PROVO — BYU added another honor Tuesday to its breakout 2020 football season, which has seen notable recognition to quarterback Zach Wilson, wide receivers Gunner Romney and Dax Milne, and running back Tyler Allgeier, among others.
This time, the top boss is getting noticed.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake was one of 20 coaches nominated to the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award watch list Tuesday evening, joining an acclaimed list of individuals that includes Alabama's Nick Saban, Ohio State's Ryan Day and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, among others.
It's the kind of list that, for a coach like Sitake in his first head coaching job, at his alma mater, one could view it as an honor to simply be in that same conversation.
The Cougars are off to an 8-0 start for the first time since 2001, and just the fourth time in school history. Led by Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Wilson, BYU ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense (45.3 ppg), scoring defense (13.9 ppg), total offense (533.4 ypg) and total defense (284.9 ypg).
It's the kind of resume that speaks for itself, nose tackle Khyiris Tonga said Tuesday evening of his head coach.
But one thing Tonga will add is that Sitake is more than a coach.
"I feel like I don't need to say much, with everything he's done," said Tonga, who was invited Tuesday to the Hula Bowl all-star game in Hawaii in 2021. "Coming into the program in ups and downs, he's always been optimistic. And he's always been about more than football.
"He literally cares about each and every one of us. Kalani deserves everything coming to him, and more. He's a great coach, a great mentor, and great father figure — and we're grateful to have him here at BYU."
Here's the complete list of watch list honorees in alphabetical order. The winner will be announced Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, during a virtual ceremony and benefit for the American Heart Association, which has sponsored the award that goes to college football's top coach since 1986.
Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award, nominees
- Tom Allan, Indiana
- Matt Campbell, Iowa State
- Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
- Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
- Mario Cristobal, Oregon
- Ryan Day, Ohio State
- Manny Diaz, Miami
- Karl Dorrell, Colorado
- Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
- Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
- Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
- Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
- Clay Helton, Southern California
- Tom Herman, Texas
- Doc Holliday, Marshall
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
- Gus Malzahn, Auburn
- Dan Mullen, Florida
- Jay Norvell, Nevada
- Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
- Nick Saban, Alabama
- Kalani Sitake, BYU
- Kirby Smart, Georgia
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson