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Here’s what close friends Kalani Sitake and Kyle Whittingham said about each other this week

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham says he’s never met anyone in football with more passion for the game than BYU coach Kalani Sitake.

Sitake says that when Whittingham finally does retire, he should be admitted into the Hall of Fame at both Utah and BYU, the school for which Whittingham played.

When these coaches of rival football programs in the Beehive State — schools that belong to the same conference, the Big 12 in this case, for the first time since the 2010 season — say they are best friends, they really mean it.

That was evident at Monday’s golf competition at Hidden Valley Country Club in Sandy to raise $50,000 for the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho.

“Oh yeah, he is my guy. We are the closest of friends, and that will never change — hopefully,” Whittigham said.

Added Sitake: “I am glad we are in the same conference, and I am glad we are still really good friends. I love this guy.”

Master of ceremonies Scott Mitchell asked each coach to name one thing they have learned from, or respect about, the other, and the answers were emotional and heartfelt.

The responses have been edited for clarity:

Whittingham on Sitake: “He was my second hire when I (took over for Urban Meyer). The first was Gary Andersen, who was already on the staff. We elevated him to defensive coordinator.

“Gary was bragging about Kalani and encouraging us to take a hard look at him, because Kalani was with Gary at SUU.

“And so I brought him up for an interview, and it was very evident from the first interview that this is a guy that we needed in the program. He talks about him not being here if it wasn’t for me. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. He helped lay the groundwork at Utah for what we have been able to accomplish.

“He did a great job as the linebackers coach for the first four or five years, then moved on to coordinator, did a great job there. And then of course moved on to have his opportunity to be a head coach.

“In his second year we sat down and I said, ‘Hey, in a few years you are going to be the (defensive) coordinator, and be successful, and then you are going to be a head coach. We mapped it all out, and he went every step of the way, exactly as I anticipated. Can’t say enough good things about this guy.

“Tremendous recruiter, too. I think that gets overlooked. He was the best recruiter on our staff, and brought in so many of those players that made us successful. It is all about recruiting in college football and this man was a master recruiter.

“To answer the question, the passion that he has for the game is the thing that really stands out to me.”

Sitake on Whittingham: “Man, that is a loaded question. I could go on forever on that one. One thing that sticks out is he can foresee a lot of things.

“They invited me to go to the Fiesta Bowl, but I was hesitant because I hadn’t done anything. I decided to stay back and recruit. Kyle (agreed) with the decision.

“But he did say, ‘Don’t worry, we will go to a BCS bowl game ourselves and you will feel like you deserve it.’ And it was four years later that we did that.

“He is a legend in college football right now, and I am proud to call him a mentor of mine. And he knows I love him. I would not be here if it weren’t for him. So I owe him everything.

“He also raised me right, in the game, and in defense, and running the football. He expects us to show up and be ready and competitive. That’s what happened when we last saw each other. I have been really impressed with how he sees things. And it is with great positivity and optimism.

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BYU football coach Kalani Sitake and University of Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham listen during the Coaches Legacy Gold Invitational by the National Kidney Foundation at Hidden Valley Country Club in Sandy, on Monday June 3, 2024. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News

“He also raised me right, in the game, and in defense, and running the football. He expects us to show up and be ready and competitive. That’s what happened when we last saw each other. I have been really impressed with how he sees things. And it is with great positivity and optimism.

“It is a huge compliment for me to be attached to him. It is an honor. We have done some really cool things together. It is an honor for me to go on the other side and compete against him.

“I just want to remind everyone that once Kyle is done he is going to be one of the few guys that belongs in the Hall of Fame at BYU and at Utah. So that’s pretty impressive to have here with us.”