Could Kalani Sitake be a hot name during the next round of the college football coaching carousel?
BYU’s head coach has the Cougars off to a 5-0 start this season and a 16-1 record since the start of the 2020 season
With BYU football’s success over the past season and a half — the Cougars are 16-1 since the start of the 2020 season — it’s no surprise that BYU head coach Kalani Sitake’s name pops up when discussing coaching searches.
Would Sitake, who played for the Cougars under LaVell Edwards, really be interested in a head coaching position elsewhere? That’s the million-dollar question.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg identified Sitake as one of five non-Power Five coaches whose teams are currently undefeated and who should be in line for a promotion at the end of the 2021 season, if they want one.
The tough thing calling it a promotion here is that the top two ranked coaches on Rittenberg’s list, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and Sitake, will see their teams join a Power Five conference, the Big 12, in the near future after both accepted invitations in September. So if Fickell and Sitake stay put, they’ll soon be coaching a Power Five program.
Still, when looking at the long-term implications for an institution, it makes sense that other suitors may come calling to gauge the interest of coaches like Fickell, Sitake or the other three names on this list, Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell, UTSA’s Jeff Traylor and SMU’s Sonny Dykes.
Rittenberg identified two potential Western schools where Sitake could be up for consideration to become a program’s new head coach. The first is USC, which fired its head coach, Clay Helton, back on Sept. 13.
“Few would be surprised if Sitake stays at BYU for a long time, especially with the program entering the Big 12 in 2023. Sitake has a great situation with an excellent athletic director in (Tom) Holmoe, and comfortable surroundings,” Rittenberg wrote. “But if a program like USC came calling, he would have to listen. Sitake could instill the toughness, discipline and improved line-of-scrimmage play needed. USC also has a long tradition of producing elite Polynesian players, but has never had a Polynesian coach.”
The other program? Arizona State. Though the Sun Devils still have longtime coach Herm Edwards in charge, the school is under investigation by the NCAA for potential recruiting violations, which clouds the future of that program.
“Sitake has worked in the Pac-12 at Oregon State and Utah, knows the recruiting landscape, has no character concerns and makes really good staffing hires, which would be a priority if the allegations ASU is facing are proven true,” Rittenberg wrote. “But with BYU entering the Big 12 soon, would Arizona State be enough of a step up to leave?”
In the week leading up to the Cougars’ 2021 season opener against Arizona, Sitake received a contract extension that will keep him as BYU’s coach through the 2025 season.
“This is about setting our student-athletes up for success. Kalani’s culture of love and learning has created an incredible environment for his student-athletes and Cougar Nation that we are all inspired by,” Holmoe said in a press release at that time.
Sitake has a 43-26 record as head coach of the Cougars since taking over the program in 2016. His 10th-ranked BYU team next hosts traditionally tough Boise State in an afternoon game this Saturday, followed by three straight Power Five opponents — at Baylor, at Washington State and home vs. Virginia, coached by Sitake’s predecessor, Bronco Mendenhall.
If BYU comes out of that stretch still undefeated, Sitake’s name is sure to heat up even more in coaching search circles.
“Like Fickell, Sitake is in a good spot, both short term and long term. But if he wants to make a move, the time could be now as his stock is surging,” Rittenberg concluded.