Fans of the Boise State Broncos football team hear it almost every year when head-coaching positions at big-time programs open up—will Chris Petersen leave the school for greener pastures?
Well, what exactly are greener pastures for Chris Petersen?
College football fans around the nation love to speculate. For many, greener pastures are somewhere in the state of California. Petersen’s name has been thrown around in conversations to be USC’s next permanent head coach, and he was in the discussion last year when California was looking for a new head man. In 2011, Petersen turned down an actual offer from UCLA.
Petersen is from California, and both played and started his coaching career at UC Davis. But he’s already turned down one of the two most prestigious football schools in the state, and there hasn’t been strong evidence yet to suggest he’s seriously considering the other one.
For others, greener pastures mean a spot in the toughest conference in college football: the SEC. There were rumblings last year linking Petersen to the vacant Arkansas job, and based on the amount of money the Razorbacks are paying Bret Bielema, the school would have been able to offer quite a bit.
Instead, Petersen remains at Boise State. A school located in an area over 18 times smaller than metropolitan Los Angeles. Whose football program plays in the Mountain West Conference, not the Pac-12 or SEC.
Petersen is college football’s only two-time winner of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, which is given annually to the national coach of the year. But he’s also not in the top 40 in salary for FBS college football coaches. It’s the rare example in college football of a coach who has the accolades but not the pay to go along with them.
So perhaps Petersen isn’t all about the money. Or maybe he is, but won’t leave until he would become the highest paid coach in college football, not just one of them.
The point of all this speculation is that we simply don’t know what Petersen’s true rationale is for staying at Boise State. We can come up with fairly reasonable theories about how he is a West Coast man and wouldn’t leave for any Eastern school, or how his son’s medical condition (he was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 but has since been cured) keeps the Petersen family loyal to the city of Boise.
But when it really comes down to it, only Chris Petersen knows where he wants to be and when (or how long) he wants to be there.
Petersen has continued to build something at Boise State that was beginning to take shape before he became head coach in 2005. With two BCS bowl victories since 2007, an 88-10 overall record and six consecutive seasons in the year end Top 25 polls, Petersen has picked the program up by the bootstraps and turned it in to a perennial contender.
As good of a coach as he may be, the kind of legacy that he would be able to have at a school like USC or Arkansas would have a hard time matching up to what he has done at Boise State.
One has to wonder if Petersen will ever look for a change in scenery. With the new College Football Playoff beginning next season, a new challenge will face every coach in the country. Specific to Petersen, Boise State will no longer be competing for a berth in a BCS bowl, but rather a spot in the four-team playoff.
Since one team from the “Group of Five” is automatically guaranteed a spot in one of the six most prestigious bowl games in the new system, the Broncos will have the opportunity to play in the Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, or Chic-fil-A Peach Bowl every year when those bowls are not part of the playoff bracket.
Suddenly, the only things Boise State doesn’t have are the week-to-week competition that some other conferences have and the four and five-star recruits. But Petersen has always done more with less since he’s been in Boise.
Seems like a pretty good place to stay.
So will Petersen really end his career at Boise State?
If we’re being honest, we can only speculate about that as well. But based on everything we have at our expense to do so, it sure looks as if he will.