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BYU's Kalani Sitake has reportedly met with Oregon about coaching vacancy

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake celebrates a missed field goal by the Arizona Wildcats during the Vegas Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. BYU won 24-16. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

PROVO — Kalani Sitake is taking a spin on the wildest coaching carousel in years.

The sixth-year head coach and former BYU fullback has spoken with Oregon about the Ducks' head coaching vacancy, the Oregonian's John Canzano reported late Wednesday night.

The Ducks have also asked for permission to interview Cal head coach Justin Wilcox, a former Oregon defensive back and native of Eugene, according to Canzano. The veteran reporter and sports radio host added that at least two other candidates are squarely in the mix, with one of them from the NFL.

The Ducks are looking to replace head coach Mario Cristobal, who was named to the same position Monday at Miami, his alma mater. Cristobal went 35-13 in four seasons with the Pac-12 North giants, including a 23-9 mark in conference play.

Canzano previously reported that Wilcox, former Washington and Boise State coach Chris Peterson, former Cal coach Jeff Tedford and UCLA's Chip Kelly were among the early candidates, adding that the Ducks had two choices: go local, or go splashy.

Tedford has reportedly reached a deal to return to Fresno State as its next head coach, while Kelly has the 31st-best recruiting class in the nation according to 247Sports and fourth-best in the Pac-12.

Dick Harmon of the Deseret News previously reported Monday that Oregon were trying to interview Sitake for the open position. How deep into those talks the Ducks went remains unclear, but sources inside the BYU athletic department confirmed to that there remains interest in the sitting BYU head coach.

An early candidate for the Ducks' job — as well as others in the Pac-12, Sitake, 46, has led the Cougars to a 21-3 record over the past two seasons, including back-to-back 10-win campaigns for the first time since 2009. BYU can make it consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time since 2007 with a win over UAB in the Independence Bowl.

Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal shouts in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Utah, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal shouts in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Utah, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

But will Sitake be the head coach for the Dec. 18 game in Shreveport, Louisiana? With the early signing period beginning next Wednesday, schools are under immense pressure to have a coach in place to preserve their recruiting classes for the upcoming year. A dogged recruiter, Sitake definitely knows that.

The head coach with a 48-28 overall record and soon-to-be five bowl appearances in six seasons has preached the value of loyalty to his alma mater, even going so far to say he would love nothing more than to be "the Polynesian LaVell Edwards," a nod to his college coach and the College Football Hall of Famer.

But money talks, and Oregon has plenty of it. Bankrolled by Nike founder Phil Knight and other prestigious alums, the Ducks can double or triple Sitake's own salary with no problem — and perhaps more importantly, provide the resources necessary to attract the best coordinators, assistant coaches and recruiting staff to the west-coast power.

The Ducks have plans to build a 170,000-square foot football-only facility that includes 130,000 square feet of practice space and another 40,000-square foot "connector" to the current football building, the Hatfield Dowlin Complex. The school plans to unveil the brand-new, state-of-the-art indoor facility in time for the 2024 season.

"The core of our mission here at Oregon is to provide an exceptional student-athlete experience and the best possible opportunity to maximize their potential," Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said at the time. "This new facility enhances support for UO student-athletes by combining innovation and functionality in the best possible way while also increasing access to indoor training opportunities for all of our Duck student-athletes."

Mullens told reporters during a video conference Monday that plenty of interested parties had already inquired about the open job, which followed high-profile openings at USC, LSU, Florida, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, among others.

"My phone is blowing up, there's no shortage of interest," Mullens said, according to the Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon. "For us, it's about finding the right leader. We have incredible support inside of the program, outside of the program, and we will lean on those guys as well.

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