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Don Green
Aerial view of Rice-Eccles Stadium during the Utah-BYU game November 22, 2008.

SALT LAKE CITY — Renewed talk of Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion has surfaced with the hiring of Mark Harlan as Utah’s new athletic director.

“We’re excited to see it happen. That’s something that I think would really be a nice touch to that stadium,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted that redoing the south end zone would be a good recruiting tool.

It would also help address the demand for tickets, he added, at the 45,807-seat venue. The Utes have 51 consecutive sellouts dating back to 2010. The streak also includes 48 standing-room-only crowds.

“So (expansion) would give the opportunity for 5,000 or 6,000 more fans to come to the games,” Whittingham said.

As far as Harlan is concerned, the coach and athletic director have yet to spend much time together — aside from a meeting where Harlan spoke to the entire athletic department. However, Whittingham said that Harlan appeared to “have a lot of energy” and “seemed very excited” about coming to Utah. He officially begins his duties on July 1.

“I’ll obviously get a lot better feel down the road as I interact with him,” Whittingham said.

Ravell Call
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham watches a replay during NCAA football against San Jose State played in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.

PAC-12 MEDIA DAY: Whittingham will be joined at Pac-12 Media Day by center Lo Falemaka and linebacker Chase Hansen. The annual gathering is set for July 25 in Hollywood, California.

“I think they’ll do a great job representing us,” said Whittingham, who added that both players earned it.

Whittingham acknowledged that Pac-12 Media Day kind of kicks things off.

“I think it’s an indicator that the season is right around the corner,” he said. “It really signifies that football is about to start.”

The Utes report for fall camp on July 31 and begin practicing on Aug.1.

MAKING PROGRESS: After almost two full weeks of summer conditioning, Whittingham said all indications are that the players are “working hard” and have “outstanding leadership” thus far.

“I think this group understands that we have a chance to be pretty good this fall if they’ll sacrifice and put in the work,” Whittingham said.

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EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham noted that about 90 percent of this year’s recruiting class is participating in summer conditioning. The Utes, though, are still awaiting the arrival of a few. A couple of situations, Whittingham acknowledged, may linger for a few weeks before being resolved . . . The Utes open the season Aug. 30 at home against Weber State . . . Former BYU linebacker Francis Bernard is not with the program at this point and is still considered a “recruitable athlete.” As such, Whittingham is unable to comment on his status . . . It’s summer camp time up at the U. and Whittingham estimates that there are 400-plus kids “running around here, padded up and going at it.”