And if he can win by five touchdowns, all the better. “It’s about respect. 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. It looks as though we might be in for a softer, gentler Holy War. Where’s Max Hall dropping “H” bombs? Doesn’t everyone (except in Oregon and New Jersey) pump their own gas now?
Welcome to the Holy Warm-and-fuzzy.
The history of the rivalry, frankly, is too extensive to dive into with one column, though our Sam Strong did a nice job here. Former Utah coach Ron McBride and BYU counterpart LaVell Edwards shared a friendship and a strong mutual respect.
Many of them are still good friends. And for that reason, friendships among the coaches probably won’t sway those in the stands.
One thing is for sure: The Holy War is beginning a new chapter. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his BYU counterpart and former protégé, Kalani Sitake, are exchanging pleasantries, not jabs, through the media. They talk and text frequently … Heck, Kyle Whittingham was the WAC’s 1981 Defensive Player of the Year for the Cougars. Sitake and Whittingham golf in the offseason. Many have grown up choosing a side and bitterly defending their colors. Whittingham never said the two were “best of friends.” Because they weren’t.
Let’s be clear, neither coach is saying he doesn’t want to win. 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.
One of college football’s nastiest rivalries (historically), it appears, has smoothed over its edges. 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.
“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. It’s a fawning that would make the Mutual Admiration Society jealous.
Enter Sitake, who branched out on his own in 2015 and was the defensive coordinator at Oregon State before BYU snatched him up. I think they’ll play a much cleaner game.”
This isn’t entirely uncharted territory. 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.
Now, about basketball …
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.
BYU has three former Utah assistants on its staff: Sitake, Ilaisa Tuiaki and Steve Kaufusi.
But on the field, it’s possible, and one hopes, we’ll see a more respectful game.
“I don’t know if that will have a major impact with the fan base,” Whittingham said. And new Utah receivers coach Guy Holliday coached at BYU from 2013-2015.
“To me, that’s what football is about,” Sitake said. though not this week … There are four former BYU football players on the Utah coaching staff: Whittingham, Aaron Roderick, Justin Ena and Fred Whittingham. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s exciting, and a lot of good people involved with both fan bases.
And the fact is, Whittingham owned the rivalry with Mendenhall, going 7-3, including a current five-game winning streak. Love! Hugs! Best of friends! Way to mix it up, fellas.
Where’s the vitriol? Where’s the bulletin board material? Where’s Seni Fauonuku dropping “D” bombs. Ena was a three-time all-conference linebacker. “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. 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.”
Take this season, for example. There are still fan bases to appease.. “I don’t see that happening.”
That might be the most anti-bulletin board quote of all time!
“He’s a guy I respect,” Scalley said. because …
“I don’t see it as a big-time rivalry with hatred as a lot of others see it,” Sitake said. “I’ve coached underneath him, and he’s always been there for me. I’m excited for him and his opportunity at BYU.”
The fans might not feel the same way. ..