Provo • The confusing saga of troubled BYU linebacker Francis Bernard and his future plans took more twists and turns on Monday, as defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki and head coach Kalani Sitake gave conflicting reports on the junior’s situation within an hour of each other.
During his weekly press briefing, Sitake called a weekend report in The Salt Lake Tribune that Bernard plans to transfer to Utah “premature.” Not long after that, Tuiaki said on his weekly “Coordinator’s Corner” radio show on ESPN 960 that Bernard, 22, is transferring.
Later, on the same radio show, offensive coordinator Ty Detmer offered some clarification, saying Bernard has yet to make a decision.
Contacted Monday evening, football spokesperson Brett Pyne referred reporters to Detmer’s comments and reiterated: “No decision has been made at this point.”
Neither Francis Bernard nor his 25-year-old brother, James Bernard Jr., have returned phone and text messages since James Bernard Jr. told The Tribune on Friday that Francis does not want to redshirt and wants instead to transfer to rival Utah. James Bernard acknowledged his brother ran afoul of BYU’s honor code that forbids premarital sex, illicit drugs and other behavior the school owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers transgressions.
A source familiar with the situation said the transfer hasn’t happened and is in a “holding pattern.” Utah began fall semester classes on Monday, while BYU doesn’t start until Sept. 5.
After Francis Bernard was seen in street clothes watching practice in BYU’s Indoor Practice Facility in Provo on Monday, and watching the eclipse with associate athletic director Chad Lewis, Sitake was asked about the player’s status.
“There are a lot of options that are still out there [for Bernard],” Sitake said. “So I think we said [in response to the Tribune report] that there are things that have been premature, that haven’t been decided yet. All I can tell you is we love Francis and we want what’s best for him. Without going into any more details, it is his decision and we are here to help him.”
Moments later, however, Tuiaki said on a radio show that Bernard is transferring.
“He’s going to leave, but I don’t know where he is going to go,” Tuiaki told radio host Greg Wrubell. “We give him our advice and he just has to make the decision for what is best for him.”
Tuiaki added that Bernard is “moving forward” with his decision.
“What you want with a kid like that when he is leaving is to treat him like your son,” Tuiaki said.
It remained unclear Monday afternoon whether BYU would release Bernard to another Division I program within the state of Utah. Bernard would still have to sit out a year, per NCAA rules, but a release would mean he could receive financial aid, academic support and other perks from the institution he begins attending.
Sitake said when he noted during June’s football media day that he would release any player who wants to transfer from BYU, he was talking about returned missionaries who hadn’t been in the program for two years.
“Things become a little more difficult when they become part of your team and they become a student,” he said. “I don’t have all the answers to that, but I just know I want all our players to have success.”
Bernard was third on the team with 80 tackles last season, but was held out of the Poinsettia Bowl for what a BYU spokesperson said was a “team matter.” He told The Tribune in March during spring camp that he was in good standing with the school and the football team and eager to begin his junior season in Provo.