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College football 'talking season' is here, but first the coaches go golfing


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SANDY — For 29 years, the coaching staffs at BYU and Utah have come together in June to support the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho for a charity golf event raising thousands of dollars annually for the publicly funded nonprofit organization.

But with new NCAA legislation extending the recruiting period into June and both schools offering seven-on-seven camps deep into the summer, both BYU coach Kalani Sitake and Utah's Kyle Whittingham had plenty of conflicts.

Neither one of them wanted to miss the event Monday, though — Sitake even got a speeding ticket as he drove from Provo to Hidden Valley County Club in Sandy to arrive in time for the annual luncheon.

"Even coaches get speeding tickets," Sitake quipped.

Monday's luncheon was appointment viewing for Whittingham, too. Even without the obligation of the losing coach singing the opposing school's fight song.

"June is a lot more busy for coaches than it used to be, with the satellite camps and more official visits in June," he said. "It's a lot different than it once was, but I just have to make time for this."

The event began with legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards and has brought together every coach in the rivalry since, including Utah’s Ron McBride — still seated at the center table, across from Sitake and next to former BYU and NFL tight end Chad Lewis.

To Sitake's right sat Whittingham, laughing like a buddy-cop duo of former coaching colleagues who played at the same school and coached together at a rival institution.

In those 29 years, the group has raised funds to help the roughly 468,000 Americans with kidney disease who are receiving dialysis treatment or the 1,316 people from Utah and Idaho currently awaiting a life-saving organ transplant.

"It's the cause that matters, and I’m honored to be affiliated with it for so many years," Whittingham said, "as well as coach McBride before that, and I think even coach (Jim) Fassel before him. It does a lot of good for the National Kidney Foundation, and I’m honored to be a part of it."

While getting ready for a season where the Utes look to build off the only successful postseason in Pac-12 football, and as the Cougars try to turn things around from last year’s disastrous 4-9 campaign, it was good to take time away from the grind of 24/7 college football.

The rest will come soon enough.

"You go through these parts where you know it’s around the corner," Sitake said. "The hardest part is vacation; you need to take time off. But if everything is done correctly, I think we will be ready. I’ll spend some time with the family in July, but right now, I’m pleased with how hard everyone is working — especially the players."

BYU coach Kalani Sitake and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham during the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho's annual charity golf tournament at Hidden Valley Country Club, Monady, June 18, 2018 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo: KSL TV)
BYU coach Kalani Sitake and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham during the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho's annual charity golf tournament at Hidden Valley Country Club, Monady, June 18, 2018 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo: KSL TV)

In the meantime, there's also new NCAA legislation to learn. The nation's operating body for collegiate athletics recently approved two amendments that will go into effect this year, allowing players to retain redshirt eligibility while playing in up to four games, as well as eliminating restrictions on student-athlete transfers.

Sitake has been an advocate of the latter since he took the head coaching job at BYU almost three years ago, he said.

"I've said that if a kid wants a release, I’ve released him and Tom (Holmoe, athletic director) and I have been doing that since day one," he added. "I think the NCAA just finally agreed with us. It’s a good move. Football should be about the student-athlete and what kind of experience they want in college."

Contrary to skeptical opinion, Whittingham doesn't envision many challenges regarding the daily practice of the NCAA's new transfer policy. And the new redshirt rules will only help schools like Utah and BYU, where significant portions of the team return every season from two-year missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — and some as late as August.

"It's something that I think is long overdue," Whittingham said. "It will take a lot of stress off of players, especially late in the season when you get to be low on numbers. It gives you extra bodies to help with special teams or whatever the case may be."

The Utes open the 2018 campaign in fewer than 80 days, hosting Weber State on Thursday, Aug. 30. BYU opens the season Sept. 1 at Arizona.

Media day warm up

BYU will host its annual football media day Friday at the BYU Broadcasting Building.

No major announcement is expected, and few surprises have leaked out in the lead up to the event. That means the focus should be on the football team, which is coming off a disastrous 4-9 campaign that saw former offensive coordinator Ty Detmer let go and new play caller Jeff Grimes brought in, along with new coaches for the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs and offensive linemen.

So media have one job, Sitake said.

"This is like a little warmup for the media day on Friday," he joked Monday. "So if you guys ask me the same questions, I’ll tell you that you guys suck."

Most of the events of media day will be simulcast on BYUtv.

Not running from the schedule

A lot of mentions following BYU's 2017 campaign have come with the schedule.

As an independent, the Cougars' schedule has routinely been front-loaded — with the top games played before most teams begin the grind of conference play. In 2018, the schedule is mostly frontloaded — but a bit more balanced on the back end, including the annual rival game at Utah scheduled for the final week of the season.

BYU will also play Arizona, Wisconsin, Boise State and Northern Illinois, among others, during its 12-game slate — and don't expect Tom Holmoe to lighten up on the schedule any time soon.

“I think we can have a lot of success, and that means we have to play the best. I’m glad Tom is getting a lot of games ready for us,” Sitake said.

“If we talk about being in the Power-5, then we should probably get a schedule that matches it.”


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