Sandy • Kyle Whittingham and Kalani Sitake will butt heads in 87 days when Whittingham’s Utah Utes take on Sitake’s BYU Cougars in a college football season opener.
That heated competition will be enough for one year, both coaches agreed Monday, so they competed with each other, rather than against each other, in the 31st annual Rivalry for Charity golf event benefitting the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho.
For the record, their team fired a 4-under-par 68 in a scramble format at Hidden Valley Country Club and didn’t come close to winning. Boosters Greg Jensen (Utah) and Rich Wood (BYU) joined them.
“But we had a heckuva lot of fun,” Sitake said.
In past years, the coaches assembled teams of some of the best golfers they could find and competed against each other, with the losing coach having to sing the winning coach’s school fight song, or something like that. It took too much focus away from the charity involved, Sitake said, so they came up with a different plan.
“We talked about it, and decided it would be better if we played together and not have it be us against them,” Sitake said. “I know it was a lot of fun before, when you had the competition, but this allows everyone to just play and have fun with it.”
It is still a remarkable annual occurrence. Is there another state in the country where rival coaches who will face off in less than three months (Aug. 29, LaVell Edwards Stadium) play golf together and then joke about it afterwards?
Deen Vetterli, CEO of the NKF of Utah and Idaho, doesn’t think so.
“It is because they are extraordinary humanitarians, good sports, wonderful, awesome, kind coaches who have done it every year,” she said. “So, thank you coaches, we can’t do it without you.”
Coincidentally, the BYU-based team of former QB Robbie Bosco, deputy athletic director Brian Santiago, former basketball player and assistant coach Terry Nashif and BYU booster Vaughn Pulsipher won the tournament among qualifying teams with an 18-under-par 54 and earned the right to play in the national tournament at Kiawah Island, S.C. Qualifying teams must have only one single-digit handicap player and a combined handicap of 43 or higher.
The coaches talked very little football Monday, instead focusing on their love of golf and charity work. They did address some of the early trash talk their players have engaged in via social media. It started on May 7 when a Utah fan, reacting to a favorable report on Utah’s all-Pac-12 defensive end Bradlee Anae, said that Anae is “going to wreck everything this year.”
Anae responded on Twitter: “Especially BYU.”
BYU defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga retorted: “Can’t wait.”
And BYU quarterback Zach Wilson added: “You’ll see.”
Whittingham said he doesn’t do social media and hadn’t heard about it.
“I just tell them to behave themselves,” he said.
Sitake was familiar with the “banter,” as he called it, but didn’t seem concerned.
“My guys didn’t start it, so they are OK with me,” he said.
“It is different from what we have done, compared to other years, and I think [playing Utah in the opener] is really paying off,” Sitake said. “We have been working while a lot of guys have had time off. A lot of the stuff is voluntary and our guys are going to make sure we get what we deserve this fall.”
Whittingham said playing BYU first will have no impact on how preparations go the next three months, but isn’t sure if the dynamic will change.
“We just do our thing. There is no big departure from that,” Whittingham said. “So, I don’t know if it will be different. I will have a better answer afterwards, after August 29th.”
Sitake said the Cougars will be ready, after blowing a 27-7 lead last November and falling for the eighth-straight time to the Utes.
“Here’s the thing: There are a lot of guys on our team and a lot of guys at Utah that are all really familiar with each other. They are friends,” Sitake said. “So the way they have their little banter and things like that, I think it is nothing hurtful, or anything like that. They just want to go play the game. My guys aren’t going to back down. So we are going to have a lot of fun this [summer] and see what happens when we play them in August.”
In this unique rivalry, that’s when the real competition begins.