Mike Leach was a Kyle Whittingham fan long before Washington State, Utah became Pac-12 rivals
PULLMAN – In the late 1970s/early 1980s, Mike Leach was an undergraduate student at Brigham Young, a devout follower of LaVell Edwards’ football team and by virtue, a big fan of the Cougars’ top defensive player.
To this day, in fact, the Washington State coach has mad respect for Kyle Whittingham.
“He’s a good guy, sharp guy, knows about defense and does a good job,” Leach said of the Utah coach Monday, six days before the Utes visit Pullman for Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at Martin Stadium.
Whittingham, who’s in his 15th season at the Utes’ helm, and Leach, in his seventh year with the Cougars, are two of the Pac-12’s longest-tenured coaches and the only ones that obtained degrees from the same place. Leach got his from BYU in 1983, two years after Whittingham graduated in ’81.
Whittingham’s teams at Utah are typically identified as tough and hard-nosed – particularly on the defensive side of the ball – and Leach suggests that could be a direct reflection of the man who’s leading them. Once upon a time, Whittingham embodied both qualities as an all-conference linebacker and former Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year at BYU.
“Of course his dad Fred was the defensive coordinator and one of the most steely, intimidating guys on earth,” Leach said. “You’d walk on campus and LaVell Edwards would say hi to everybody and Fred, Fred just scared you. He was just imposing. And from what I hear, was one of the toughest guys on earth. Then there’s Kyle, so by association you tried to stay away from him, too, and so did most of the teams BYU played.”
Leach and Whittingham never met in Provo because, as Leach describes, “I was kind of in a bit different world (than Whittingman).”
“Kyle was busy being an All-American linebacker and leading the nation in tackles, while I was trying to make sure that I did well enough on my courses to go to law school,” Leach said.