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Patrick Kinahan: Kalani Sitake's stock continues to skyrocket



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

PROVO β€” Each year, it seems, the crazy season commences a little earlier and provides more drama than most of the actual competition.

The annual college football coaching carousel has begun, promising to produce visions of everlasting success that every fan base desperately demands once fill-in-the-blank university finally finds the perfect man for the job. Already, with two weeks remaining in the regular season, three Pac-12 programs have openings with the possibility of another one or two on the way.

In every one of the vacancies, the name of BYU head coach Kalani Sitake will be β€” or already has been β€” floated as a possible candidate. And why wouldn't it?

Sitake's stock has skyrocketed over the last two seasons, starting with last year's 11-1 team and continuing on to this year's 8-2 squad with two regular-season games and another bowl appearance remaining.

You know the old saying: If you can't beat them, join them. BYU has thrashed the Pac-12 this season, beating four opponents (Arizona, Utah, Arizona State and Washington State) with one game left next week against a 4-5 USC team.

There's a real possibility the Cougars finish 5-0 against the Power Five conference. USC is a gigantic mess, having dumped Clay Helton after the second game.

Sitake repeatedly has pledged his allegiance to BYU, where he played as a fullback under the legendary coach LaVell Edwards. Clearly, he is comfortable in his own skin holding down one of the most recognizable jobs in the entire state.

But he also has a long memory, going back only four years ago when BYU was floundering through a miserable 4-9 season. During that time, extending to two successive 7-6 seasons, many of those now lavishing praise on him were lambasting Sitake and questioning his ability to lead the program.

Dancing Kalani plays well now, but back then legions of fans wanted to hustle him on the midnight train out of town. And he's got the evidence to prove it.

For whatever reason, like many coaches do, Sitake has stashed some of the vile forms of communication he regularly got during the turbulent seasons. Motivation attacks from all sorts of different angles.

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Nothing here suggests leaving a place he obviously loves, nor does it guarantee a commitment. But he ought to at least listen.

In addition to winning, Sitake checks all the boxes that programs desire in a coach. A best friend to the world, he has the personality to coddle even the neediest booster.

Sitake knows the conference, having spent 11 years as an assistant and defensive coordinator at Utah and Oregon State. He also can recruit and develop talent, factors that ultimately will determine the lifespan of every coach.

Ethnicity could work to his advantage, although he always bristled at being labeled as strictly as a recruiter of Polynesians. But the proud Tongan is a minority in a sport that regularly takes heat for employing an overwhelming number of Caucasians as head coaches.

The years of mediocrity that defined most of the Sitake regime the first four years are a distant memory. His name is sexy now.

Discussed at length over the years relative to BYU, the elephant in the room is salary. As always, the point centers on the university's desire to pay the going rate to keep Sitake.

At least in the case of USC and Washington, money is practically no object. Even the reality of these programs having to pay enormous buyouts to remove existing contracts is not a deterrent.

"We have all the resources we need to be a championship program," athletic director Jen Cohen said in a press conference after firing Jimmy Lake, who lasted 13 games as Chris Petersen's replacement.

Will BYU say the same? Would it even have to?

Whatever the future holds, the BYU administration had better already have a plan in place to keep its coach if an attractive offer comes his way. These things happen quickly, often in a matter of days, and BYU has a reputation for moving at a snail's pace in similar situations.

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About the Author: Patrick Kinahan

Patrick Kinahan 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. To read more of his articles, visit Patrick's KSL.com author page.

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