College Football Nation Blog- ESPN

“We’re the best of friends.”

Kalani Sitake brings his alma mater to Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday to try to snap BYU’s five-game skid against Utah and his longtime boss, Kyle Whittingham. Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Said Sitake: “I know I love Kyle and Kyle loves me, and we’re going to be friends no matter what. Former Utah coach Ron McBride and BYU counterpart LaVell Edwards shared a friendship and a strong mutual respect.

But on the field, it’s possible, and one hopes, we’ll see a more respectful game.

“I’ll never say anything bad about the University of Utah, about the athletic program and especially about the football team, because they were great to me, and I think that’s important for me to share that with everyone.”

“I can say that I have a great relationship with Kalani,” Whittingham said. I’m excited for him and his opportunity at BYU.”

That might be the most anti-bulletin board quote of all time!

And the fact is, Whittingham owned the rivalry with Mendenhall, going 7-3, including a current five-game winning streak. This is going to be one of those things that extends our friendship where we get on the football field and compete and we’ll hug afterwards.”

“I don’t know if that will have a major impact with the fan base,” Whittingham said. The history of the rivalry, frankly, is too extensive to dive into with one column, though our Sam Strong did a nice job here. I could list 20 anecdotes about the rivalry through the years, and there would be at least 50 more that I’d be leaving out.

Enter Sitake, who branched out on his own in 2015 and was the defensive coordinator at Oregon State before BYU snatched him up. Heck, Kyle Whittingham was the WAC’s 1981 Defensive Player of the Year for the Cougars. It’s a fawning that would make the Mutual Admiration Society jealous.

. There are four former BYU football players on the Utah coaching staff: Whittingham, Aaron Roderick, Justin Ena and Fred Whittingham. Ena was a three-time all-conference linebacker. They talk and text frequently … And as Whittingham’s coaching tree continues to grow and players from each school become coaches, the crossover between the two staffs will probably breed more admiration and less acrimony.

Where’s the vitriol? Where’s the bulletin board material? Where’s Seni Fauonuku dropping “D” bombs. And for that reason, friendships among the coaches probably won’t sway those in the stands.

This isn’t entirely uncharted territory. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his BYU counterpart and former protégé, Kalani Sitake, are exchanging pleasantries, not jabs, through the media. Where’s Max Hall dropping “H” bombs? Doesn’t everyone (except in Oregon and New Jersey) pump their own gas now?

Many of them are still good friends. And new Utah receivers coach Guy Holliday coached at BYU from 2013-2015.

BYU has three former Utah assistants on its staff: Sitake, Ilaisa Tuiaki and Steve Kaufusi.


Let’s be clear, neither coach is saying he doesn’t want to win. Many have grown up choosing a side and bitterly defending their colors. though not this week … because …

The fans might not feel the same way. Sitake and Whittingham golf in the offseason. Whittingham never said the two were “best of friends.” Because they weren’t.

Welcome to the Holy Warm-and-fuzzy.

One of college football’s nastiest rivalries (historically), it appears, has smoothed over its edges. “I don’t see that happening.”

Take this season, for example. “I’ve coached underneath him, and he’s always been there for me. I think they’ll play a much cleaner game.”

Love! Hugs! Best of friends! Way to mix it up, fellas.

“He’s a guy I respect,” Scalley said. He put an exclamation point on it at last season’s Las Vegas Bowl, when the Utes won 35-28 to send Mendenhall to his new job at Virginia with yet another loss to the Utes (how’s that new gig working out, by the way?).

“This is one of those weeks where we want to respect their preparation,” Sitake said.

In a Q&A with ESPN in February, Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley praised Sitake, noting that he thought the rivalry had “gotten a little bit nasty” of late.

Now, about basketball …

One thing is for sure: The Holy War is beginning a new chapter. While Whittingham and former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall were never outwardly disrespectful, they weren’t going out of their way to be complimentary to each other, either. And if he can win by five touchdowns, all the better. It looks as though we might be in for a softer, gentler Holy War. “It’s about respect. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s exciting, and a lot of good people involved with both fan bases.

“To me, that’s what football is about,” Sitake said. … There are still fan bases to appease.

“I don’t see it as a big-time rivalry with hatred as a lot of others see it,” Sitake said

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