Oregon State defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake was on his way to Texas today; WR coach Brent Brennan, who was going with him on the recruiting trip told everyone so via twitter. Whether that means he will eventually still head again to Provo, we don't yet know.
Provo, of course, is where the most prominent opening in college football coaching currently exists, after long time Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall left to take the job at Virginia.
Sitake talked to the folks at BYU, as have several other prospects, including Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, Seattle Seahawks Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell, and Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. So to did Stanford Lance Anderson, the Director of Defense at Stanford, and Robert Anae, BYU's Offensive Coordinator under Mendnhall. Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen even came up in conversation, being a Utah product.
Anae has instead followed Mendenhall to Virginia, along with multiple other former BYU assistants (though not all of them), and Bevell has reportedly bowed out. Conversation has quieted about Anderson as well.
The apparent front-runner is Niumatalolo, and his Monday meeting at BYU certainly supports that.
As a result, scoop-seekers and those hoping to calm concerns that could impact Oregon State recruiting have been quick to announce that Sitake hasn't interviewed.
Translation of that coaching-search-speak is that regardless of whether the conversations ever officially qualified as an interview, an irrelevant matter of semantics, all it really means is that conversations that did occur did not lead to anything that would warrant an immediate advancement to something more substantive, and no one wants to advertise that, due to the inevitable over-reaction it would provoke. Until someone has a signed contract though, nothing is a given.
Sitake, being a BYU grad and former player, is an obvious candidate, but his lack of head coaching experience at any level is the biggest obstacle he has to overcome, as is, or was, the case with several other of the candidates.
And the reason Niumatalolo is the front-runner. If it seems the search has been prolonged, its important to remember that the Army-Nave game isn't until this coming Saturday, and so Niumatalolo could have an agreement in principal in place that no one wants to advertise until after the service academy showdown, and no time to work out the details until next Monday's meeting.
However, there's considerable concern among the BYU fanbase about bringing in a coach that's run almost exclusively an option-based system as both an assistant and the Navy commander. The systems he's run would be a disaster with current BYU personnel, recruited into a pro-style system, and a recruiting nightmare when it comes to quarterbacks and wide receivers.
That doesn't of course mean Niumatalolo wouldn't change up his system, and hire a progressive offensive coordinator. However, it also doesn't mean that if he does so, he would be successful. How convincing his answers to questions about that are probably what will make the difference in the decision.
If his vision and presentation of it aren't compelling, Sitake will be right back in the middle of the picture.
The requirement that the BYU Coach be a practicing member of the LDS church in good standing severely limits the pool of qualified and willing candidates.
But so does the amount of dollars BYU is willing to spend, or more specifically, the lack of dollars, and its the real reason Sitake isn't out of the picture.
Whittingham said he would listen to what BYU had to say, but it's important to remember he played with and is friends with BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe. Of course he would at least hear what Holmoe had to say. Same thing for Andersen.
Too many people read way too much into it when coaches have a conversation with someone who calls up to discuss an opening. But it doesn't mean they will accept an offer, and its why there was way too much excitement over Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez talking with West Virginia and South Carolina, before they both made other choices, and he remained with the Wildcats. And why all the drama around California coach Sonny Dykes talking to Missouri, where he wouldn't be hamstrung by a university that doesn't have a clue about how to run a competitive college football program.
And do you really want someone making the kind of decisions a head football coach has to routinely make if he doesn't hear people out, and then think over multimillion dollar decisions that impact literally hundreds of people?
But BYU is only willing to spend "as much as $2 million a year" for a head coach with experience. That's why Whittingham, and Andersen, won't be taking a pay cut to go to Provo. And for those locals that continue to claim to be highly surprised at Mendenhall's decision to leave a successful program for the dumpster fire that is Virginia, its those same dollars.
Over the course of the several years of the contract, Mendenhall will make probably close to $5M more, and that's a lot of good reasons, not to mention moving into a Power-5 conference.
But its also why BYU might have to settle for a coordinator, but not one from the pros; the pay cut would be too severe. The BYU senior management is way out of touch with what it will cost for an accomplished coach, especially until they have entry into the Big XII in their pocket. (And that continues to appear anything but imminent.)
Sitake would come with a smaller price tag, and still be getting a raise.
It's also why, being a strong recruiter and strong defensive coordinator, as well as a native son, he could also depart Corvallis for Provo as a DC. If BYU has to hire a coordinator, and chooses an OC instead of a defensive first one, that person will need someone like Sitake to run their defense, and stock it with recruits.
That, in turn, would leave Andersen looking for a replacement, and there are already those around Corvallis promoting Justin Wilcox, fired the first of the week by USC. Wilcox, an Oregon native and U of O grad, was considered a rising star throughout his stays at Tennessee, Boise State, and Washington, and initially at USC, but saw his popularity in the business cool after both Oregon and Stanford took it to the Trojan defense. (And Wilcox mixed profanity and uncertainty in his responses, not satisfying new USC coach Clay Helton.)
A better prospect might be Peter Sirmon, who was retained as LB coach at USC. Sirmon has been with Wilcox throughout Wilcox's travels, and might follow Wilcox again, to wherever he lands, unless a side trip to an FCS school proves necessary. The DC spot at Oregon State would be a step up for Sirmon in the event Sitake departs. But he (and Wilcos) would also be a prospect for an assistant job at BYU, should Sitake find himself in need of a DC of his own.
So until the ink dries on contracts in Provo, probably some time next week, don't jump to any conclusions about Sitake's future. He certainly isn't.