AMHERST, Mass. - Mark Whipple, the architect of one of the most successful eras in University of Massachusetts football, was officially named the team's head coach on Tuesday. In his first tenure as coach from 1998-2003, Whipple led the Minutemen to an NCAA I-AA National Championship in his initial season and made two other postseason appearances.
"I have a lot to give," said Whipple during the 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."
A 31-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. His teams set 40 offensive records while at UMass. At the University of Miami he built the 2009 and 2010 offenses into two of its best all-time. With the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, he helped Ben Roethlisberger win a Super Bowl as a rookie.
"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 confidant that, under coach Whipple's leadership, Minuteman football will continue to improve and will excel at the FBS level."
UMass President Robert Caret said, "We are confident that Coach Whipple will be an inspiring leader who reaffirms our commitment to playing Division 1 football at the highest level. I couldn't be happier for the student-athletes, the loyal fans--including myself--and everyone else who looks forward to welcoming him back and cheering on the Minutemen come this fall."
"I am extremely pleased that mark has returned to guide UMass football. He brings a unique combination of experience, accomplishment and passion for our football team that cannot be matched," said Director of Athletics John McCutcheon. "We all stand ready to support Mark, his staff and our student athletes as we develop an outstanding football program that the entire UMass family will be proud of."
Whipple, a 56-year-old native of Phoenix, Ariz., has 16 years’ experience as a head coach with a 121-59 overall record, including a 49-26 mark at UMass. His resume includes a National Coach of the Year award (1998), a Brown Athletic Hall of Fame induction (1996), an NFL Super Bowl Championship (2004), and a pair of collegiate bowl game appearances (2009, 2010).
As he begins his second coaching stint at UMass Amherst, Whipple will become 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.
Whipple's last coached with the Cleveland Browns from 2011-12 where he served as quarterbacks coach. While there 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 and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach during the 2009-10 seasons. While in Coral Gables, he guided the explosive Hurricanes' offense during two of their best statistical seasons. Both years featured total yardage in excess of 5,000 yards with 2010's total of 5,483 yards standing as the third most in program history. In his time with Miami, the Hurricanes posted a 16-10 overall record including a 10-6 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference and two bowl game appearances.
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 Ben Roethlisberger, who became the youngest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl. 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 has been a high-powered offense. His UMass teams rewrote the program's record book setting. 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). While at Brown, his 1997 squad set Ivy League and school records for total offense (474.3 yards per game), which included a single-game record of 629 yards against Yale. His 1995 team set several single-season records, including most points (282), total offense (4,165 yards), passing offense (2,502 yards) and first downs (227). At New Haven, his 1992 squad led all NCAA divisions in scoring offense (50.5 points per game) and total offense (587.7 yards per game). His 1993 New Haven team was named Sports Illustrated’s "Best Offense in College Football," averaging 52.5 points and 557.6 yards of total offense per game.
While at UMass, he posted a 49-26 (.653) record in six years (1998-2003) leading the Minutemen to a Division I-AA National Championship 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 in 1998. 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.
Taking over a program which finished 2-9 in 1997 and having had won just 19 games in the previous four seasons before his arrival, Whipple brought unparalleled success to the Minutemen. In Whipple's six seasons on the sideline, UMass football captured a national title, won three conference championships, made consecutive NCAA I-AA playoff appearances for the first time ever and had three NCAA berths overall. Overall as a head coach, his team's have posted a .500-or-better record 14 times. At UMass, no football coach reached the 20-win plateau faster than Whipple, who also owns five of the school's 11 all-time postseason victories.
Whipple also served as a head coach at his alma mater Brown from 1994-97, where he accumulated a 24-16 (.600) record without a losing season. He also was the head coach at New Haven from 1988-93 where he went an impressive 48-17 (.738) and led the team to back-to-back NCAA Division II playoff appearances in 1992 and 1993. His 1992 team finished 12-1 and ranked No. 5 nationally, while his 1993 squad ranked as high as No. 2 nationally.
His coaching career began in 1980 as an assistant at St. Lawrence University. Whipple made four more stops over the next seven years (Union College, 1981-82; Brown, 1983; Arizona Wranglers of the USFL, 1984; New Hampshire, 1986-87) before landing his first head coaching appointment.
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 football championship 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. on April 1, 1957, moving to Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of nine. He is a graduate of Camelback High School, where he was an All-State performer in both 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 a defensive assistant at the University of Pittsburgh. Austin is currently a freshman quarterback on the Penn State football team.