BYU Fans Should Be Thankful For Perfect Coaches Leading Their High Profile Teams
PROVO, Utah – The 2020 calendar year has been trying in so many ways, but for BYU athletics, it’s been a breakthrough year for their football and men’s basketball programs. A breakthrough BYU fans have been waiting for since the Cougars became an Independent and WCC program 10 years ago.
On this Thanksgiving holiday, during wild times in 2020, BYU fans should take a step back and be thankful for what they see on the gridiron and the hardwood. All the thanks need to start with the two head coaches leading the way, Kalani Sitake, and Mark Pope.
Both coaches had tall tasks in replacing successful predecessors, but each has shown they are the perfect fits for BYU in 2020 and beyond.
Kalani Sitake is the perfect leader for BYU Football
Kalani Sitake inherited a BYU football program that had proven itself to be a consistent eight to 10 win football team under Bronco Mendenhall. Sitake, a first-time head coach, had his share of struggles early in his tenure. The BYU that Sitake saw as a player with LaVell Edwards leading the way did not face the challenges that Mendenhall and then Sitake had to endure as Independents.
Coach @kalanifsitake named to the 2020 Paul “Bear” Bryant Award watch list.
— BYU FOOTBALL (@BYUfootball) November 18, 2020
It took time for Sitake; for some fans, it was too much time, as he suffered some brutal losses to East Carolina, UMass, Northern Illinois, and Toledo. But the adversity and the commitment to playing the best talent is paying off for Sitake and BYU football now.
The Cougars No. 14 ranking in the College Football Playoff Top 25 doesn’t diminish what Sitake and BYU have accomplished in 2020. BYU had lacked an identity under Sitake. This year, they found their identity. That identity is an explosive offense with a nasty defense that will leave opponents feeling BYU’s presence.
Off the field, you’ll always hear Sitake showing love and support for his players. The players in BYU’s football program reciprocate the love back to Sitake through their year-round work in the weight room, taking ownership of the team, and always giving their head coach props any way they can for the family atmosphere he’s created.
Mark Pope reaching new heights with BYU basketball
On the hardwood, Mark Pope has ignited a fire in the BYU Men’s Basketball program. This is a program that few realize is one of the 20 winningest programs in college basketball history. Despite that winning tradition, there was a sense from fans that more could be accomplished.
Tom Holmoe announced that a contract extension has been finalized for Coach Pope that extends through the 2026-27 season.
In an effort to help BYU Athletics with budget concerns due to COVID-19, Pope elected to defer increased compensation in the new contract into future years. pic.twitter.com/1cBsNFeRrc
— BYU Basketball (@BYUbasketball) November 25, 2020
Pope, a second-year coach who moved down University Parkway from Utah Valley University, had big shoes to fill in replacing Dave Rose. He took the BYU job because he believed he could win big. He’s passed with flying colors so far, leading BYU to a 24-8 record and No. 18 ranking in both the AP and Coaches polls in his first season.
That success on the court now has the high-energy and data-driven Pope winning battles away from the court on the recruiting trail against some of the nation’s biggest programs. Landing a graduate transfer like Purdue’s Matt Haarms was a message that Pope and BYU are players on the national scene, and they won’t be just a one-hit-wonder.
2020 has provided changes for everyone in all walks of life. The changes BYU fans have experienced with their beloved Cougars in football and hoops is the type of change that they could only hope will be the new normal going forward.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.
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