A defensive-minded former player will lead Cougar football next season.
Back in 2000 Kalani F. Sitake (BA ’00) and R. LaVell Edwards (EdD ’78) celebrated a huge comeback road win against Utah—the last BYU game for both the senior BYU fullback and the retiring head coach.
At a Dec. 21, 2015, press conference in Provo, Edwards and dozens of other BYU football greats huddled together to celebrate once again—this time, the announcement of Sitake as BYU’s new head coach.
“It’s a dream come true for me to return home,” Sitake said. “I love the university and what it stands for.” The new coach declared himself eager to get to work as he officially took the handoff from Bronco Mendenhall, who left to become head coach at the University of Virginia.
“We are excited to . . . welcome back one of our own,” said Thomas A. Holmoe (BS ’83). “He is an outstanding leader and coach, an exceptional recruiter, and [he] knows BYU through and through.”
Sitake returns to BYU with 15 years of coaching experience. Before coming to Provo, Sitake served for a year as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Oregon State. He spent 10 seasons at the University of Utah as linebackers coach, defensive coordinator, and assistant head coach.
Born in Tonga, and raised in Hawai’i and Provo, Sitake becomes the first head coach of Tongan descent in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He is the 14th head coach in BYU history and just the fourth since 1972, when Edwards took over the program.
Sitake began his BYU playing career in 1994, prior to serving a two-year mission to Oakland, Calif., for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After returning and redshirting in 1997, Sitake was a three-year starter for the Cougars from 1998 to 2000.
He was named BYU’s Football Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1998, Impact Player of the Year in 1999, and team captain and the most valuable running back in 2000. Sitake graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in English. He and his wife, Timberly (’99), have three children: Skye, Sadie, and Kelaokalani (KK).
“I’m excited,” Sitake said. “I want to see guys excel, and I’m going to demand they do the best they can. Then I’m going to help them every way I can to allow them to reach their goals.”