Provo • Although the industry standard is for schools to extend college coaching contracts when those contracts are two years away from expiring, BYU is not in a hurry to extend football coach Kalani Sitake’s deal that ends after the 2020 season, athletic director Tom Holmoe said Wednesday.
In a far-reaching roundtable discussion with reporters, the longtime AD answered questions for 55 minutes but gave few clues about whether the five-year deal Sitake signed when he replaced Bronco Mendenhall in 2016 will be extended.
“If you go back and look at the way we have done it, we have kind of a plan, a process, that we go through,” Holmoe said regarding extensions. “This isn’t his last year. And we have rarely gone into the last year of a contract [without extending]. He has more than one year left on his contract.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday that Sitake has two more years on his deal, which is generally the time frame in which contracts are extended so coach’s can solidify their recruiting classes before national signing day the first Wednesday in February.
“I have spoken with Kalani before it even came up, just to make sure [we’re communicating]. We talk all the time,” Holmoe said. “We talk about all kinds of things. So I know exactly where he stands. He knows exactly where I stand. And we don’t talk about it.”
The Cougars went 7-6 in Sitake’s third season, culminating with a bowl game win over Western Michigan. The coach is 20-19 overall.
“Externally, [contract speculation] might have forced the issue, where I have gone to him and looked him in the eye and said, ‘how are you doing brother?’ And he goes, ‘I am doing fine.’ And I say ‘great, let’s play ball,’” Holmoe said. “So I think it is a situation that is created outside, and I understand the reasons. It is not an issue.”
Overall, Holmoe said he was “very happy” with the 2018 season after the Cougars went 4-9 in 2017 and failed to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
“We made progress. It was very good,” he said. “We had a difficult season the year before, and we made progress. … Certainly there are many areas to be excited about. There are certain areas where we still need to show growth and development and we are working on those right now.”
Holmoe said he alone decides whether to extend or renew coaching contracts, but acknowledged he has “some dear, close confidantes” with whom he counsels.
• Football coach Kalani Sitake is not entering the final year of his contract and hasn’t discussed a potential extension with BYU administrators
• BYU is in the option year of its contract with ESPN, but the deal has not been extended and discussions are still happening
• There’s been no movement on BYU’s desire to get Notre Dame to make good on its agreement to play the Cougars in Provo after BYU visited South Bend twice in 2012 and 2013
Among the other topics discussed Wednesday:
• Holmoe said he offered BYU basketball coach Dave Rose a one-year contract extension last November that will take Rose through the 2020-21 season because “I felt at the time it was the right thing to do.” The Cougars are a somewhat disappointing 13-9 this season heading into Thursday night’s showdown with No. 4 Gonzaga at the Marriott Center.
• Holmoe said he is "grateful to Utah” for agreeing to extend the rivalry football series through 2024 and is excited about opening against the Utes on Aug. 29 this year. He said the 2019 schedule, released Wednesday, “would be wicked” if the teams that are on it are as good as they have been historically.
• BYU’s contract with ESPN that allows the network to televise 4-5 of its home football games a year expires after the 2019 season, but Holmoe said it hasn’t been renewed as of this month. “We have been discussing that,” he said. “We are in an option year and we are in discussions right now.”
• Holmoe said BYU has not heard back from the NCAA yet on its appeal of the ruling that would strip the school of basketball wins from the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons because guard Nick Emery received impermissible benefits from four BYU boosters. He said he hopes the matter is resolved in 2019.
* Holmoe said the graduate transfer program the NCAA has that allows student-athletes to transfer and be immediately eligible is “under scrutiny.” He said that getting fifth-year graduate students into BYU is “even harder” than getting undergraduates into the school.
Regarding BYU’s strict academic standards, he said: “Admission standards are extremely high. They have already been lowered to admit a number of student-athletes in most of our [sports] programs. … I am grateful [the school] gives us the opportunity to bring in kids that are below a certain level. I go to great lengths as an administrator to work with admissions and central administration to put together teams and recruiting classes that fit BYU.”
* Holmoe said BYU will commemorate the 150th year of college football with several events at its games this season, including bringing back many former great players. He said Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Ty Detmer “will be first on the list,” although Detmer was fired as offensive coordinator after the 2017 season.
* Notre Dame still owes BYU a football game in Provo after the Cougars played the Irish twice in South Bend in 2012 and 2013, but “there’s nothing new to report” on those negotiations, Holmoe said. Last June, the AD said BYU would prefer to get a game instead of a buyout check.