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BYU coach Kalani Sitake waves to the family and close friends of BYU football players after the Cougars' senior night victory over San Diego State, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 in Provo.

Courtesy: BYU Photo

Patrick Kinahan: Not paying to play big-time football could cost BYU

By Patrick Kinahan, Contributor | Posted - Jan. 12, 2021 at 10:03 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Right on cue, after enjoying an unprecedented season, BYU football lost two assistant coaches off of its offensive staff.

It was only a matter of time before a Power Five program came looking to poach a coach or two off a team that went 11-1, by far BYU's best record since becoming an independent 10 seasons ago. Both coaches — coordinator Jeff Grimes and Eric Mateos, who directed the offensive line — went to Baylor, undoubtedly reaping the financial benefits that Big 12 membership brings.

Over the offseason, running backs coach AJ Steward left the relative stability of BYU for the same position at Arizona, which ended last season on a seven-game losing streak. As expected, coach Kevin Sumlin was fired last month less than three seasons into a disastrous reign in Tucson.

Since leaving the Mountain West Conference, BYU has ambitiously scheduled multiple P5 teams virtually every season, intent on playing big-time football. In the process, the Cougars have thrilling wins over the likes of Southern California, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Michigan State, along with beating several lower-profile teams from power conferences.

No doubt, in several aspects, BYU football traditionally deserves the respect afforded to most P5 teams. The Cougars are part of the national conversation, as evidenced by an exclusive contract with television giant ESPN and the ability to dot annual schedules with brand names.

BYU is a big-time program — except for an important area, one in which pertains to coaching. Almost to the point of pride, the administration is not interested in competing financially to retain coaches who may draw interest from other programs.

While BYU has increased the overall pool of salaries to coaches in recent years, it still lags behind P5 programs despite repeatedly stating the desire to compete at the highest levels. Think more along the lines of Boise State money but nowhere close to the likes of Utah.

BYU fans might want to get used to the scenario that played out last week. Unless coaches have a personal interest in staying beyond the security that cash brings, the raiding could continue as salaries in college football keep skyrocketing.

If the team comes anywhere close to matching this past season's success at any point going forward, coaches on both sides of the football likely will be high demand. Obviously, this could have a negative effect on the program over time.

As the BYU coaches testified this season, staff continuity usually goes a long way toward success, a point driven home by coach Kalani Sitake's quick decision to promote passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick to replace Grimes and then move receiver's coach Fesi Sitake into Roderick's previous position.

"l would anticipate our offense being very, very similar," Roderick said, "and that's part of the reason I think why we have a chance to be good. We do have a system in place now. This will be our fourth year with the same system. Many of our players are (multiple-year) starters now, so the idea would be we could keep rolling and keep trying to improve but not having to reinvent everything."

The program's struggles in recent seasons were in part due to poor coaching. Sitake's staff his first two seasons featured several inexperienced coaches at the college level, including offensive coordinator Ty Detmer.

Although Grimes had never served as a coordinator before BYU, he brought 20 years of experience that included stops at six P5 programs. Roderick and Fesi Sitake also had experience as coordinators at Utah and Weber State, respectively.

Under the circumstances, it was inevitable to lose Grimes and Mateos at some point. Neither coach belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have no connection to Utah County beyond professional reasons.

About a decade before becoming an offensive coordinator for the first time three years ago, Grimes was the offensive line coach in Provo under Gary Crowton and then Bronco Mendenhall. Mateos came aboard two years ago.

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About the Author: Patrick Kinahan

Patrick is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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