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Gordon Monson: If Kalani Sitake piles up the wins, can BYU hang onto him?

The Cougar football coach’s name has been mentioned as USC looks to replace Clay Helton

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake argues a call as they play the Utah Utes in football, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 in Provo.

Question for BYU and its fans:

Would you rather have another great season, say, one or two losses, under Kalani Sitake, thereby making him a more attractive candidate for some big-time college football temptress, or would you rather have a sort-of-nice season and keep him without worry for the foreseeable future?

The answer is obvious.

Winning in bunches is what everyone wants.

But what’s obvious does drag along with it anxiety.

The reason for the question is that it’s said by certain folks who cover such things that Sitake is, in fact, a legitimate candidate to become the next head coach at USC.

Is that really true?

Beats me.

It’s not the way to bet, Sitake actually being selected by the powers at Southern Cal, but let’s say it the way it is. If he keeps winning at BYU, he will be the target of more schools like that.

Yeah, sweet problem to have.

Sitake would be particularly effective for the Trojans because he’d be well-equipped to address a couple of issues that would greatly help get that program back where it should be — at the top of the college game in the West and beyond.

First, he’s a good recruiter. Some might look at the recruiting rankings at BYU with Sitake at the helm and think otherwise. But … how accurate are those rankings? Take a look at the ratings on the starters in last season’s Super Bowl and notice the number of 2- and 3-star players who ascended to the top of the pro game. Alabama gets more 4- and 5-stars than that. The number of those stars, though, seems to grow when Nick Saban shows up in players’ living rooms. BYU does not have that effect. And with its academic and honor code limitations, recruiting to Provo should be weighed on a different scale.

Sitake is warm and personable, a man who can relate to and wrap his big arms around gifted, young recruits and their parents, convincing them that he cares about the most important things, not just winning football games.

Second, Sitake is one bad, tough mother. Underneath his cordial bearing, he is as much a fighter as a lover. And that’s the way he likes his football.

He could get USC what it needs — big, strong linemen on offense and defense, guys who will play hard for him. Play the kind of football that the Trojans should focus on with the talent pool available to them. Southern Cal can dominate the prep landscape in Southern Cal.

If the Trojans can get the best athletes, based partially on grand tradition, and those athletes are aimed properly at playing solid, basic football, that should be a killer formula.

Which is to say, why play some newfangled, gimmicky football at SC — such as the Air Raid — when, with the talent available to it, it can kick teams around with a balanced, straightforward approach?

That’s not to imply that Sitake would or should return to John McKay’s long-ago offensive tactic of student-body left, student-body right, but, as an old-time fullback who likes his team to mix it up with a combo-pack of strength and emotion, and rough-and-tumble defense, he could give USC what it needs. He did coordinate Utah’s D during some impressive showings under Kyle Whittingham.

Think what he could do with USC’s personnel.

This is what he would do: evaluate and organize it.

And make a whole lot more money doing that than he’ll make, even with his recently extended contract, at BYU.

Most head coaches think money is good, and that contracts are easily erased.

Third, Sitake is experienced, but still young, meaning that he’s used up his mistakes via learning at other places, and if he is successful at Troy, he would also feature longevity.

Fourth, the fact that Sitake is Polynesian is a wonderful, diverse thing. It’s not the thing, but a helpful one, enabling him to better relate to players whose coaches don’t always look like they do. That matters little if the necessary knowledge is absent, but if it’s there in large amounts, it can be extra powerful.

The downside for Sitake at SC is a general lack of patience there. If he started with the Trojans the way he did with the Cougars, going 9-4, 4-9, 7-6, 7-6, he would have no opportunity to rocket up to 11-1 in a subsequent year. He’d be fired, like Clay Helton just was and like others before him.

LaVell Edwards told me, when he was offered a big deal with the Detroit Lions, back in the day, the smartest thing he ever did was turn it down. He said he would have made a whole lot of money over a short span, but only lasted, maybe, three or four seasons and then been looking for another job.

He said staying at BYU was the move, the non-move, for him.

Every coach is somewhat insecure. Lose too much and … boom, you’re gone. That happens at BYU, too.

Nobody knows at this point what Sitake’s team will end up doing this season. But if it wins, and keeps winning, and winning some more, BYU and its fans will have to get used to hearing his name connected to other programs.

Get used to your beau dancing with other suitors.

Doesn’t mean it will lead to anything past a little flirtation.

But … who knows?

It could lead to an honor code violation.

You win, you fend and fight off all comers.

In the college game, USC is the picture of beauty.

What is BYU right about now?

It’s a whole lot more attractive to a successful incumbent as the dollars keep stacking high.

And as a newly invited member of the Big 12, the Cougars had best start paying their coach — their coaches — like it. The wealthy boosters around the program have long been willing to contribute to fatter coaching wallets, but they should be allowed to dig deeper now, in combination with the additional money available to the school.

Coaching at BYU is no longer a church calling.

Not with USC sniffing around.

It’s a real job with real demands with real expectations with proper remuneration necessary.

Sitake won’t be a top choice for the Trojans.

But even if he were, he wouldn’t — won’t — go to SC or anywhere else, not if he keeps winning and the Cougars handle their business the way it should be handled, giving the man and his assistants what they’ve earned, what they deserve, measured not by standards of the past, rather by the requirements of the present.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.

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