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Utah football offers contract extensions to Sitake, staff

(Tom Smart, Deseret News)



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SALT LAKE CITY — In just a few days the Utah football team — back in the postseason after a short two season absence — will face off against Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The bowl bid is the cherry on top of what hasn't been a perfect campaign, but one that surpassed expectations, including a clean sweep of the California schools (Fresno State, Stanford, UCLA and USC); having two players named to the All-American team (Tom Hackett, first team; Nate Orchard, second team); and being ranked in all seven College Football Playoff rankings and finishing the regular season at No. 22.

Regardless of the outcome Saturday against the Rams, 2014 will go down as a successful season for the Utes.

Utah football at a glance
Offense
 Season StatsRank
Total Yards 374.8 87
Passing Yards 198.4 92
Rushing Yards 176.3 55
Points Scored 30.2 59
Field Goal % 84.6 12
Defense
 Season StatsRank
Total Yards 403.2 74
Passing Yards 245 92
Rushing Yards 158.2 57
Points Allowed 26.2 61
Field Goal % 73.7 72

But what happens next for Utah football with only three assistant coaches and head coach Kyle Whittingham under contract for next season?

Not to worry, Utah fans. Rest assured that if the school has its way, Utah will be coached by the same offensive coordinator in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007-08, as well as the same defensive coordinator it has had for the last six years.

KSL has learned from a Government Records Access and Management Act request dated Dec. 5 that the Utah athletic department has or will offer contract extensions for all assistant coaches whose contracts are set to expire in June of 2015. To KSL's knowledge, none of the coaches have yet to accept the terms of the proposed new contracts.

Perhaps the biggest name on that list is defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, who has been or will be offered a new two-year contract beginning July 2015 through June 2017, according to records obtained through the GRAMA request. Although exact dollar amounts were not disclosed to protect the parties involved in negotiation, the proposed new contract will include a "significant increase" in pay and that the school does "not want to lose Kalani to another defensive coordinator position."

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Rumors began circulating Wednesday morning about former Wisconsin and Utah State head coach Gary Andersen wanting to bring Sitake on board with him at his new job as the head man at Oregon State. Ultimately, Sitake will do what is best for him and his family, but it appears on the outside that the U. is willing to do whatever is necessary to keep him as the leader of the defensive unit. Sitake has been with the Utah football team for 10 seasons, serving as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the last six. Under Sitake, Utah's defense led the nation in total sacks this season with 52, averaging 4.3 per game. Utah has ranked in the top half of the Pac-12 in every season but one in either scoring defense or total defense.

In addition to Sitake's proposed new contract extension, offensive coordinator Dave Christensen has or will receive a new two-year contract extension, effective July 1, 2015, through June 20, 2017, according to records obtained. If accepted, Christensen will become the first offensive coordinator for the Utes to coach in consecutive seasons since Andy Ludwig from 2005-08, breaking a recent trend of seven different coordinators in seven seasons for the Utah offense.

Running back coach Dennis Erickson, left, offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and Head Coach Kyle Whittingham watch football practice at the University of Utah (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
Running back coach Dennis Erickson, left, offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and Head Coach Kyle Whittingham watch football practice at the University of Utah (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

As far as the other coaching staff extensions go, both offensive line coach Jim Harding and wide receiver coach Taylor Stubblefield are both under contract for another season so their contracts will remain unchanged.

All other assistant coaches on staff will receive a one-year extension, according to the obtained records, starting July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016.

Robert Jackson is the cross platform sports and weather producer for ksl.com and KSL-TV.

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