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How BYU football players feel about teammates who consider transferring

By Jared Lloyd - | Apr 1, 2024

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake talks to his players after BYU football practice at the indoor practice facility in Provo on Monday, March 4, 2024.

The end of spring camp marks a time of transition in college football.

Athletes at BYU finish up the winter semester of classes as well as having exit interviews to understand their situation.

With all that information, some will consider the option of entering the transfer portal to find a better situation.

“I think the timing works out well for us,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said Saturday after practice. “The portal is new but we have to adjust and make it part of our schedule. There is attrition that happens with guys who want to move on.”

He explained that in his view, the two main reasons that BYU players choose to transfer is that either they are looking for more playing time or they don’t feel like they want to be at BYU anymore.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

Helmets sit in a line before BYU football practice at the indoor practice facility in Provo on Monday, March 4, 2024.

In his view, those are both valid reasons and he has always had the policy that he would help them find a better fit.

“Before there was a portal, I was always open for that,” Sitake said. “I would sign any waiver to allow a player to transfer and even play against us. The transfer portal came way after I was doing that already. I think the players should have that opportunity to do that. And I think as a head coach you should run a program and create a culture so that the guys want to be part of it.”

Cougar players like offensive lineman Connor Pay, wide receiver Chase Roberts and defensive back Jakob Robinson understand that these are choices some of their peers may be considering right now and in general they agree with Sitake’s perspective.

“It’s hard for some guys, not knowing if they’re even going to step on the field or if they’re just going to be a backup their whole career,” Robinson said. “The main thing is just to keep working hard, to just try to push and the opportunities will come.”

He urges anyone facing those question to get input both from family and from a higher power.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

BYU tight end Keanu Hill (1) and kicker Jordan Kapisi (37) run up the field during football practice at the indoor practice facility in Provo on Monday, March 4, 2024.

“I’d say pray about it,” Robinson said. “That’s a big one.”

Cougar linebacker Jack Kelly went through the process himself recently when he made the choice to leave Weber State and come to BYU.

“The main thing is you want to be playing,” Kelly said. “If you’re trying to make it to the NFL, you have to have film, so I’d say that’s a big factor. Your position coach is also going to be a huge one, whether they like you, you like them, if you have a good relationship and if they’re playing you.

“Another thing would just be the coordinators because they’re ultimately the ones who have the decision to play you. You have to learn from them. They have the most knowledge of the game. Those three factors were probably the be the biggest.”

He described how at a place like BYU, there is strong camaraderie and even guys who aren’t on the top of the depth chart often feel like they will get a shot somewhere at some point if they stick with it. But he admitted it can be hard to not look at other options if they feel like they can’t showcase their abilities.

Pay said he sees a big difference in why some players may consider transferring.

“If a guy is leaving because he’s not going to play here and he wants to play, 10 times out of 10 I’ll say go,” Pay said. “This is their chance to play college football. No one wants to spend their entire careers on the bench. I say they should go somewhere they are going to play.”

He doesn’t have the same view if a player is just looking to get a bigger paycheck somewhere else.

“If someone’s dipping because they’ve been promised some sum of money or something, I have a harder time with that,” Pay said. “I understand making money and being paid what you deserve to be paid, fair-market value or whatever, but there also has to be at least some level of loyalty.”

He explained that for the last three years he has had other programs recruit him to leave and been offered large sums of money, but felt like he had higher priorities.

“I’ve stayed because I love it here and I want BYU to be great,” Pay said. “I feel like you have to have that kind of mentality. And if you don’t have that mentality, then maybe the best thing is for you to jump into the portal because you’re not about it.”

To him, players how are just hunting for big checks would be harder to trust than those who are committed to a program.

“When it’s fourth-and-one and we have to get a first down, if you’re one of those guys playing next to me, I don’t know if I trust you as much as the dude who was with me and grinded it out, who loves being here,” Pay said.

Sitake firmly believes that the BYU football experience should be something that athletes put enormous value on, even though it doesn’t necessarily directly fill bank accounts.

“I would hope that they want to be a part of this experience so that they can see that they’re a part of something bigger than just themselves,” Sitake said. “They get to represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and whether they’re a member or not, they get to be in a faith-based institution where we talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we talk about serving others and charity work, things like that. It’s not for everyone, but it is for the guys who want to be here and I’m really proud of the guys on our team and what we represent.”


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