record (.485),[2] and saw hated rival BYU earn a National Championship.

The program regressed further during the Jim Fassel era from 1985 to 1989, with a 25–33 record (.431).[2] His teams were marked by high scoring offenses and abysmal defenses. In 1989, his final season, the Utes scored 30.42 points per game, but allowed 43.67 points per game.[17] The lone bright spot of his tenure was a 57–28 upset of nationally ranked BYU to end the 1988 season, which was dubbed by Ute fans as The Rice Bowl.

1990–2002: Ron McBride rebuilding

The thing what I'm trying to do is to bring a different approach to Utah football. It will be one where we're going to build a defense first, and it's going to be more of a smash-mouth type organization.

—Ron McBride after being hired as head coach[18]

After a twenty-eight year stretch of not playing in a bowl game, Utah football experienced a resurgence in the early 1990s under head coach Ron McBride. After Armstrong, McBride has the most wins for a Utah head coach, compiling a record of 88–63 (.583)[2] and leading the Utes to six bowl games in which the Utes went 3–3. The Utes ended their bowl hiatus by playing Washington State in the 1992 Copper Bowl, losing to the Cougars 31–28.[19]

They reached their peak under McBride when they finished the 1994 season ranked #10 in the AP Poll and #8 in the Coaches' Poll[14] and recorded a 16–13 victory over Arizona in the Freedom Bowl.[20] That season, the Utes beat four teams who ended the season ranked: Oregon, Colorado State, BYU, and Arizona.[21]

In 1995, Utah was co-champion of the Western Athletic Conference, which was the first time in thirty-one years Utah had been champion or co-champion in football. In 1999, Utah was again co-conference champion, this time in the Mountain West Conference (MWC).[1]

McBride also coached the Utes to a 10–6 victory in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl over Southern California, which was quarterbacked by Carson Palmer and coached by Pete Carroll.[22]

2003–2005: Urban Meyer years

We're going to play hard, play fast, and give 'em something to watch.

—Urban Meyer after becoming head coach[23]

Urban Meyer joined Utah for the 2003 season. In his inaugural season, the Utes showed a knack for winning close games. He implemented the spread offense and with quarterback Alex Smith led Utah to a 10–2 record, an outright MWC championship,[1] and a 17–0 victory in the Liberty Bowl over Southern Miss.[24] They finished the season ranked #21 in both major polls.[14] He also earned honors as The Sporting News National Coach of the Year, the first Utes' coach to do so.[25]

In his his second season as head coach, the Utes repeated as conference champions.[1] They were a high scoring team; they scored 544 total points on the season, which is a team record, and averaged 45.33 points per game.[26] They played key out-of-conference games against Texas A&M, Arizona, and North Carolina, and they won every game by at least two touchdowns (14 points). After completing an undefeated season, Utah became the first team from a non-automatically qualifying BCS conference to play in a BCS bowl. The Utes played Big East Conference champion Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, winning 35–7. The Utes finished the season ranked #4 in the AP poll.[14]

Later that year, Alex Smith, who during the 2003 and 2004 seasons compiled a 21–1 record as a starting quarterback, was drafted #1 by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft. He became the first player from a college in the state of Utah to ever be drafted first. This culminated in the University of Utah becoming the first school in history to produce two #1 professional draft picks in the same year when Andrew Bogut became the #1 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.

After two years with Utah, Urban Meyer left after the 2005 Fiesta Bowl to coach Florida. His record at Utah was 22–2 (.917), which is the highest winning percentage among Utah head coaches[2].

2005–present: Kyle Whittingham

Utah offense versus New Mexico in 2009

Utah is currently coached by Kyle Whittingham, who was promoted from being defensive coordinator during Utah's undefeated 2004 season. Whittingham served as the co-head coach in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, helping Utah to defeat Pittsburgh.[27]

During Whittingham's first five years as head coach, the Utes were 47–17 (.734)[2] overall and 28–12 (.700) in conference play and have won all five of their bowl games: the 2005 Emerald Bowl, the 2006 Armed Forces Bowl, the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl, the 2009 Sugar Bowl, and the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl. Whittingham worked for eleven years as an assistant coach at Utah; the final ten years were as the defensive coordinator. Thus far, in his sixteen years with the program, Utah has compiled a 131–58 record (.693), played in eleven bowl games (winning ten), captured five conference titles, and finished in the Top-10 three times.

In 2008, Utah posted a record of 13–0 on their way to winning the MWC Championship, and they were the only undefeated team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. During the regular season, the Utes beat Michigan on the road and Oregon State, TCU, and BYU at home. Their undefeated 2008 season included an invitation to the 2009 Sugar Bowl, which made them the first non-BCS school to be invited to a second BCS bowl; Utah won the Sugar Bowl and beat heavily-favored Alabama by a score of 31–17. Four of the teams Utah beat ended the season in the Coaches' and AP Polls: Oregon State, TCU, BYU, and Alabama. Both TCU and Alabama ended in the Top-10.[27] In the final Coaches' Poll and AP Poll, Utah finished at #4 and #2, respectively, for their highest ranking in each poll ever.[14]


Rice–Eccles Stadium

Utah's home games are played at Rice–Eccles Stadium. In 1998, the university completed a major renovation and gave the stadium its current name. In 1927, Ute Stadium opened with a Utah win over Colorado Mines. In 1972, the stadium was rechristened Rice Stadium in honor of Robert L. Rice who had donated money for a recently completed renovation. Spence Eccles gave money for the 1998 renovation, which expanded the number of seats to its current capacity of 45,017 and improved the press box, so his last name was added to the stadium's name.[28]

Notable players

Years in parentheses are the years the player lettered in football with Utah.[29]


Conference championships

Conference Year Coach
Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference 1912* Fred Bennion
1919* Thomas Fitzpatrick
1922 Thomas Fitzpatrick
1926 Ike Armstrong
1928 Ike Armstrong
1929 Ike Armstrong
1930 Ike Armstrong
1931 Ike Armstrong
1932 Ike Armstrong
1933* Ike Armstrong
Big Seven Conference 1938 Ike Armstrong
1940 Ike Armstrong
1941 Ike Armstrong
1942* Ike Armstrong
1947 Ike Armstrong
Skyline Conference 1948 Ike Armstrong
1951 Jack Curtice
1952 Jack Curtice
1953 Jack Curtice
1957 Jack Curtice
Western Athletic Conference 1964* Ray Nagel
1995* Ron McBride
Mountain West Conference 1999* Ron McBride
2003 Urban Meyer
2004 Urban Meyer
2008 Kyle Whittingham
* Denotes shared championship

Bowl games

The Utah Utes have played in fifteen officially NCAA sanctioned bowl games. Their 12–3 record gives them a winning percentage of .800, which is the highest in the Football Bowl Subdivision among teams with at least ten bowl appearances.[4] The Utes also lost the 1947 Pineapple Bowl, which the NCAA did not sanction as a bowl game and counts as a regular season game in official NCAA statistics.[52] Utah has the nation's longest active bowl win streak at nine games[5] and is closing in on the eleven game bowl win record set by Florida State University from 1985 to 1996.[53]

Utah gets set to defend Navy during the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl

Date Bowl Score Coach AP Coaches
January 2, 1939 Sun Bowl Utah 26 New Mexico 0 Ike Armstrong
January 1, 1947 Pineapple Bowl* Hawaii 19 Utah 16 Ike Armstrong
December 19, 1964 Liberty Bowl Utah 32 West Virginia 6 Ray Nagel #14
December 29, 1992 Copper Bowl Washington State 31 Utah 28 Ron McBride
December 30, 1993 Freedom Bowl Southern California 28 Utah 21 Ron McBride
December 27, 1994 Freedom Bowl Utah 16 Arizona 13 Ron McBride #10 #8
December 27, 1996 Copper Bowl Wisconsin 38 Utah 10 Ron McBride
December 18, 1999 Las Vegas Bowl Utah 17 Fresno State 16 Ron McBride
December 25, 2001 Las Vegas Bowl Utah 10 Southern California 6 Ron McBride
December 31, 2003 Liberty Bowl Utah 17 Southern Miss 0 Urban Meyer #21 #21
January 1, 2005 Fiesta Bowl Utah 35 Pittsburgh 7 Urban Meyer #4 #5
December 29, 2005 Emerald Bowl Utah 38 Georgia Tech 10 Kyle Whittingham
December 23, 2006 Armed Forces Bowl Utah 25 Tulsa 13 Kyle Whittingham
December 20, 2007 Poinsettia Bowl Utah 35 Navy 32 Kyle Whittingham
January 2, 2009 Sugar Bowl Utah 31 Alabama 17 Kyle Whittingham #2 #4
December 23, 2009 Poinsettia Bowl Utah 37 California 27 Kyle Whittingham #18 #18
* The Pineapple Bowl was not sanctioned by the NCAA and counts as a regular season game in official statistics

Rivalry games

The Holy War: BYU

This today will be inspiring. The hatred between BYU and Utah is nothing compared to what it will be. It will be a crusade to beat BYU from now on.

Wayne Howard after the 1977 loss to BYU[54][55]

When Brigham Young came into the valley, he pointed to where the University of Utah would be and said, ‘This is the place.’ Provo was just an afterthought.

Ron McBride on Brigham Young University and its Provo, Utah campus[54]

The Holy War specifically refers to the annual football game within the larger Utah–BYU rivalry. Despite its religious overtones, fans and journalists continue to use the name, and it was recognized by as the #6 best nickname for a rivalry game.[56] Utah leads the all time series against Brigham Young (BYU) 53–34–4 (.604).[57] BYU does not recognize the first six meetings that were held 1896–1898, which the schools split 3–3.[58][59] BYU argues that because it was then known as Brigham Young Academy those games do not count in the series record. However, BYU recognizes its founding date as October 16, 1875.[60]

Utah dominated the early years of the series. From 1922 until 1971, the Utes lost to BYU five times, won thirty-eight times, with four ties.[57] That changed when BYU hired LaVell Edwards as head coach. From 1972, Edwards' first year as head coach, to 1992, Utah lost to BYU nineteen times and won twice. BYU also won a national championship during those years—in 1984.

Since 1993, the series has been relatively even. Utah has beaten BYU ten times and lost seven times. Also, the recent games have tended to be close, with the final score of thirteen of the last seventeen games being within a touchdown (seven points) or less.[57] The two teams have won or shared the conference championship in ten out of the last seventeen years. Consequently, the Holy War frequently has had conference title implications.

Battle of the Brothers: Utah State

We do consider it a rivalry even though of late it hasn't been very competitive as far as the win-loss. But it is a rivalry nonetheless in our eyes.

— Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham[61]

The Battle of the Brothers refers to the rivalry between Utah and Utah State. The two teams have a long running football series, which, at 109 games, is the twelfth most played rivalry in the nation.[61] Utah leads the series 77–28–4 (.725). Both programs played their first game in history by playing each other on November 25, 1892, a game which Utah State won 12–0. They have played every year since 1944, but the series is scheduled to take a two year hiatus for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Utah has won the last twelve games and twenty of the last twenty-two games.[62]

The Bowl: New Mexico

The Bowl is a nickname that fans gave to the annual game between Utah and New Mexico. The name arose at a time when Utah had lost four of the last five meetings against New Mexico. Some Utah fans began to sarcastically refer to the annual matchup as "The Bowl" in the hopes that Utah (who has won most of its bowl games) would defeat New Mexico (who has lost most of its bowl games) on a more frequent basis. The two teams first met on January 2, 1939 in the Sun Bowl, which was each teams' first bowl game. Utah leads the series 31–17–2 (.640).[63]


Crazy Lady (center) dances during Blues Brothers' theme

Blues Brothers' theme

At the start of the fourth quarter for each home game, the Utah marching band plays the Blues Brothers (Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose") while a female fan dances in front of them. The tradition was started by Bubbles, an elderly fan who danced enthusiastically to the song when the band first played it and thereby helped energize the crowd. The crowd so enjoyed the song and Bubbles' performance that is soon became a tradition.[64] After years of doing her dance, Bubbles retired so Crazy Lady took over. Crazy Lady received her nickname from the MUSS, which is the "Mighty Utah Student Section". As the third quarter comes to a close, the MUSS chants for Crazy Lady to do her dance.[65] Crazy Lady finds her nickname "endearing."[66]

Third Down Jump

When the opposing team is trying to convert a third down, the MUSS and various other fans jump up and down and make as much noise as possible to distract the opposing team. The MUSS dubbed this the Third Down Jump. The closer the opposition is to their goal line, the more frenetic the fans become. In front of the MUSS is a running tally of the number of false starts the opposition has had during the season.[65]

Ute Thunder

Since 1968, the University of Utah's Army ROTC department has operated a cannon on the sidelines called Ute Thunder. A few ROTC cadets compose the cannon crew, which is trained to fire the cannon. After each Utah score, the cannon crew fires a 10-gauge shotgun blank. The cannon was built in 1904 and was used during World War I for training. It was refurbished in 2003 to repair the firing mechanism and wooden wheels.[67][68]

Future non-conference games

In addition to its usual conference games, Utah is scheduled to play the following teams:[69][70] [71]

2010 2011 2012 2013
Pitt (9/2) Iowa State (9/1) Washington State (8/30) Utah State (8/31)
San Jose State (9/25) Oregon (9/17) @ Utah State (9/8) @ Washington State (9/14)
@ Iowa State (10/9) @ Boise State (10/1) @ Colorado (9/22) Colorado (9/21)
@ Notre Dame (11/13) @ Pitt (10/15) Boise State (9/29) @ Boise State (9/28)

All dates are tentative and subject to change.


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