PROVO — It was nearly 40 levels hotter in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Wednesday than in Boise, Idaho. That’s the one numerical determine one actually wants to find out that BYU’s bowl vacation spot this 12 months is totally extra preferable than final.
The Cougars (7-5) will face off with former WAC rival Hawaii (9-5) within the SoFi Hawaii Bowl at 6 p.m. MST on Christmas Eve in a recreation televised by ESPN. They are going to be in search of their third-straight bowl win after edging Wyoming 24-21 within the Poinsettia Bowl in 2016 and Western Michigan 49-18 final 12 months in frigid Boise.
However the 80-degree temperatures within the Islands aren’t the one cause BYU coach Kalani Sitake is completely thrilled to be headed to the Pacific paradise. The Cougars’ fourth-year coach, who not too long ago signed a three-year contract extension, nonetheless considers the place residence.
Sitake was born in Tonga — he’s the primary Tongan to steer an NCAA Division I faculty soccer program — however doesn’t bear in mind something about that Pacific island. His household moved to Laie when he was a preschooler and he attended elementary and junior excessive on the North Shore of Oahu.
“I nonetheless have tons of household there, so we’re at all times going backwards and forwards, regardless that we ultimately moved to Provo,” Sitake stated. “I’ve two hometowns — Provo, Utah and Laie, Hawaii. I’m so pleased with that. Anyone that grew up in Hawaii (like) me, it was BYU was No. 1, however I at all times cheered for UH as effectively. So, I simply have a connection.”
Utilizing its so-called “Polynesian Pipeline,” BYU has mined “The Rock,” as locals name it, for loads of soccer expertise since 1951 when Harry Bray of Hilo transferred from Weber Faculty to Provo. Famika Anae, father of former BYU offensive line standout and offensive coordinator Robert Anae, got here in 1954-55 and the custom has continued to this present day.
“There may be numerous custom, and our household is at all times watching (what occurs in Hawaii),” Sitake stated. “Any time we may assist Hawaii, we had been doing that.”
Sitake isn’t the one member of the crew with ties to Hawaii who is raring to return; Backup defensive again Jared Kapisi is from Maui, offensive lineman Mo Unutoa (a Utah switch who’s sitting out this season) is from Kapaa. Linebacker Austin Kafentzis’ father, Kyle Kafentzis, was a standout defensive again for the Rainbow Warriors and the senior has dozens of uncles, cousins and different kin who performed for UH.
Though BYU doesn’t have as many Hawaiians on its roster now than in earlier seasons, Sitake stated the BYU model nonetheless means so much there. Kahuku Excessive, which is three miles up the street from Laie, is an annual contender for the state championship.
“There are numerous Mormons on the market and lots of people that love BYU, and lots of people that love Hawaii,” Sitake stated. “So I anticipate there are going to be lots of people at this recreation. There may be numerous curiosity, and lots of people who need this win on each side. Simply joyful to be part of it.”
As a result of BYU has raided the Islands for dozens of gamers the previous 50 years, and since the Cougars are 23-Eight all-time in opposition to the Rainbow Warriors, there’s a appreciable quantity of angst for BYU among the many UH devoted, particularly the old-timers.
“BYU at Aloha Stadium on Christmas Eve, there will not be a greater mixture for Hawaii followers,” stated UH coach Nick Rolovich. “… We’re trying ahead to our followers popping out to Aloha Stadium to see a battle with a basic rival.”
BYU has gained the final 5 matchups, together with a 49-23 win final 12 months in Provo and a 30-20 win within the regular-season finale for each groups at Aloha Stadium in 2017.
“I imply, we’re simply going to go play a recreation, and nevertheless anybody feels about it’s as much as them,” Sitake stated of that largely one-sided animosity. “I simply know that there’s a lot of respect on each side, from our gamers to their gamers, our coaches to their coaches. … I by no means wish to inform followers the way to behave or act or the way to really feel. That’s why they’re followers. My job is to tame the followers which might be wearing royal blue joyful.”
Sitake does have one bit of recommendation for BYU followers making the journey from Provo, the place it was 40 levels at midday on Wednesday.
“Go away the winter coat at residence,” he stated. “You gained’t want that.”
In contrast to final 12 months in Boise.
Cougars on the air
SoFi Hawaii Bowl
vs. Hawaii (9-5)
At Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
Dec. 24, 6 p.m. MST
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM