Utah football: 2 Ute coaches are candidates for Hawaii job

Published: Thursday, Dec. 15 2011 9:00 p.m. MST

Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake is among more than 30 applicants for the University of Hawaii vacancy.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Will the Utah Utes say "Aloha," as in goodbye not hello, to one of its coordinators? It may up to a University of Hawaii search committee.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake are both candidates to fill the head coaching vacancy at Hawaii.

"That is unique. Unique, not unheard of, you come across that from time to time," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of the situation. "I think they're both very good. Both should be viable candidates for that job."

The Hawaii job opened up when former Utah defensive coordinator Greg McMackin retired after four seasons at the helm. More than 30 coaches have reportedly applied for the position.

Sitake considers it "a good compliment" to the Utah program that both coordinators are in the mix.

Neither, however, really wanted to talk about it in great depth.

Chow, in fact, dodged the topic well after the Utes' practice Thursday afternoon.

"Geez. Hey, listen, I've got a son who is an agent," he said before switching gears. "We're getting ready for Georgia Tech. OK? Period. Period. Period."

When asked about it again, Chow didn't budge while continuing to smile.

"We're getting ready for Georgia Tech. They've got a heckuva football team," he laughed. "It's going to be a real challenge. All right?"

Sitake was more straightforward about the situation.

"All I know is that they reached out and wanted me to apply and I applied. That's basically all I know right now. There's really nothing else to report on it," he said while explaining his focus was on getting Utah's defense ready for Georgia Tech's triple-option attack.

"Right now I'm happy doing what I'm doing. There's really nothing to report other than that's just what it is," he continued. "Everything else is just kind of speculation. It's like a snowball effect. It just takes off."

Whittingham is confident both coaches won't be distracted by the opportunity in Hawaii.

"I think these guys are professionals and they understand you've got to separate the two," he said. "You can't compromise your preparation in any way, shape or form. You can't compromise your recruiting."

At the same time, though, Whittingham acknowledged coaches have to take a hard look at opportunities as well. It just comes down to being professional and doing things the right way. Whittingham said that as long as there's communication and everybody is on the same page, the Hawaii situation won't be a distraction.

Same goes for the players.

"My stance with them, and they know if there's something to tell them, I'm going to make sure I let them know," Whittingham said.

It's business as usual, for the most part.

Sitake insists he's focusing on getting his guys to finish up their finals and trying to stop Georgia Tech. The former BYU fullback, who became Utah's defensive coordinator in 2009, considers himself a product of what's been started up on the hill.

"This is a defense that I have learned," Sitake said. "It's an honor just to be a candidate."

Moving up to a head coaching position is something he eventually wants to do.

"I got into this profession and want to reach the pinnacle of it. There's a lot of things I have still left to learn," Sitake said. "Timing's everything and we have to see how it all mixes up together. So there's a lot of factors that go into it."

Leaving Utah, he explained, wouldn't be easy — noting there are probably too many things to mention.

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