COURTESY OF UTAH ATHLETICS
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s annual spring game will take on a special tone Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Utes have enlisted the help of a pair of inspirational honorary coaches.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham announced that 8-year-old Mac Brennan of Salt Lake City and 12-year-old Tristan Chidester of Herriman will support the staff in the spring finale. Brennan is undergoing treatment for leukemia and Tristan has battled an aggressive form of bone cancer, which led to the loss of a leg.
“We selected Tristan and Mac to coach this year’s Red-White Spring Game as a tribute to their fighting, resilient and winning spirit in battling cancer,” Whittingham said in announcing the appointments. “Their courage and positive attitude is an example and inspiration to us all.”
Whittingham went on to say that the Utes could not be more honored to have the guys on the sidelines Saturday.
All was well until Tuesday. That’s when Mac found out he won’t be able to make it. A scheduled hospital stay was moved to the weekend so his immune system will be strong enough to handle another round of chemotherapy.
The news didn’t sit well with the honorary coach, who made it known he was “bummed out” at practice.
“That guy is a football junkie. He loves football. He loves the Utes,” Whittingham said. “He’s really ticked off that he’s not going to be able to coach in the game but he was able to talk to the team today and explain to them what the deal was.”
Whittingham added that Mac, who has been assisting Dennis Erickson with the running backs this spring, has been a great addition to have around at practice. He was chosen to assist wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield with the Red team in the spring finale.
Although Mac won’t be at the stadium, Whittingham noted he’ll be there in spirit.
“He says he’s going to try to get the Pac-12 Network in the hospital and demand that they let him watch it,” Whittingham said.
Mac is the son of Utah senior associate athletics director Kyle Brennan. His mother, Beth, is the coordinator of football academics for the Utes.
Utah’s other honorary coach Saturday, Tristan, dreams of playing for the Utes someday. He’ll assist offensive line coach Jim Harding with the White squad. Tristan was diagnosed in 2010 but has been cancer free for more than a year, attending a couple of Utah football practices while recovering.
Whittingham said such relationships are extremely rewarding.
“Our players do such a great job of embracing children and young men in that situation where they’re having some struggles and some difficulties and it’s good to see,” he noted. “That’s something our team has been very conscious of and aware of — is looking out for people who are in tough circumstances.”
Saturday’s Red-White Game, which will be broadcast on the Pac-12 networks, is scheduled for 1 p.m. and is open to the public. Prior to the scrimmage, there will be a MUSS football game at 11 a.m. and an alumni contest at noon.
UTA will provide free transportation to the stadium via game-day routes and TRAX. Passes can be printed online.
The Red-White Game will be comprised of four 10-minute quarters. The second half will feature a running clock. Each team will be allowed one timeout per quarter. There will be no kickoff or punt returns. Kickoffs will be placed at the 35-yard line and punts marked where a fair catch is made.
Other variations include a scoring team retaining possession if trailing by 10 or more points and the defense being limited to a “base” scheme.
Whittingham said the rosters are “evenly balanced."
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