Kalani Sitake, Yetis, and the biggest bargain in college football
Let's start off making a couple of assumptions.
Assumption 1: Kalani Sitake's BYU salary is estimated to be somewhere in the ballpark of $2 million. Nobody really knows the specific number. Some say his latest extension puts him north of the $2 million mark, others say he's still a few hundred thousand dollars less than that mark. So, for purposes of our conversation today, let's assume that $2 million is the number.
Assumption 2: Ticket prices fluctuate game to game. The demand of the ticket causes some games to be high and some games to be low. Season tickets are sold at a discount in order to sell packages of games, and some single game tickets are sold at a premium. There is a specified number of tickets that are allocated to the visiting team each week, a number that changes based on the opponent and the individual game agreement. Today, we will assume that the average ticket price is $45.
Those are the announced attendance numbers from BYU this year, an average of 61,647 per game. Remember our second assumption? With these numbers, that means that BYU earned roughly $2,774,115 in ticket sales per game - $16,644,690 on the year.
That is just ticket sales. That doesn't include any revenue from merchandise sales during games, any fees from restaurants or other vendors who pay to has a spot inside LaVell Edwards stadium, or any concession sales that would go directly to BYU. That doesn't include any TV revenue or any other sources of revenue that BYU might earn on any given gameday.
We're not talking about any additional operating costs either. No employee salaries, no utilities, no maintenance work - nothing.
We are taking a very simplistic view of just ticket sales.
If our first assumption is true and Sitake is making roughly $2 million a year, BYU roughly recoups his entire salary after just one home game.
After BYU beat Utah in the second game of the season, ticket sales - roughly - covered the head coach of BYU's salary. That, my friends, is a pretty darn good deal for the BYU athletic program.
Winning matters. It puts butts in seats and keeps that ticket revenue faucet flowing. There are other factors to managing the AD's balance sheet, but ticket sales from a single game for a winning team pays for the salary of BYU's head coach.
Let's break this number down a little further and in a different way. BYU currently has eight wins (with hopefully three more on the horizon). For easy math purposes, let's assume BYU picks up two more wins in their three remaining games and finishes with a record of 10-3.
BYU is paid Sitake $200,000 per win
In 2020, BYU paid Sitake $181,818 per win.
That is a bargain!
According to StadiumTalk.com, Oklahoma State paid Mike Gundy $520,000 per win in 2020. Alabama is paid Nick Saban $715,000 per win in 2020. Dabo Swinney earned $832,000 per win last year.
You see where I'm going with this.
BYU paid Sitake (based on our estimation) $181,818 per win last year.
The Cougars are getting an absolute bargain with Kalani Sitake as their head coach. That is an important baseline to establish before we get into the rest of this article.
BYU is getting a steal in Sitake. They could triple his salary and would still be paying less per win than Clemson (so long as BYU keeps winning).
BYU doesn't generate anywhere near the revenue of schools like Alabama, Clemson, or Oklahoma State. It's unreasonable to expect BYU to pay Sitake anything near Saban's level.
But is it unrealistic to think that BYU should be investing more than the price of a studio apartment in Provo for each win? Especially when ticket sales alone generate $16 million in gross revenue - enough to buy a very nice home in Park City?
"The position of head football coach is more impactful on the success of that team than virtually any other coaching position in sports. A football head coach has to recruit his players calculating what their future growth and maturity rates are as he evaluates 17-year olds, assemble a huge staff of talented assistants, deal with young people going through all sorts of emotional challenges, put together winning offensive and defensive schemes, and then deal with the administration alumni and press. Certainly, the effect-producing packed stadia, alumni contributions, and huge television contracts are all a function of winning." - Forbes
A head coach's job is intense. When you find a good head coach, you need to protect them at all costs because the ramifications of losing a head coach are enormous.
Let's stop at this point and talk about the objective of this article:
Believe it or not, this is not another piece begging for BYU to raise his salary. Do we think he deserves a raise? Absolutely, without a doubt, yes. But that's not our objective today.
Our objective is much more simple than that - and maybe much more complex at the same time.
Kalani doesn't deserve a raise. Kalani deserves whatever he wants.
If he requests a gold toilet in the SAB that is reserved for him, get it for him. The ROI will be significant.
If he wants someone to cook a plate of bacon for him every time he blows his whistle at practice? Give it to him. You will be net positive in a hurry - even with the rising cost of pork.
And if he wants an increased pool of money for his assistants coaches and staff? He absolutely deserves that. The ROI is clear.
Frankly, BYU should be adding staff whether Kalani specifically requests it or not.
Washington has a job opening. According to their website, UW employs 43 people that are specifically assigned to the football team in one capacity or another, and that doesn't include the head coach as they just fired Jimmy Lake. BYU lists 33 and not all of them are full time football employees.
Washington is one of the suitors rumored to be interested in Sitake. Even if they offer him the exact same salary that he is making today, they can also offer him 11(!) additional resources to help prepare his team throughout the offseason and to help find future talent on the recruiting trail. 11!
The University of Utah invested nearly $200,000 more in recruiting than BYU did in 2019-2020.
That seems like BYU isn't far off. But the kicker? Utah invested that much more than BYU in a year where the Utes only played five games in the COVID-19 shortened season. Even with half the opportunities to at least earn TV revenue, Utah outspent BYU by $200k on the recruiting trail.
If Sitake wants BYU to invest in the football program more than they already are, they absolutely have to. Because other people are doing exactly that.
Sitake is a wanted man right now. Will he get a job offer? Maybe not. But he's on the short list for a lot of schools. And if Sitake asks those school to invest in football? Or in staffers? Or in himself? That's A-OK with them.
Early in the days of the pandemic, I was working 18-hour days to process as many PPP loans as I possibly could. In the middle of one night, I needed a break from the seemingly never-ending supply of small business applications looking for payroll relief. So, I found myself scouring the internet looking at silver bullion.
I don't know why. It seemed like a great idea.
I found a 3 oz. Yeti made of pure silver. I thought it was incredibly cool, so I snatched it up. I paid somewhere in the ballpark of $60 for the Yeti. After it arrived in the mail a few days later, I regretted my middle of the night purchase. It seemed stupid.
I wanted to recoup my cost for my stupid purchase so I turned to the ever-friendly confines of eBay to find a sucker who wanted a Yeti.
I researched the Yeti for a bit to see if anyone else had any listed. To my surprise, there were three or four - and they had bids for a few hundred bucks.
My stupid Yeti purchase in the middle of the night was going for a 5x what I paid for it?
Turns out that it was a limited edition Yeti and they were in high demand. People wanted the Yetis and there were only a few hundred of them made. I watched one sell for more than $500.
I listed. I sold. I made a bunch of money on it. (I also bought another one that someone was selling for super cheap - they didn't do the research necessary.)
The stupid Yeti that I thought was expensive for $60 sold for $400 just a few weeks later.
Nothing about that Yeti changed.
Nothing about the amount of silver changed.
There were a limited number of Yetis available and people wanted them. So they paid whatever it took.
BYU's Yeti is Kalani Sitake (please don't tell him I called him a Yeti). People want him and they are willing to pay WAY more for him than BYU is currently paying him. There aren't very many head coaches in the industry that are like Sitake. He is a prized possession and should be treated like one. If BYU doesn't want to treat him that way, someone will.
It doesn't matter that he was just extended a few months ago. It doesn't matter if BYU felt they were stretching their limits when they agreed to whatever his new salary is. Someone else is willing to pay him more - the same way some psycho paid me $400 for $60 worth of silver.
If BYU wants to keep this incredible asset in Provo, they have to give Sitake whatever he wants to support and bolster the football program. Yes, whatever he wants. They can't expect Sitake to continue to be satisfied being the biggest bargain in the sport.
If they don't, Sitake will go somewhere that does.
The difference is there isn't another Yeti for BYU to go out and buy that will give the same result - so if your most valuable employee that is generating millions for you every year says they need more resources to do their job at an even higher level - you don't run the risk of having to backfill them.