That was how BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake concluded his brief remarks on the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday after his Cougars defeated Idaho State, 42-10. The victory made BYU bowl eligible and the Cougars officially accepted the invitation to the SoFi Hawai’i Bowl, which will be played in Honolulu on Dec. 24.
“To get the announcement and the invite after a win was fun,” Sitake said in the post-game press conference. “The guys were really excited about it and we’re excited that we get to extend the season another game and have 15 more practices with our team. It doesn’t hurt that we are going to Hawaii. Everyone knows how I feel about Hawaii — that’s home for me. There is a lot of family and a lot of members of our church and a lot of BYU fans there, so it’ll be fun.”
During the bowl invitation presentation, there was an undercurrent of politicking going from some of the BYU players, who were waving blue T-shirts with the message #ExtendKalani, referencing their desire to have Sitake be signed to a contract extension.
In the locker room after the on-field festivities, video on social media showed BYU director of athletics Tom Holmoe pulling off his suit jacket to reveal one of the “#ExtendKalani” shirts and then telling the Cougar players that Sitake is their head coach going forward.
While no official contract extension has been announced, Holmoe never seemed to be hesitant or concerned about Sitake’s future. The BYU head coach has a record of 26-23 in four years at the helm for the Cougars.
This will be his third time to lead BYU to the postseason as the Cougars will play either a team from the American Athletic Conference or the Mountain West Conference in the Hawaii Bowl.
“We were happy to invite BYU,” ESPN’s Pete Derzis said after the invitation was accepted. “It’s going to be great. We’re excited about having them. It’s been a long time. We’ve never had them in the Hawai’i Bowl, although I think they played in the Aloha Bowl, but that’s going back a few decades ago.”
Derzis believes the Cougars will get solid support when they travel to the islands for the game.
“They have a tremendous following in the Hawaiian Islands, so it’s kind of a second home for a lot of their fans and alums who are living there,” he said. “With a little advance notice here in mid-November, hopefully some folks will be able to get their airline tickets booked before prices go up as we get closer to the holiday season. I don’t think there is any great pressure in terms of bringing people. We expect them to have a solid following like they’ve always had.”
The timing of the game may not seem ideal, since it is scheduled to kickoff at 6 p.m. Mountain time on Christmas Eve, but Derzis said it’s been a time slot that has worked well in the past.
“We’ve done reasonably well,” he said. “We’ve had some interesting games over the years with a number of different teams participating. It does have it’s challenges with people trying to balance the holiday season with the bowl game but all in all it’s been really good. What we may not get in the stands on a given year we make up for with the ratings, because there are a lot of people on Christmas Eve who are snowed in in Detroit and Boston and other places who are watching the game. It cuts both ways.”
Holmoe said it will be a good opportunity for the Cougars.
“We are excited to be playing in the SoFi Hawai’i Bowl,” Holmoe said in a statement. “I’m really happy for our football team and impressed with how hard they worked to have this opportunity. BYU has a long history and tradition of playing football in Hawai’i and we are looking forward to playing in Aloha Stadium once again.”
The Cougar players said they are excited to make the trip.
“I don’t like the cold,” BYU senior defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku said.
Cougar senior safety Austin Lee added: “It’s the perfect time of the year. It’s an exciting time with Christmas involved. It will be great to be in Hawai’i with them.”