Even as Utah coach Kyle Whittingham continues to be mentioned in the coaching rumor mill as a candidate for openings at Arizona State and Penn State, the Utah Utes are preparing to make him a slightly richer man.
Utah senior associate athletic director Liz Abel confirmed Sunday that Whittingham and Utah athletic director Chris Hill agreed two weeks ago to a new contract that will pay Whittingham $2 million a year in base salary and other guaranteed incentives.
Whittingham, who was making $1.7 million a year, will continue to be near the middle of the Pac-12 in coaching salaries.
Oregon's Chip Kelly was the highest paid coach in the Pac-12 for 2011, according to USA Today's statistical database, with an annual salary of $2.8 million. Stanford and USC don't have to disclose salaries since they are private schools.
UCLA recently hired Jim Mora Jr. for a deal worth approximately $2.4 million a year and Mike Leach was hired by Washington State for $2.25 million a year.
Whittingham, who is 65-25 in his seven years as the Utes' head coach and led Utah to a 7-5 overall, 4-5 mark in the Pac-12 in 2011, has been contacted by both Arizona State and Penn State to fill coaching vacancies, according to media reports.
It seemed as if the Sun Devils had found their replacement for Dennis Erickson, who was dismissed after five seasons, when SMU coach June Jones was offered the job. However, ASU pulled the offer three days ago amid negative reaction to the possible hiring by fans and boosters.
Named the 2008 National Coach of the Year after leading the Utes to an undefeated season and a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Whittingham often is mentioned as a desired candidate for job openings.
Two years ago Whittingham turned down an offer to become Tennessee's head coach when the Vols were searching for a replacement for Lane Kiffin, who left the Vols to coach at USC.
Whittingham, who has a long-standing policy not to comment on job openings, did not return messages Sunday.
On Saturday following Utah's practice, Whittingham talked excitedly about the construction that has started on Utah's new $16 million football facility, an addition Whittingham has long viewed as a crucial element to help the Utes recruit against other Pac-12 schools.
"Recruits want to see shovels in the ground, and we have backhoes in the ground," he said. "It is a good sign for us. The reality of the new building is under way."
Salaries for Pac-12 coaches for 2011*
Coach School Total annual salary
Chip Kelly Oregon $2.8 million
Jeff Tedford Cal $2.3 million
Steve Sarkisian Washington $2.25 million
Kyle Whittingham Utah $1.7 million (Increasing to $2 million)
Dennis Erickson ASU $1.5 million
Mike Stoops Arizona $1.47 million (new coach Rich Rodriguez has starting salary of $1.45 million)
Mike Riley Oregon State $1.31 million
Rick Neuheisel UCLA $1.285 million (Jim Mora Jr., hired for deal worth approximately $2.4 million)
Jon Embree Colorado $720,000
Paul Wulff Washington State $600,000 (Mike Leach hired for $2.25 million)
Source: USA Today * USC and Stanford are not required to release salaries since they are private schools.