Mark Whipple, the architect of one of the University of Massachusetts football program’s most successful eras, was named the team’s head coach on Jan. 14, 2014. He was previously at the helm of the Minuteman program from 1998-2003 when he led the Minutemen to the NCAA I-AA National Championship in his first year while making two more postseason appearances in the following five years,
Whipple, the program’s all-time wins leader, completed his 10th season at the helm of the program in 2017 and 20th year overall as a collegiate head coach. He set the mark for most wins by a UMass head coach at Fenway Park against Maine with his 60th. Including the win at BYU, the team’s fourth in the last six games of the year, Whipple enters his the 2018 season with 61 victories on his ledger.
Whipple is the second head coach of the program during the Football Bowl Subdivision at UMass. He is the fourth of the Minutemen’s 29 all-time coaches to serve multiple tenures.
A 30-year coaching veteran of the collegiate and professional levels, Whipple is widely regarded for his prowess as an offensive coordinator and his ability to develop quarterbacks. He helped Ben Roethlisberger of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers win a Super Bowl in his second year, built the University of Miami’s 2009 and 2010 offenses into two of its best all-time and his teams set 40 offensive records while at UMass.
“Sometimes, you need to go away to find out where your home is and I have found it,” said Whipple during his introductory press conference. “I can make a bigger impact than I have ever made in my life with people young, old and in between at the University of Massachusetts and that’s what I am really excited about. I believe in this place and it hit me after the interview when I drove around campus and then got out and walked. This is a special place and I will represent this University better than I ever have. I am trying to do it better than anyone ever has. People ask me, `Why would you leave the NFL?’ They haven’t been to UMass. They haven’t been to the University of Massachusetts.”
Whipple wealth of experience as a head coach helped him to a 133-93 overall record, including a 61-62 mark at UMass. His coaching resume includes a National Coach of the Year award (1998), Division I-AA National Championship (1998), a Brown Athletic Hall of Fame induction (1996), an NFL Super Bowl Championship (2006) and a pair of collegiate bowl game appearances (2009, 2010).
“We are thrilled to welcome back one of the greatest coaches in the 135-year history of UMass football,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “Coach Whipple is committed to fostering a positive environment in which our student-athletes will thrive both athletically and academically. His passion for the flagship campus and his drive for excellence have already earned the support of alumni, faculty, students and fans. I am confident that, under Coach Whipple’s leadership, Minuteman football will continue to improve and will excel at the FBS level.”
Whipple coached with the Cleveland Browns from 2011-12, where he served as the team’s quarterbacks coach. He worked with second-year quarterback Colt McCoy (2011) and rookie Brandon Weeden (2012) within the Browns’ West Coast offensive scheme.
His most recent collegiate stop was at the University of Miami as the assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. During his time in Coral Gables, he guided the explosive Hurricane offense during two of the best statistical seasons in program history. Both years featured total yardage in excess of 5,000 yards with 2010’s total of 5,483 standing as the third-most in program history.
In 2009, Whipple led Miami to its best offensive season since the national-title contending 2002 team. The Hurricanes put up 5,199 yards of offense becoming just the eighth team in school history to eclipse the 5,000-yard mark in total yards gained. Under Whipple’s tutelage, quarterback Jacory Harris totaled the second-most pass completions (249), fourth-most passing yards (3,352) and sixth-most touchdowns (24) in a single season at Miami.
The 2010 Miami squad posted the fourth-best total rushing yardage in program history with 2,372 on the ground. Damien Berry led a stable of tailbacks with 899 yards and five touchdowns. The group overall averaged 182.5 yards on the ground per game with an average of 4.8 per carry.
Whipple spent the 2008 season as an offensive assistant coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, helping the team to an appearance in the NFC Championship game. Before joining the Eagles, he served as the quarterbacks coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-06 where he was instrumental in the development of Roethlisberger, who became the youngest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl as a rookie. In 2004, Roethlisberger became the first NFL quarterback to finish a season undefeated with a 13-0 record in games he started.
Prior to his move to the NFL, Whipple spent 16 years as a collegiate head coach. In addition to his time at UMass, Whipple also led the Brown and New Haven programs.
At every stop in his college coaching career, the trademark of a Whipple team was a high-powered offense. His UMass teams rewrote the program’s record book, setting more than 40 team records. In 1998, his national championship team posted school records in points scored (524), touchdowns (73), total yards (7,074), passing yards (4,050), completions (306) and first downs (354).
During his first tenure at UMass, Whipple posted a 49-26 (.653) record in six years (1998-2003), leading the Minutemen to a Division I-AA National Championship in his first season with the team in 1998. He also won three Atlantic 10 Conference Championships. He was named the American Football Coaches Association’s GTE Division I-AA National Coach of the Year, while also receiving National Coach of the Year honors from Don Hansen’s Football Gazette and finished runner-up for the Eddie Robinson Award, presented by The Sports Network.
In addition, Whipple was named the Scotty Whitelaw Division I-AA Coach of the Year by the New York Metropolitan Football Writers Association, and earned AFCA/GTE Region I Coach of the Year honors. In 2003, he earned Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year honors. He was selected as the New England Coach of the Year by the New England Football Writers and the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston in both 1998 and 2003. He posted five winning seasons in only six years as head coach with 17 different players earning all-America honors.
Whipple took over a program which finished 2-9 in 1997 and had won just 19 games in the previous four seasons combined before his arrival. He immediately brought unparalleled success to the Minutemen under his leadership, with a national title, three conference championships, consecutive NCAA I-AA playoff appearances for the first time ever and three NCAA berths overall in his six seasons on the sideline.
Introduced as the 26th coach in UMass history by then-athletic director Bob Marcum on Dec. 16, 1997, Whipple-coached teams posted a .500-or-better record 14 times. No UMass football coach reached the 20-win plateau faster than Whipple, who also owns five of the school’s 11 all-time postseason victories.
In Whipple’s rookie season at UMass, the Minutemen won a then school-record 12 games (broken by the 2006 NCAA national runner-up team) en route to the 1998 NCAA Division I-AA championship. UMass posted a record six victories over ranked opponents in 1998, including a 55-43 triumph over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Georgia Southern in the 1998 NCAA Championship game.
The Minutemen followed up Whipple’s first campaign with another outstanding season in 1999. Armed with a lofty preseason ranking, UMass rebounded from a 1-3 start, posted a 9-4 record and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA playoffs. Along the way, UMass tied the all-time school record for consecutive victories with eight, and also claimed a share of the 18th Atlantic 10 title in school history.
In 2000, UMass struggled with injuries to key players throughout the season, but was still able to post an overall record of 7-4, with three of the losses coming against teams which advanced to the Division I-AA playoffs. It marked the first time UMass strung together three-straight winning seasons since a five-year run from 1977-81. In addition, the Minutemen finished in third place in the Atlantic 10 with a 5-3 league mark, and handed Whipple his 100th career win with UMass’ 29-21 season-ending victory at Rhode Island.
A young and inexperienced team was hit hard by injuries in 2001, finishing 3-8, but Whipple’s 2002 Minutemen rebounded to post an overall record of 8-4. UMass tied for third place in the Atlantic 10 with a 6-3 mark in conference games, while downing two teams ranked in the top five in the nation (No. 2 Maine and No. 4 Villanova).
Whipple came to UMass following a four-year stint at his alma mater, Brown University. During his four years with the Bears (1994-97), Whipple compiled a 24-16 (.600) overall record without a losing season. His teams won more games in four years than the previous eight seasons at Brown combined.
Whipple led Brown to a 7-3 mark and a second-place finish in the Ivy League in his first season in 1994, posting the school’s best record and first winning season since 1987. His squad capped the year with four consecutive victories, marking the first time since 1980 that Brown had accomplished that feat.
In 1995, the Brown offense set several single season school records, including most points (282), total offense (4,165 yards), passing offense (2,502 yards) and first downs (227). His 1996 team came within a play of the Ivy League title. Battling Dartmouth to the final minute in the ninth week of the season, the Bears fell to the undefeated Big Green by three points. For the second straight year, Whipple’s passing offense set a new school mark with 2,628 yards.
In 1997, his squad set Ivy League and school records for total offense (474.3 yards per game) and Brown records for single season first downs (233), passing yards (317.9 yards per game) and single game total offense (629 yards vs. Yale).
Before his tenure at Brown, Whipple spent six years at the University of New Haven (1988-93), where he posted an impressive 48-17 (.738) overall record as head coach and offensive coordinator, including two straight NCAA Division II playoff appearances in 1992 and 1993. The Chargers were ranked in the top 20 nationally in five of his six seasons at New Haven.
In 1992, he led the Chargers to a 12-1 mark, advancing to the NCAA semifinals and finishing with a No. 5 ranking nationally. The squad led all NCAA divisions in scoring offense (50.5 points per game) and total offense (587.7 yards per game).
Whipple guided the 1993 squad to a second-straight undefeated regular season (10-0) and a No. 2 national ranking, before falling in the NCAA quarterfinals. That team was named Sports Illustrated’s “Best Offense in College Football”, averaging 52.5 points and 557.6 yards of total offense per game.
Prior to his stint at New Haven, Whipple served as the offensive coordinator at the University of New Hampshire for two years. He was also a member of the coaching staff for the USFL’s Arizona Wranglers under George Allen, assisting with the quarterbacks. Whipple was an assistant coach at Brown for one season (1983), working with the wide receivers. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at St. Lawrence University (1980), before serving as the offensive coordinator at Union College for two years (1981-82).
A 1979 graduate of Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Whipple was the starting quarterback for the Bears in 1977 and 1978 leading Brown to a 13-5 record and a pair of second-place Ivy League finishes.
He was a member of the Bears’ 1976 Ivy League Championship team, the first Ivy title in school history. During his three-year varsity career, he completed 175 of 340 passes for 2,365 yards and 13 touchdowns, while running for 518 yards and 10 touchdowns.
A two-time honorable mention All-Ivy pick in football, Whipple also earned four varsity letters on the baseball diamond as Brown’s starting shortstop. He was inducted into the Brown Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996.
Whipple was born in Tarrytown, N.Y., before moving to Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of nine. He is a graduate of Camelback High School, where Whipple was an all-state performer in football and baseball. Whipple was named the Arizona Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1975.
He and his wife, Brenda, have two sons, Spencer and Austin. Spencer was a quarterback at UMass and the University of Miami where he graduated in 2012. He is currently UMass’ passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. Austin began his college career as a quarterback on the Penn State football team before enrolling at UMass prior to the 2014 season.