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SALT LAKE CITY — For all the reasons Kalani Sitake deserves a contract extension, recruiting does not rank at the top of the list.
With two years remaining on Sitake’s deal, the prevailing thought is BYU needs to lengthen the football coach’s contract to stabilize the program. The theory is recruiting, the lifeblood of any program, takes a serious hit without the coach having security.
But few, if any, BYU prospects are even bothering to broach the subject of Sitake’s contract status during the recruiting process. Nor should they be — contracts, beyond money, often don’t guarantee much either way.
In countless cases, college coaches in various sports have not fulfilled the terms of their contracts before moving on to other jobs. Every year, administrations also fire coaches and buy out the remaining terms of a contract.
Speaking during a regularly scheduled meeting with local media, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said he does not believe Sitake’s contract status is an issue. He pointed out BYU doesn’t usually extend contracts with multiple years left on a given deal
“We rarely have gone into the last year of a contract, and it’s not his last year.,” Holmoe said.
“We talk about all kinds of things. I know exactly where he stands, and he knows exactly where I stand. We don’t talk about it.”
If a lame-duck coach can’t recruit, BYU would not have been able to sign 14 players from five states in December. Another several are expected to sign in the first week of February.
In the end, his contract status should not affect Sitake’s job performance.
“I just leave that with the administration and my agent. I’m worried about what I’m doing today. I love where I’m at and that’s all that matters,” he said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network.
“I love being at BYU and I’m really committed to being here and making it work here. I’ve got to do my job and tomorrow will take care of itself.”
The fact that Sitake has been able to sign enough talented players is enough to deserve a contract extension. On multiple levels, recruiting at BYU never has been more difficult.
To the surprise of some, BYU’s stringent Honor Code is not the biggest hurdle to clear in recruiting. It’s more on the academic standards reaching an elite level, making it difficult for the coaching staff to sign qualified players.
Holmoe, who coached at Stanford and Cal before transitioning to administration, compares BYU’s admission requirements to dozens of institutions, including the two renowned schools in the Bay Area. He said BYU does make exceptions for athletes in men’s and women’s programs.
“Our coaches, our academic staff and admissions have really collaborated to get to a point where we all understand (the requirements),” he said. “I’ve done this — I’ve played, I’ve coached, I’ve been an administrator — if there’s a kid out there that you really, really want and he or she would be an exception, I’ll fight for them.”
But privately, coaches from several sports have voiced concern about getting some athletes admitted into BYU.
A recent example involves the football program’s inability to bring a graduate transfer who wanted to complete his eligibility at BYU but was denied admission. With a degree in hand, the player could not get into a graduate program at BYU and was forced to choose another program. The same standard applies to incoming freshmen and junior college transfers.
In effect, the football program is charged to remain competitive against a slanted playing field. Adding to the difficulty, BYU often plays a tough schedule and is the rare independent without the opportunity to compete for a conference championship.
Holmoe, who said he is “not plugged in” to admissions for graduate school, believes the issue is a growing concern around the country. The number of undergraduate and graduate transfers increases each year.
“If you think it’s hard to get into BYU (as an) undergraduate, try graduate school,” Holmoe said. “It’s super, super tough.”