Contract extension shows Kalani Sitake is following path of his greatest mentor, LaVell Edwards
New deal means BYU coach Kalani Sitake will be the face of the program for at least 10 years, taking him through 2025 season
On Sept. 13, 2016, after a heartbreaking 20-19 loss to rival Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium evened his career coaching record to 1-1, first-year BYU coach Kalani Sitake told fans he was in this thing for the long haul.
“I want to be the Polynesian LaVell Edwards,” Sitake said on his radio show that night.
Tuesday’s two-year contract extension, which takes Sitake through the 2025 season, shows the coach entering his sixth season in Provo is well on his way to doing that.
“I am just thankful for the trust and belief the administration has in our team, and our boys. I am just thankful we have more time together,” Sitake said on his coaches show Tuesday night, just minutes after the long-rumored news was made official. “I don’t want it to be a distraction. I just want to focus on the season and this game this weekend. But it feels good to have the belief of the players in our program.”
“I am just thankful for the trust and belief the administration has in our team, and our boys. I am just thankful we have more time together. I don’t want it to be a distraction. I just want to focus on the season and this game this weekend. But it feels good to have the belief of the players in our program.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake
If nothing else, the extension is a nice little reward for Sitake after he guided the Cougars to an 11-1 record and No. 11 national ranking in 2020, their best season in decades. He’s now 38-26 as BYU’s head coach.
What it really does is signal that BYU administrators are firmly behind how Sitake has led the program through the pandemic, and support his initiatives such as the Built4Life program to respond to the NCAA’s NIL rule changes.
It also sends a message to future recruits, current missionaries and even those players in the program now that there is a sense of stability throughout the program.
Clearly, Sitake isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He will be the face of the program through 2025, at which point he will have coached 10 seasons in Provo.
“I don’t want to make any predictions, other than we’re just going to try to represent well,” he said. “I want our players to focus on what they get to represent — their families and the mission of (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and the university. I think they will do a great job.”
That has to be music to the ears of BYU’s board of trustees — a coach speaking out about the importance of representing the sponsoring institution.
“I get to be around great disciples of Christ, and it has made my life a lot better,” Sitake said. “I get to be around wonderful fans. So for me, selfishly, I just want to hang around and keep improving.”
The latest extension, Sitake’s second since he signed on to replace Bronco Mendenhall after the 2015 season when Mendenhall left for Virginia, was met with “total elation” from his players, according to defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki.
“It is great news,” Tuiaki said Tuesday night. “The boys were cheering when they heard. Obviously, they love him as a head coach. We love him as coaches, and Cougar Nation loves him, too. It means a lot for him for us to have him for that long. The administration is showing a belief in him and the direction that the program is going. We are totally excited about that.”
BYU football had the second-lowest number of players enter the transfer portal this past year, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly. Sitake has made “player experience” a priority in the program, evidenced recently when he was instrumental in getting Built Brands LLC to pay the equivalent of a year’s tuition to every walk-on on the team.
“It is awesome,” said former walk-on Payton Wilgar, a starting linebacker. “Kalani is an amazing guy, an amazing coach. He deserves every bit of it. I am excited for him and his family.”
Added safety Malik Moore: “He loves his team. I can’t speak for him, but I don’t think there is anywhere he would rather be than at BYU coaching us. So I know for him it is big time. Whatever success and achievements he has, I am going to be rooting for him. Because he has done the same thing for me.”