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Provo • In the five days since coach Bronco Mendenhall resigned to take the head football coaching position at Virginia, BYU has contacted at least two candidates to fill its head football coaching position, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned.
Sources close to both men told The Tribune on Tuesday night that a pair of defensive coordinators in the Pac-12, Oregon State's Kalani Sitake and Stanford's Lance Anderson, were contacted earlier this week by BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe to gauge their interest in the opening.
Sitake is a former BYU fullback. Anderson, has no ties to BYU other than his LDS Church membership, but is well-known locally among prep coaches and was recruiting at Brighton High School on Wednesday morning. He has lured several local prep recruits to Palo Alto, Calif., during the past few years.
BYU also has significant interest in Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, sources in Annapolis, Md., and Provo have acknowledged, but may be waiting until after Saturday's Army-Navy game in Philadelphia to approach the coach directly about the opening.
As of Tuesday evening, BYU had not asked Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk for permission to speak to Niumatalolo, but is expected to do so before week's end, according to the Capital Gazette.
Another high-profile LDS coach, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, is not in the running for the job, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters in Seattle on Wednesday.
"They've got to do their job and get ahead and get their decision made, so Tommy [Holmoe] is going to keep working at it," Carroll said. "Darrell would be an awesome choice for them, but he's not available. He's going to run with us and do what we're doing. [BYU] has recruiting and all kinds of stuff, so the timing isn't going to fit for them."
Meanwhile, The Tribune has learned that BYU contacted Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, a former BYU linebacker, almost immediately after Mendenhall's resignation on Friday to gauge his interest, and he said then he will listen.
Whittingham was asked after Utah's practice Tuesday night whether Holmoe has talked to him about the vacancy. He smiled and said he never comments on such matters.
BYU landing Whittingham, who makes around $2.6 million annually at Utah, is still considered a longshot, and even that might not be an adequate word to describe the chances that he will ever return to Provo. But there is no denying that many BYU administrators and boosters covet Whittingham, one of only three major college football coaches who are active members of the church that owns and operates BYU, and arguably the most successful. Mendenhall and Niumatalolo are the other two. Holmoe and Whittingham played together at BYU from 1978-81 and have remained friends.
Citing a high-ranking BYU booster as a source, The Tribune reported that BYU can pay up to $2 million a year for its next coach, and would almost certainly have to bump that up considerably to snare Whittingham from Utah, who the Cougars face Dec. 19 in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
Holmoe said Friday the new coach must be a Mormon in good standing with the faith, and that certainly describes Navy's Niumatalolo, said Bill Wagner, who has covered Navy for the Annapolis Capital Gazette since Niumatalolo took over in 2007.
Niumatalolo makes an estimated $1.63 million annually at Navy, in addition to the free use of a home and an automobile. His son, Va'a, is a walk-on linebacker at BYU, and another son, Ali'i, recently committed to play for Boise State.
Niumatalolo runs the triple-option offense at Navy, and there are questions of whether he would consider dropping that style if he gets the job at BYU, traditionally a pass-oriented outfit known for producing quarterbacks. What's more, current BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum was recently named the Freshman of the Year by one national publication, and it wasn't due to his ability to run with the football.