Kalani Sitake’s makeover of the BYU coaching staff continued with the replacement of Steve Kaufusi, who was not retained after working as an assistant for the last 16 years at his alma mater under three different head coaches.
After making five coaching changes since November, Sitake is now on the clock. Retooling the staff next year probably won’t be enough to save the boss if the Cougars have a repeat of this past season.
Speaking at the first of his semi-annual round-table meetings with the media this week, athletic director Tom Holmoe refused to attach any specific numbers to Sitake’s job security. But it is clear the program needs drastic improvement.
After a solid rookie season as a head coach in which his team finished 9-4, Sitake and the Cougars bottomed out in year two. The 4-9 campaign saw horrendous offensive production all season.
“His first year was a fairly successful season and his second season wasn’t,” Holmoe said. “My expectations are to get back to that standard. It’s hard to put measures on that. The two of us internally have discussed what we need to have happen, but those are things we won’t put out publicly. We’re going to work together to make sure those things happen.”
Kaufusi, who coached defensive line for Gary Crowton, Bronco Mendenhall and Sitake before moving to linebackers last season, stepped down to “pursue other interests,” according to a BYU press release. Kaufusi, whose two sons are expected to remain on the team and whose wife was recently elected mayor of Provo, essentially was forced out.
“I think that Steve and the coaches had a discussion that would kind of come down to them,” said Holmoe. “There were maybe different opinions on that. But I think in the end it worked out well.”
The change was the most recent of five Sitake made to his staff this offseason. The other four came on offense, led by the hiring of Jeff Grimes as offensive coordinator.
Give Sitake credit for forsaking any loyalty to his previous assistants, several of whom changed careers to coach at BYU. He had to the courage to dismiss the legendary Ty Detmer as offensive coordinator after it became painfully obvious last season’s offense was an embarrassment.
Also, credit Detmer and the other fired assistants for taking the high road since getting let go. Most of them have declined any interview requests but took to social media to express gratitude for the chance to coach at BYU. All of the outgoing coaches also were excellent players at BYU, making their departures even more difficult.
To this point, all of the affected people have handled an extremely awkward situation with about as much dignity as possible. But, until this week, there was still something missing.
It took almost two months after Detmer’s dismissal to get some answers. Before this week, neither the coach or athletic director spoke publicly on the state of the football program.
Holmoe, who had discussions with Detmer over the years about coming to coach at BYU, supported Sitake’s decision to release the former Heisman Trophy winner. In essence, Detmer’s leash lasted only one bad season.
“Kalani came to me at the end of the year and said that he felt it was necessary to make a change,” Holmoe said. “We talked about it and my position was to support him in his position as head football coach in what he felt was necessary to do.”
The move was not greeted with universal acceptance. Many thought the affable Detmer, who always made time for his legion of fans, was made the scapegoat for an offense that was plagued by quarterback injuries.
Detmer, who is still under contract at BYU, could have moved to another position in the athletic department but is weighing his options. He reportedly is interested in coaching in the NFL.
“He wanted to stay around and see it through,” Holmoe said. “He had plans to make changes to do what he felt he could do and hadn’t gotten done. The conversations with him were great. The way he’s handled it is a class act.
“From my travels with BYU as the athletic director, he might be the most beloved BYU football player ever. It’s a hard thing . . . I’m so appreciative of him for the effort he made to come in here and get this thing going. I’m grateful for the way he’s handled it. He’ll always be a huge part of our program for what he’s accomplished and (his) character and the way he acts.”