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Sales pitch: Recruiting a focal point in questions for BYU head coach Kalani Sitake at Big 12 media days

By Jared Lloyd - | Jul 19, 2023

BYU coach Kalani Sitake smiles before speaking during the Big 12 college football media days in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

It was one of the more interesting questions a reporter asked BYU head coach Kalani Sitake at Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, last week:

Is there a baseline number of athletes that are member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that Sitake and the program tries to meet?

“I don’t think in terms of trying to match a quota,” Sitake said in response. “Obviously we are going to recruit in-state first and there happen to be a lot of members of the faith there, but I’ve seen so many great young men come in and thrive in our environment — and also thrive in their spirituality in their own religion. That’s what BYU is all about. It is a unique experience, but it so influential on so many others.”

While that is an inquiry that most BYU fans could’ve easily answered, it showed that sports journalists who cover Big 12 teams still have a lot to learn about the team from Provo.

Sitake fielded a number of questions about the way Cougar recruiting will evolve now that BYU is in a Power Five league.

“Being part of this conference has now opened up the doors to many others who never thought about it,” Sitake said. “Even if you did live the same lifestyle, when you aren’t considered a Power Five program, it’s harder. Now that we are, it’s an easy thing for athletes to look at. Next thing you know, we are talking to them and recruiting them.”

The school’s religion, culture and Honor Code do impact the football program and who will consider becoming a Cougar, but Sitake said he sees it as vital to be upfront about it.

“I think the key is to talk about our standards and what life is like at BYU,” Sitake said. “The key is communicating it to everyone. We have players on our team who are not of the faith. We have players who are Muslim, and our backup quarterback is Jewish. We want them to feel comfortable practicing their religion at BYU.”

He explained that the goal at BYU is for the student-athletes to develop their own “connection to God.”

“Then they can improve their life while also recognizing what we are about,” Sitake said. “Our player who is Muslim said this is how he lives his life. He said the standard is how he lives anyways. There are a lot of people who are aligned with this, whether they are a member of this church or not, who can really see themselves playing here.”

The same facts with regards to standards and culture apply to getting players to choose to transfer to BYU, and Sitake said he’s trying to make the most of the strengths the Cougars have.

“I want to use the portal and make it an advantage for us,” Sitake said. “Whether you like it or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s here, so you might as well make it work for your system.”

He agreed that getting more games in Texas will allow the Cougars to strengthen its recruiting opportunities in the Lone Star state.

“It was a lot harder when you weren’t ever coming to the state,” Sitake said. “Now that we are in the conference, we are more than likely going to playing in the state of Texas. It makes it a lot easier to recruit the state of Texas. It was a hard sell before. Now it will be a little easier because we will be seen. And there is great football here, so we want to take advantage of all the guys who want to live the BYU experience.”

Sitake was also asked about the ability the Cougars have to recruit from Hawai’i and the other Pacific islands.

“There seems to be quite a few people who are moving from the islands to the mainland now,” Sitake said. “A lot of my family doing that. The fact that there are a lot more Polynesian players on the mainland makes it easier to recruit them.

“With the islands, now technology allows you to see them on film. There is still accessibility to get there. The days of going out there and finding a diamond in the rough don’t really exist any more because if they are playing football, you are going to find out about them. We send all of our coaches out that way as well. We go as far as Australia to recruit.”


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