Provo • Embattled BYU football coach Kalani Sitake has a lot of things to worry about with the Cougars standing at 1-7 and on their longest losing streak since 1968, but the status of two players who were involved in alcohol-related legal issues last weekend is not one of them.
Sitake said at his Monday press briefing that former BYU linebacker Francis Bernard, who was arrested on suspicion of DUI Saturday morning in Vineyard, asked for his release from the program “a couple weeks back” and was granted that release to any school in the country.
BYU officials said Sunday after news of Bernard’s arrest broke that he never enrolled in fall semester classes. He did attend several practices and games in August and early September as a non-student before asking for the release. Players have said they have not seen him around the team for nearly a month.
“I wish him the best in finding what is the best place for him,” Sitake said. “But I care about him as a person … Obviously he is going through some things right now and I just hope he knows that we love him and care for him.”
After Francis Bernard was suspended and asked to redshirt the 2017 season in August due to honor code violations, his brother, James Bernard, told The Salt Lake Tribune that Francis Bernard wanted to transfer to Utah but was having trouble getting a release from BYU.
“I mean, I don’t make statements to everyone [about] everyone I release, but I think I have been vocal about how I feel about people who want to be here at BYU and kids I want to coach,” Sitake said. “I have never denied anyone a release. Can I say that? I think that’s the best way to do it. With that said, I was not afraid to recruit even Francis, hopefully that he could come back here.”
BYU safety Marvin Hifo, who was in the car when Bernard was pulled over for having an expired registration and cited for having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, quit the team and school a couple weeks ago, Sitake said.
“When he got hurt, he notified us he was leaving the team,” Sitake said of the senior from Menifee, Calif. “…After his injury, he decided to not be a part of the team and not be a part of the program, and not go to school. So that’s kind of where it is at.”
In other injury news, Sitake said that it is “highly unlikely” that sophomore starting cornerback Troy Warner will return to action this season, leaving the Cougars thin at the cornerback position. Chris Wilcox will start in his place this week against San Jose State.
Warner suffered a foot injury in the first quarter of the 33-17 loss to East Carolina.