Taking over a program which finished 2-9 in 1997 and had won just 19 games in the previous four seasons before his arrival, Mark Whipple enters his sixth season as head football coach at the University of Massachusetts looking to build on the unparalleled success the Minutemen have enjoyed under his leadership the past five years. Consider that in Whipple’s first five seasons on the sideline, UMass football has captured its first national title, shared a conference championship and made consecutive NCAA I-AA playoff appearances for the first time ever.
Introduced as the 26th coach in UMass history by then-athletic director Bob Marcum on Dec. 16, 1997, Whipple enters his 16th season as a collegiate head coach with a record of 111-56 (.665), which includes a five-year mark of 39-23 (.629) in Amherst. Whipple-coached teams have posted a .500 or better record 13 times, highlighted by three double-digit victory performances. No UMass football coach reached the 20-win plateau faster than Whipple, who also owns five of the school’s seven all-time postseason victories.
In Whipple’s rookie season at UMass, the Minutemen won a school-record 12 games (against three losses) 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 NCAA Championship game.
The Minutemen followed up Whipple’s first campaign with another outstanding season in 1999. Armed with a lofty preseason ranking and the proverbial bullseye which is pinned to the back of defending national champions, UMass rebounded from a 1-3 start to post a 9-4 record and advance 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 Conference 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 had strung together three straight winning seasons since a five-year run from 1977-1981. 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, and finished 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).
At every stop, the trademark of a Whipple-coached team is high-powered offensive play, and his UMass squads have rewritten the Minuteman recordbook, setting 38 team records over the last five years. In 1998, UMass set new school single season marks for points scored (524), touchdowns (73), total yards (7,074), highest average yards per play (5.9), passing yards (4,050), completions (306) and first downs (354). The 1999 team finished with totals of 415 points, 55 touchdowns, 5,673 total yards, 5.6 yards per play, 3,230 passing yards, 271 completions and 289 first downs, all of which rank as the second-highest single season totals in school history, behind the marks set a year earlier. In addition, 14 different UMass players have earned All-America honors during Whipple’s five years as head coach.
Following his first season as UMass’ head coach, Whipple received a number of awards. He was honored by the American Football Coaches Association as the 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 finishing as the 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, earned AFCA / GTE Region I Coach of the Year honors, and was selected as the New England Division I Coach of the Year by both the New England Football Writers and the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston.
Whipple came to UMass following a four-year stint at his alma mater, Brown University. During his four years at Brown, 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.
During his career at Brown, Whipple’s teams were prolific on the offensive side of the ball. 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). 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 of the game 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.
Before his tenure at Brown, Whipple spent six years at the University of New Haven, 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. In 1992, he led the Chargers to a 12-1 mark, advancing to the NCAA semifinals and finishing with a No. 5 ranking nationally. 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.
His 1992 offense led all NCAA Divisions in scoring offense (50.5 points per game) and total offense (587.7 yards per game). Whipple’s 1993 team, which was named Sports Illustrated’s “Best Offense in College Football,” averaged 52.5 points and 557.6 yards of total offense per game. The Chargers were ranked in the top 20 nationally in five of his six seasons at New Haven.
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 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.
The 46-year-old Whipple (born April 1, 1957) 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 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, reside in South Hadley with their two sons, Spencer (born March 18, 1989) and Austin (born November 19, 1993).
Whipple’s Year-By-Year Record
Year School Record Accomplishments 1988 New Haven 7-3 1989 New Haven 8-2 1990 New Haven 7-3 1991 New Haven 3-7 1992 New Haven 12-1 NCAA Division II Semifinals 1993 New Haven 11-1 NCAA Division II Second Round 1994 Brown 7-3 1995 Brown 5-5 1996 Brown 5-5 1997 Brown 7-3 1998 Massachusetts 12-3 NCAA Division I-AA Champions 1999 Massachusetts 9-4 Atlantic 10 Champions/NCAA Division I-AA Quarterfinals 2000 Massachusetts 7-4 2001 Massachusetts 3-8 2002 Massachusetts 8-4 UMass Five years 39-23 .629 winning percentage Career 15 years 111-56 .665 winning percentage