Big 12 News

Kalani Sitake on Joining Big 12: ‘If This is The Dream, Don’t Wake Me Up’

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Utah State

ARLINGTON, Texas — Like the rest of the new teams, BYU coach Kalani Sitake is happy to be a part of the Big 12 Conference.

The Cougars make their debut in 2023 after more than a decade as an independent in football — and a false start when the Cougars were part of a potential expansion process several years ago.

 

Sitake’s first Big 12 Media Day was a whirlwind, as the league kept him busy with media obligations for most of the day.

“This is a lot of fun,” Sitake said. “Being an independent I wasn’t able to experience this as a head coach, so this is my first time. I had to get pointers from (quarterback) Kedon Slovis.”

Sitake brought five players with him, along with the school’s athletic director, Tom Holmoe. Both are former players at BYU.

Sitake is a life-long Cougar, and his appearance at media day was, in a sense, a bit of manifest destiny.

“I got to live the dream as a fan,” Sitake said. “I got to live the dream and play for (coach) LaVell Edwards, and now I’m the head coach. So you can imagine how I feel. It’s great. If this is the dream don’t wake me up.

 

“And now, we’re in the Big 12. This is something we’ve been dreaming of for a while, and I’m talking as a fan.”

BYU is coming off a 2022 in which it went 8-5 in its final season as an independent in football.

The Cougars went to the New Mexico Bowl and defeated SMU, 24-23, which wrapped up a four-game winning streak to end the season.

BYU is joining the Big 12 this season, along with UCF, Cincinnati and Houston.

The Cougars’ most notable returnees on offense are at the wide receiver position — Kody Epps, Keanu Hill and Chase Roberts. The Cougars scored more than 30 points per game last season, but many of the key pieces of that offense departed.

 

Defensively, Sitake re-made his defensive staff and lured Jay Hill, the head coach at Weber State, to be his defensive coordinator. The Cougars return one key piece from last year’s mediocre unit in middle linebacker Ben Bywater.

The Cougars went deep into the transfer portal to prepare for the rigors of Big 12 play. Among the new players in Provo via transfer are quarterback Kedon Slovis, running back Aidan Robbins, Utah offensive lineman Paul Maile, Missouri State offensive lineman Ian Fitzgerald, Weber State cornerback Eddie Heckard (an FCS All-American), Boise State defensive tackle Jackson Cravens and Boise State defensive end Isaiah ‘Zay’ Bagnah.

The Cougars open the season on Sept. 2 at home against Sam Houston, which will be playing its first game as a provisional FBS member. The Cougars open the Big 12 season on Sept. 23 at Kansas, followed by its Big 12 home opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 29.  

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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