Unrivaled Discussion: Would Kalani Sitake Ever Be Utah’s Head Coach?

Nov 17, 2021, 1:03 PM
BYU Football - Kalani Sitake...
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake talks with Aggie fans in Logan on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – BYU head coach Kalani Sitake’s name is being mentioned with nearly every opening or even potential college football head coach opening, especially on the West Coast.

USC, Washington, and Washington State are all currently open positions.

At the Power 5 level there are multiple job openings that include Washington, Washington State, USC, LSU, Virginia Tech, and TCU; with likely more with soon-to-be changes either from firings or shuffling to take high profile jobs. This does not even include the handle of Group of 5 jobs that have opened up mid-season in what seems like a record number of athletic departments going in a different direction.

With Sitake currently on a two-year hot streak of coaching with an 11-1 record last year and currently, the 2021 version is a top-15 team, owning a 5-1 record against Power 5 teams with another possibility against USC and just two losses.

His name will be out there for a lot of openings, and specifically, the Pac-12 openings.

Going beyond Sitake’s record, he knows the Pac-12 quite well. The Cougars play the conference multiple times a year, recruits against kids who have offers from those leagues, he was the defensive coordinator at Oregon State and with Utah during their early years of the Pac-12.

Pac-12 Schools Have More Resources

There is no doubt that right now schools in the Pac-12 can offer a lot more in pay and resources compared to BYU as an independent, and maybe even once they are in the Big 12.

Unrivaled’s Scott Mitchell believes that in addition to resources being better but possibly more important is that recruiting will always be tougher at BYU due to academics but also the Honor Code.

“I think if you’re a BYU fan, you should be really nervous. When you have an opportunity as a coach, you have to look at, ‘can I have a bigger potential at Washington over BYU?’ And I think the answer is ‘yes,'” Mitchell said. “I think with the challenges and the limited ability that BYU has in recruiting, and mind you, Kalani has done a phenomenal job, but when you’re competing against Power Five schools week in and week out it’s going to be a grind. You have to ask yourself, ‘can Kalani Sataki go to Washington and recruit without any limitations, without any restrictions?’

“He understands the Pac-12. It’s not a foreign place to him. It would be the perfect role for him now if he wants to be something more. If he wants to be a guy like Kyle Whittingham and just say, ‘I’m going to stay at one program and try to stick here my whole entire career,’ then BYU is for him,” Mitchell added. “There’s a big upside to Washington. Washington has been a national champion. Washington has been in the playoffs. Washington is considered one of the top-tier teams in the Pac-12.”

Sitake was asked about the current Pac-12 openings and gave a predictable answer about preparing for the next game against Georgia Southern.

“I know why you guys are asking those questions and things like that. But I’m focused on getting our team ready for Georgia Southern. That’s been my focus the entire season,” Sitake during his weekly press conference. “Whether you ask that question in August, September, October, and now November, the answer is still the same; I’m taking this thing week by week and focusing on getting these guys ready to play at their best.

“We have some changes in the lineups and with health issues, trying to get guys back. So all of my attention can only go to the boys and trying to give the fans what they want this weekend, which is performing at our best. I think if we do that, we’ll be happy with the result. But I understand why you ask the question, but that’s my focus.”

He knows the interest is there and with BYU going to the Big 12 in a few years there will be some benefits coming Sitake’s way like a likely larger paycheck, easier access to big-time bowl games, and recruiting should be easier as well.

It would be really hard to turn down USC which could back up a truck full of gold coins to Sitake if the Trojans wanted him in Los Angeles. The allure of bringing them back to national promise is appealing but there is a lot of pressure that goes along with that Southern California program.

As for Washington, they are just one of two Pac-12 teams to reach the College Football Playoff and have a pretty good tradition of their own which includes winning the 1991 national title.

What If Utah Comes Calling?

It seems likely that Sitake stays at BYU and guides them into the Big 12, but what is going to happen once the Utah job opens up in a few years when Kyle Whittingham retires?

Now, this would be an interesting case for Sitake to go back to place he spent so much time.

Utah was heading in the direction of hiring Morgan Scalley but that basically fell apart about a year and a half ago when he was suspended for using racial slurs in 2013. Now, once the search for Whittingham’s replacement will likely include Sitake who was Utah’s defensive coordinator from 2012-14 and spent 10 total years coaching the Utes.

Unrivaled’s Alex Kirry asks Mitchell if Sitake would entertain the idea of at least talking to Utah once that job opens up.

“It is not insane and it is a possibility. I say yes because Kalani is a guy who would never get fired at BYU? Yes, he could get fired at BYU. So, I think in the back of his mind he knows the precarious position he is in,” Mitchell said. “He knows the challenges he faces – just like [former BYU head coach] Bronco [Mendenhall] knew.

“He is a guy who understands the culture at Utah and could continue to maintain the culture that is there. Kalani Sitake would be phenomenal at Utah. How he would recruit and what he would bring to the program.”

Kirry chimes in with his thoughts on how BYU fans would react if Sitake were to take the Utah job.

“How grumpy and how salty would BYU fans be,” Kirry said “If two former players who played for LaVell Edwards and guys who loved that program and suddenly have to switch things over.”

The coaching rumors surrounding Sitake will be around as long as he is having success at BYU which he very well could and should use it as leverage to increase not only his pay but for his assistants as well.

Tune into Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 3-7 p .m. on 1280 The Zone and 97.5 FM or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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Unrivaled Discussion: Would Kalani Sitake Ever Be Utah’s Head Coach?