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What Tom Holmoe says about Kalani Sitake’s future, the Cougars’ bowl situation, and more

Longtime BYU athletic director appeared on BYUtv’s ‘BYU Sports Nation’ show Monday and addressed a variety of topics and issues related to Cougar sports

BYU athletic director says that Kalani Sitake is BYU’s coach and that “we want him for a long time.”
BYU athletic director says that Kalani Sitake is BYU’s coach and that “we want him for a long time, and good things are going to happen in the near future.”
Mark A. Philbrick, BYU

You can’t read about major college football coaching openings around the country without coming upon the name of BYU’s coach since 2016, Kalani Sitake.

The latest opening is at Oregon, the Pac-12 school that Mario Cristobal left Monday to take the reins at Miami, where he will make $80 million with a 10-year contract.

Sure enough, the 46-year-old Sitake is supposedly a candidate in Eugene, and several outlets are putting his name up there with the likes of UCLA’s Chip Kelly, Cal’s Justin Wilcox and Auburn’s Bryan Harsin.

What is BYU doing to keep Sitake, who is 48-28 during his six-year tenure and 21-3 in his last two seasons in Provo?

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe was asked just that Monday on BYUtv’s “BYU Sports Nation” and assured Cougars fans that the school is working on it.

“We are in conversations with Kalani at this point in time, and he’s our coach. We want him for a long time, and good things are going to happen in the near future.”

Sitake, who will guide the No. 13 Cougars (10-2) into the Independence Bowl on Dec. 18 against UAB, signed a contract extension in August that takes him through the 2025 season. Because BYU is a private institution and not subject to government open records laws, Sitake’s exact salary is unknown, but suffice it to say it is well below $10 million a year.

BYU ‘a half a yard’ short of NY6 bowl

Holmoe’s appearance on the BYU-owned television station came a day after the Cougars were not invited to a New Year’s Six bowl game. He was asked if there was a chance BYU could have gone to a more high-profile bowl than the Independence.

“I talked to ESPN this year in the event that something were to happen and we were highly ranked and not in (the NY6) and they said (their bowls) were all slotted and that is how it would be,” Holmoe said. “So we knew, kinda, that this is how it was going to be. It came down to New Year’s Six selection and we missed it by a half a yard.”

Holmoe recounted the history of BYU playing in seven-straight ESPN Events-owned bowls after it went independent in 2011 and didn’t have a conference bowl tie-in to rely on.

“By the time we got to the end of that contract, and extended it, there were really no bowls that were just left open; they were all associated with conferences,” Holmoe said.

Boise State loss still stings

Holmoe was asked if the Cougars would be in a NY6 bowl if they had just one loss on their record, rather than two. They fell 26-17 to Boise State and 38-24 to Big 12 champion Baylor.

“College football has been, and is, and probably always will be, about conferences,” he said, not giving a concrete opinion. “When we went independent, we took a giant step. It was a huge risk, and there were a lot of downs and ups. But we took that step to get us into a big conference, so that we don’t have to deal with this stuff in the future.

“And unfortunately, we have to deal with it this year, and we have one more year of independence. … This last year, and this year, combined, have done wonders for the future of our program. So as we move forward into the future, starting right now — the future is now — we have a chance to win 11 games and with that Big 12 (entrance) on the horizon (in 2023) … there is a lot to look forward to.”

Did BYU need to go undefeated to get into the NY6? Holmoe isn’t sure.

“I don’t know,” he told studio hosts Jarom Jordan and Spencer Linton. “I think that maybe because of what we did last year, having such a great year (11-1) and being right on the outside, and looking at this year, if we had had that one loss to a Baylor team that is a conference champion, it could have made a difference, But it is woulda, coulda, shoulda. We don’t really know that.”

Disappointment doubles

Not only was BYU left out of the NY6, the Cougars tumbled from No. 12 to No. 13 without having played over the weekend. Their regular season ended with the 35-31 win over USC on Nov. 27. Pac-12 champion Utah and ACC champ Pittsburgh leapfrogged the Cougars, essentially so all the NY6 participants could be ranked in the top 12.

What did Holmoe think about that?

“Well, I, like everyone in Cougar Nation, didn’t like the fact that we dropped. We don’t really have control over that. Never had, never would have,” Holmoe said. “But we can start to take control of that by getting into the Big 12, which we will be in two years, and as much as there is so much angst with yesterday and what happened, we have to look forward to this game against UAB in the Independence Bowl.

“We have to have a great game and punch us forward, move us forward, give us growth, give us development, and move us forward into moving into the Big 12. That’s what it is all about right now.”