‘There’s No One Else’ Is Wrong Reason To Keep Sitake
PROVO, Utah – When it comes to BYU football, there’s a limited coaching pool to choose from. The head coach has to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and there just aren’t that many of them, relatively speaking, among college football coaches.
After the Toledo loss, the web site coacheshotseat.com listed Kalani Sitake ninth among coaches as most likely to lose their job. Ahead of him are two coaches the Cougars have already beat in Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt (no. 1), and Clay Helton (USC). Also ahead of Sitake is Charlie Strong, who coaches BYU’s upcoming opponent, South Florida.
As fans have talked about Sitake’s prospects, the argument has been made that – whether or not he should be in the hot seat – there’s not anyone out there who would fill BYU’s particular set of qualifications for the head coaching job.
“What a terrible argument to have somebody keep their job,” said KSL Unrivaled co-host Alex Kirry.
The tides turned quickly on Sitake. After the upset of No. 24 USC, social media was telling BYU to sign an extension with Kalani right away. When the dust settled on the loss to Toledo, other fans were calling for Sitake’s job.
If you’re going to make the case BYU needs a change in head coach, Kirry said, it should be about whether or not the job is getting done – not dependent on a lack of potential candidates in the market.
“It’s an awful argument and yet it’s been one that BYU fans have hung onto and frankly, I have too,” said Kirry. “Who else are you going to get? Kalani’s awesome and there’s no one else out there. What you’re really saying is, ‘Boy I really wish someone else was out there cause we’d hire him.’ That’s what people are saying. If a BYU fan is saying that, when their excuse is, ‘Yeah but there’s nobody else out there,’ you’re saying your coach is probably not doing a good enough job.”
Program nets worst season in 62 years
After completing his first season as head coach at BYU with a 9-4 record, Sitake has posted a 13-18 record since the beginning of the 2017 season.
Sitake opened his second year as the BYU football head man with a 1-7 start. The Cougars finished the year with a 4-9 record, including losses to East Carolina, Fresno State and UMass – all teams they should have beaten easily. It was the most losses for a BYU team since 1955.
Following the disappointing year, Sitake was forced to make changes to his coaching staff, including the dismissal of BYU legend and Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer from his duties as offensive coordinator.
“Who else are you going to get? Kalani’s awesome and there’s no one else out there. What you’re really saying is, ‘Boy I really wish someone else was out there cause we’d hire him.”
BYU recovered a little in 2018 with a 7-6 record and a bowl victory over Western Michigan, but Sitake’s squads have not been able to come out victorious against their main rivals.
Sitake has failed to beat the University of Utah in four tries, tying the Cougars’ longest-ever losing streak against the Utes. BYU has lost to Utah State in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1973-74. It was just the second loss to the Aggies in Provo since 1978.
Boise State has also defeated the Sitake-led Cougars three straight seasons. Their fourth meeting of the Sitake era is scheduled for October 19 in Provo. With UNLV and Hawaii on their schedule, the 16th-ranked Broncos are expected to come into LaVell Edwards Stadium with a 6-0 record.
The Cougars have only beaten Boise State twice over the nine-game series.
AD Acknowledged Hiring Limitations
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe spoke to BYU’s limitations when he hired Sitake back in December 2015.
“We’re not going to have that opportunity to look at people who have been in the business for a long, long time,” Holmoe said. “I’ve had incredible experiences being around first-year assistant coaches, coordinators and head coaches. I know how difficult it is because I was a first-year head coach without having that experience and didn’t really do well.”
Tom Holmoe said two years ago that they always keep tabs of the best LDS coaches in every sport. #BYU has a list of candidates already.
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) December 4, 2015
Holmoe confirmed in 2018 what the fanbase already assumes – that BYU’s head football coach must be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Holmoe confirmed the long held idea but finally gave it an official nod that the head coach of the football team has to be LDS.#BYUSN
— Jarom Jordan (@jaromjordan) January 24, 2018
BYU Has Been Inconsistent In 2019
Despite two exciting overtime wins over marque opponents against Tennessee and 24th-ranked USC, BYU has struggled, once again, to find an identity on the field.
The Cougars started the season with a 2-3 record. They began the season will a loss to Utah. At LaVell Edwards Stadium. Again.
They were blown out by Washington on national television for the second year in a row, on a day they had rolled out the blue carpet to all of the former big-time award winners.
They paid tribute to the “glory days” with special throwback uniforms, helmets and field design.
Their third loss came at the hands of Toledo of the Mid-American Conference.
The team is already without starting running back Ty’Son Williams for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
In the 28-21 loss at Toledo, BYU starting QB Zach Wilson suffered an injury to his throwing hand which will sideline him for at least three games.
Only one season (2013) in the independence era has #BYU had the same starting QB for every game throughout a season.
Backup QBs are valuable. Jaren Hall will have two weeks to get ready for USF.#KSLsports
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) September 28, 2019
The Cougars need to win four of their next seven games to become bowl eligible.
“South Florida is the game that will determine whether BYU makes it bowl eligible this year or not,” said Mitchell of the Cougar’s next game.
BYU plays at USF on Saturday, October 6.
“If they’re not eligible, does Kalani Sitake keep his job?” said Kirry. “What’s the argument about keeping Kalani Sitake? What’s the number one argument?”
“There’s no one else,” said Mitchell.
BYU’s Challenge To Hire After Bronco
Back in 2015, when BYU was in the middle of a head coaching search after Bronco Mendenhall left Provo for Charlottesville, Virginia, a number of college coaches with ties to BYU or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were highlighted by KSL Sports’ Mitch Harper. Harper listed Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Sitake, Ken Niumatolo (Navy), Jay Hill (Weber State), and Darrell Bevell (NFL) as potential replacements for Mendenhall.
LDS coaches to keep an eye on:
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) December 4, 2015
After ruling out Niumatolo, BYU ultimately decided on Sitake, who is under contract through the 2020 season.
Fast forward three-an-a-half years, and BYU finds itself looking for answers after a roller coaster start to the 2019 schedule.
Head coaches normally sign contract extensions before their final year, but there has been no such talk with Sitake. It could be that Holmoe is waiting until the end of the season, or could it be that he’s biding his time to see how the rest of the season goes.
There have been highs this year. After the Tennessee and USC wins, several fans and media members asked openly when Sitake’s contact would be extended.
With the Cougars now under .500 nearly halfway through the season, the conversation has shifted from the contract extension to, “Is Kalani the right man for the job?” If not, who is?
The Cougars have been an FBS independent in football since 2011. Without conference affiliation, BYU has run into early season challenges due to front-loaded schedules. The Cougars were the only team in the country to play four Power 5 opponents in the first four weeks of the season and three ranked opponents in that timespan.
After leaving BYU, Mendenhall said during a national radio interview that he believed that independence wasn’t a sustainable model for the Cougars.
Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall on @SiriusXMCollege about his former school: “I don’t think independence is sustainable (for BYU)”
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) February 16, 2016
“What are you going to do differently? Your schedule is gonna be really hard at the beginning of the year,” said Mitchell on KSL’s Unrivaled. “You’re gonna get beat up. It’s gonna be brutal. You’re gonna be fighting to be .500 after your first four or five games and you’re gonna play a bunch of teams that aren’t worse than you. You’re not better. You have to play every single week to beat them. I’m just telling you, South Florida, I know they are 1-3 this year. They’re not very good. They’re gonna give BYU a game. It’s gonna be a game.”
Is #BYU's bowl eligibility on the line with Zach Wilson out for a few weeks?
— KSL's UnRivaled (@KSLunrivaled) October 2, 2019
“BYU not in a position where they’re just athletically that much better than everyone else they play. They’re not that way. Maybe Idaho State and I’m saying maybe and I’m saying Liberty, UMass, but they’re not gonna be better than San Diego State. They’re gonna have to fight and play and it’s a hard thing to do every single week,” said Mitchell.
The Cougars have a bye week before heading on the road to play at USF on Saturday, October 6.
BYU has never won a game in the state of Florida.
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