The money was there for the taking.
Kalani Sitake could have signed a new three-year contract with Utah and stayed in Salt Lake City as the Utes’ defensive coordinator.
It would have been an easy choice. Utah athletic director Chris Hill said the deal he offered Sitake was worth $800,000 a year when bonuses were factored in. A nice payday and Sitake could stay in his home for the past decade.
Instead, Sitake decided to join Gary Andersen’s staff at Oregon State as the defensive coordinator for the Beavers.
“Utah did everything they could to keep me there. But I don’t make decisions based on money,” Sitake said. “I’ve never asked for a raise, never a demand for more money in any job that I’ve had. I’m really grateful and just honored that I have the opportunity to do what I’m doing and get paid for what I do. So money has never been an issue for me in any decision I’ve made.”
Sitake did not take the decision lightly. He has family in Utah and played at Brigham Young, so it meant leaving an area where he had developed deep ties.
Sitake and Andersen coached together at Southern Utah and then Utah.
Andersen left Southern Utah to work with Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham in Salt Lake City. When Meyer left Utah, Andersen stepped into the defensive coordinator position and brought Sitake into the fold.
In 2009, Andersen left to become the head coach at Utah State and Sitake took over his spot as the defensive coordinator of the Utes.
They developed a deep personal connection through the years.
“He’s a guy I’ve always wanted to coach for and wanted to be with. That’s probably the most important part of why I left,” Sitake said. “I left a lot of good people and people I care about, especially those players. It was a tough decision, but this was the best decision for me and my family.”
Sitake likes the family-friendly, small college town environment of Corvallis and said Oregon State provides a perfect fit for his career goals.
Sitake also sees potential to put together a strong program.
“I think we can build here with the potential that we see here in this community and with this fan base,” Sitake said.
Sitake played fullback at BYU for LaVell Edwards and Norm Chow was the offensive coordinator.
Sitake also served as a grad assistant for Gary Crowton.
“My offensive background is a huge influence for me as a defensive coach,” Sitake said.
“I kind of see things from a different perspective where I’ve had an opportunity to coach on both sides of the ball and as a coordinator I try to establish a little different perspective than most coordinators do, just pulling from my background as a player and as a coach.”
He takes over a defense that has lost quite a few starters, including linebackers Michael Doctor, Jabral Johnson and D.J. Alexander, safeties Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman, corner Steven Nelson and defensive linemen Dylan Wynn, Siale Hautau and Bud Delva.
The Beavers do have some experienced players coming back. Senior ends Jaswha James and Lavonte Barnett return, as do defensive linemen Jalen Grimble, Noke Tago, Luke Hollingsworth and Brandon Bennett-Jackson. Rommel Mageo and Caleb Saulo have started at times at linebacker and corner Larry Scott started opposite Nelson. Safeties Cyril Noland-Lewis and Justin Strong got plenty of playing time last season.
“We like what we see and we can build off of it, but it’s hard to tell when you don’t put pads on, so I’m excited for spring ball and getting the pads on,” Sitake said.
“We have an athletic team and we have some guys who are really hungry to work hard and it’s showing in our runs and some of the things we’re doing, I can see a lot of good movement from our players.
“It’s a promising group.”
Sitake said he will mold the scheme around the personnel.
“I’m going to do what’s best for our team,” he said. “We’re going to have the best 11 on field at a time, depending on who we’re defending. So that’s going to be our goal and that may include playing some three-man front, some off-front. It may include playing some four-man front. I’ve always believed in doing both.”