Dick Harmon: BYU football program increases efforts to recruit Polynesians
Reid sees the recent hire of former Cougar running back Mark Atuaia as an assistant athletic director at BYU as a move by the school to reach out to the Polynesian community as a specialist, a liaison that is long overdue.
Atuaia, one of Hawaii's most celebrated high school stars while at powerhouse Kahuku High on the North Shore of Oahu, is Samoan and beloved from Laie to Provo. He has a best-selling CD as a singer in Hawaii and his wife was the lead singer for the Jets when that rock group was popular more than a decade ago.
This move followed the trip by Doman to Samoa, where he told gatherings of athletes and coaches and their parents the importance of Polynesian football players to BYU's program.
"For BYU, coming on the island to recruit is only a natural thing for us to do. Our roots and our foundation of Polynesian culture has been here for years and years at BYU," Doman told the Deseret News after his whirlwind trip to American Samoa.
"We have 37 Polynesian kids on our team, more than anybody in the country. It had been a few years since we had been (to American Samoa). It was very important that we return to the island. There are fans, alumni and former players on that island that are supportive of BYU football and BYU in general. If there's ever a place of great resource in the Polynesian community, that is the place. That was the reason for the trip out there. Hopefully we'll find a handful of kids over the next few years that will come here to BYU."
Whatever shortcomings BYU has shown in past years with Polynesian relations since LaVell Edwards left the program, it appears to Reid and others, the school is addressing those issues.
Mendenhall recently asked Reid and other former Cougar players to meet with a Polynesian prospect on campus and explain their experiences. "He ended up committing to Mendenhall," said Reid of the local prospect. "I think meeting with alums helped with him and his parents."
BYU just employed Jason Kaufusi, brother of D-line coach Steve Kaufusi, as a graduate assistant coach as Samoan Shawn Nu'a accepted a job at Navy after completing his graduate work on the football staff.
In staffing a major college football staff with Polynesians, few have done as well as Kyle Whittingham at Utah. Counting defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, others with South Pacific ties include fullbacks/tight end coach Ilaisa Tuiaki, defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a and strength and conditioning coach Doug Elisaia.
Utah's staff has proved a great asset to Ute Polynesian players and the success is all over Utah's record since Whittingham followed Urban Meyer, although it is an emphasis that dates back to the Ron McBride era.
Both BYU and Utah have tapped Polynesian players for half a century. But there might be more of an onus on BYU to do so, noting its unique religion card. It must be a specialty.
In this regard, BYU has room to grow. The recent hire of Atuaia as an assistant athletic director to Tom Holmoe, speaks to that need.
"Former ASU star and Oakland Raider Junior Ioane has volunteered to help with the BYU football team," said Reid. "He loves BYU."
Officially, BYU doesn't utilize volunteers due to possible infractions, and although Ioane has been seen working out on campus, his presence is unofficial.
So, in the past six months since BYU defeated Tulsa in a bowl game, has BYU developed an enhanced strategy in recruiting Polynesian football players?
"Absolutely," said Reid. "No question."
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