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Not much buzz: BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake doesn’t get a lot of attention at Big 12 media days

By Jared Lloyd - | Jul 10, 2024

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake during Big 12 NCAA college football media days in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Lucas Peltier)

Each head coach at Big 12 football media days at Allegient Stadium in Las Vegas this week has a designated time to take the stand for an official press conference.

While there are other chances for reporters to talk to coaches, this is the most public appearance and can be indicative of how much interest there is in what a team is doing.

When it was BYU head coach Kalani Sitake’s turn on Wednesday morning, he settled in and gave an opening statement before opening up the floor for questions.

Sitake only ended up being asked seven questions with three of them coming from reporters from Utah, finishing up his remarks in less than 15 minutes.

Clearly there isn’t a lot about the Cougars that sparked that much interest from the 500 or so media members in attendance — which isn’t surprising.

During a separate interview session, Sitake was asked about BYU being ranked 13th out of 16 teams in the Big 12 preseason media poll and his response was pretty candid.

“It would be hard for me to get mad at you guys because you didn’t vote for us,” Sitake said. “What have we done to deserve the benefit of the doubt?”

That sums up where expectations are for the Cougars outside of Provo after BYU’s lackluster first year in the Big 12, where they ended up 2-7 (tied for 11th) in league play and 5-7 overall.

But that was last year and what matters now is how the Cougars bounce back.

“I learned a lot (from Year 1),” Sitake said. “But sometimes the experience itself is the key.”

As he has before, Sitake compared the 2023 season to what it was like becoming a parent for the first time.

“I remember when my wife was pregnant, we were trying to prepare for it,” Sitake said. “Before we had kids, we had all these opinions on how you should raise your children. Then when we had our own child, it was like we didn’t know anything. We just had to go through that experience.”

But even with the struggles and disappointments along the way, Sitake said there were things that became clear.

“Our fans definitely belong,” Sitake said. “And we belong on the field too. We just need to do it more consistently.”

He explained that his program has been proactive in trying to ensure that happens in 2024.

“If you look at the things we’ve done, we’re not just hoping that what we did last year was enough,” Sitake said. “We’ve made some moves. We’ve done some things differently. I’m excited to see what happens when we get to the season.”

When asked about the resurgence late in the season in close losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (two of the top three teams in the conference), Sitake said those demonstrated that BYU can be competitive in the Big 12.

“I would be completely nervous if we were completely overwhelmed last year,” Sitake said. “I know everyone looks at the record, but we had flashes of where we could compete. We do know that this is a physical conference and we like being physical. We want to be in this sport for that reason.”

He feels like as the Cougars have gone through the learning curve, the support of BYU fans has been a rock that the players and coaches can rely on.

“Our guys now know what to expect,” Sitake said. “Last year was a lot of unchartered territory. There were a lot of new things that we weren’t sure how guys would respond to certain things.

“I can tell you through all that, the one thing we can definitely count on is that our fan base is amazing. They travel well. They do a great job. They’ve been power conference-level since I’ve been a kid. So we can lean on that to be a huge benefit for us.”

He also sees it as a great time to be part of the Cougar program, which finally has its first clear on-field path to a national championship.

“I think the vision of the playoffs has never been more transparent, especially for us at BYU,” Sitake said. “The road to the playoffs is pretty simple and it has never been this simple for us. It’s win the conference and you’re in.

“That’s something we’ve never had, and I think college football needed it. Everyone gets to prove it on the field. Everybody has a shot to make it. And there’s a lot to play for.”

He looks forward to seeing a time when BYU is in that conversation in November with an opportunity to make a run to the top.

“We’ve been in this era where you’re hoping that things work out,” Sitake said. “You’re depending on other people to win and stuff like that so you can get a chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Now it’s pretty evident on how you can get there. I appreciate it happening and us being in this conference that gives us a path to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake speaks during Big 12 NCAA college football media days in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Lucas Peltier)

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