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PROVO — With two successful seasons now etched in the records and an impending affiliation into the Big 12, momentum is reaching a fever pitch for BYU football.
Really, given all the positives, only one thing can derail the Cougars at this point. But the possibility is real enough to cause a strong level of concern.
As much as it may cost, BYU cannot afford to lose Kalani Sitake to another program interested — and financially determined — to poach the coach. The time is now to pony up the cash and security, not only for the hot commodity in coaching circles but also for his assistants and all other aspects of the program.
Not that any of this comes as any surprise to BYU, which is fully aware of any interest Sitake may be generating. Athletic director Tom Holmoe said as much during an interview with the in-house Sports Nation show.
"We are in conversations with Kalani at this point in time," Holmoe said, "and he's our coach. We want him for a long time, and good things are going to happen in the near future."
Good news, indeed. And about time.
For much of the last month, BYU football staff members were waiting for BYU to approach Sitake to engage in serious conversations about making improvements to the program. Apparently working on its own timeframe, BYU understands the nature of the situation.
Oregon is the latest program thought to have interest in Sitake, who most definitely would take several assistants to any new destination. Interestingly, Sitake's name was linked to the Oregon job several days before it was even open.
On Monday, Mario Cristobal officially left Oregon to coach at Miami, his alma mater and hometown. But reports have indicated Miami expressed interest in Cristobal, whose team got drilled by Utah twice in the last two weeks, date back to last month.
Sportsline.com wasted no time in listing the odds to replace Cristobal, with Sitake at 4-to-1 behind only Chip Kelly. The current UCLA coach, who was 46-7 during four seasons at Oregon from 2009-12, was the clear favorite.
Sportsline's Matt Severance wrote: "Kalani Sitake is a rising star in the coaching ranks in leading the Cougars to a 21-3 mark the past two seasons combined — BYU was 5-0 vs. the Pac-12 this season. Sitake was Oregon State's defensive coordinator in 2015. Oregon has a history of decorated Polynesian players (Heisman winner Marcus Mariota for one) but has yet to have a coach of Polynesian decent."
With the new signing period for recruits two weeks away, Oregon is expected to move quickly to get a new coach. Nike founder Phil Knight has long bankrolled Oregon athletic department, meaning the university could offer upward toward the reported $85 million it was prepared to give Cristobal to keep him from leaving.
Obviously, BYU would not come anywhere close to matching whatever amount of money Oregon could offer if it is determined to land Sitake. But Holmoe's statement on Monday sounded more optimistic than ever that BYU is willing to at least play the game.
As one BYU source said: "It's going to be an interesting week."
When Bronco Mendenhall left for the Virginia job six years ago, BYU didn't consider getting into a bidding war. Several assistant coaches went with him, some doubling their salaries in the process.
Some of the outgoing assistants noted BYU didn't come close to competing with similar programs in terms of recruiting budgets and other aspects. Depending on his leverage, Sitake likely would want BYU to increase the financial commitment for the program.
Football staff members already have noted the difficult transition that awaits when the Cougars begin play in the nationally competitive Big 12 beginning for the 2023 season. The transition would be that much harder without sufficient funds to compete with other Big 12 programs.